Peanut harvest began the week after Labor Day which meant the beginning of the grading and inspection season for the South Carolina Department of Agriculture (SCDA).

About 55 graders are working tirelessly to grade and inspect an estimated 35,000 to 40,000 acres of South Carolina peanuts this season.

In a cooperative agreement with the Agricultural Marketing Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA/AMS), SCDA Grading and Inspection staff inspects and grades the state’s peanut crop.

Hugh Weathers, Commissioner of Agriculture, said, “Our graders and inspectors will be in full swing throughout the harvest season. Harvested peanuts that have not been shelled, cleaned or crushed are inspected and graded to determine the overall quality and on-farm value of the shelled product for commercial sales. That’s an invaluable service to our peanut growers. The better the grade and quality, the more potential for a better price paid.”

Inspectors use a pneumatic sampler to withdraw a representative quantity of peanuts from the drying trailers. From this sample the inspector determines the meat content, size of pods, damaged kernels, foreign material, and kernel moisture content. Once the grade is established, the commercial value is determined from price schedules set by the USDA.

The inspection and grading occurs at buying stations usually located from a few miles to as far away 30 to 40 miles of where the peanuts have been harvested. Jack Dantzler, Director of Grading and Inspection, says, “South Carolina has seven buying stations now Fairfax, Cameron, Bowman, Dalzell, Kingstree, and Hemmingway areas, and we are expected to have a shorter crop this season to grade. About 98 percent of the state’s peanuts this season are Virginia-type peanuts and the other 2 percent are runners.” Last season the ratio of Virginia to runners was about 75 percent to 25 percent, respectively.

Peanut acreage has increased since the termination of the peanut program with the 2002 farm act. Since that time, peanut harvested acreage in the state has increased from nearly 9,000 acres in 2002 to 68,000 last year and 47,000 acres this season. The cash value of peanuts harvested in 2002 was just over $3 million. In 2008 the cash value was over $60 million for South Carolina peanut growers, according to the USDA National Ag Statistics Service — South Carolina Field Office (NASS).

As of the week ending Sept. 27, about 18 percent of the state’s peanuts had been harvested, according to the USDA National Ag Statistics Service — South Carolina Field Office (NASS).

The harvest season for peanuts in South Carolina is expected to last until Thanksgiving.