The advent of new, improved peanut cultivars is prompting Extension specialists to encourage growers to plant more of their crop in April, something that was unheard of just a few years ago.

“About a dozen years ago, we were standing up here telling you that you needed to delay your planting at least until the first of May or later to help reduce the incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), even with Georgia Green, which had better resistance to TSWV than previous cultivars,” says John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist.

But that recommendation has changed, Beasley told growers at the recent Georgia Peanut Farm Show held in Albany.

“We hammered that point home, year after year. Before the onset of TSWV, we were planting 25 to up to 40 percent some years in the month of April, and finishing up by about May 25. When we starting seeing pressure from TSWV, we were planting less than 5 percent of our acreage in April, and maybe 70 percent into May and into the remainder of June.

“It created some severe logistical problems for growers as far as timing their harvest before threatening colder weather,” says Beasley.

A high percentage of the crop — up to 78 percent — was coming in during a narrow window at buying points, creating a lot of nightmares, he says.

“At first, we were concerned about planting more of our peanut acreage in April. But looking at the data, with the outstanding cultivars we now have available, and considering that they have much better resistance to TSWV than Georgia Green, growers now have the flexibility to go back and plant earlier,” he says.

Shut down maturity

During four or five of the last seven peanut harvests in Georgia, temperatures by Oct. 20 were cold enough to shut down maturity, notes Beasley.

“If you don’t start planting your crop until June 5, June 10 or June 15, you run the risk of getting to Oct. 15 or Oct. 20, and having temperatures so cold the crop doesn’t mature properly. That’ll reduce your yield and grade.”

While he goes against previous recommendations, Beasley says he encourages growers to plant more of their crop in April.

“This will help you and the entire peanut industry. In a lot of years, growers without irrigation have moisture in April, but it dries out in May. I would like to see 25 to 30 percent of our crop planted in April if possible. We’re planting too many peanuts in June, and we need to get away from planting any in June if possible,” he says.

He cautions, however, that soil temperature should be a concern in April. “It should be at least 65 degrees or higher for several consecutive days. Do not plant with a cold front approaching or ahead of a big rain event. Such an event can lower the soil temperature.

“I’m a little concerned about the 65 degrees to be honest with you. In tests, we’ve seen a pretty dramatic jump in germination rates going from 65 to 70. So we shouldn’t plant too early in April.”

(Over the years there has also been a lot of interest in peanut seeding rates. How much can rates be cut before economics come into play? The answer to that question can be found at http://southeastfarmpress.com/peanuts/peanut-seeding-rates-under-scrutiny).

In the past two years, researchers have conducted trials planting four cultivars for seven consecutive weeks, says Beasley. Last year, they started planting on April 19 and finished May 31.

“We planted Georgia-06G, Georgia-10T, Georgia-07W and Georgia Greener. April 26 was the highest average yield of the seven planting dates, and Georgia-06G gave us the highest yield. We could make good peanuts when we plant in April and early May just like we did in the old days.”

Going into 2012, Beasley says there essentially are five peanut cultivars with adequate seed supplies — Georgia-06G, Georgia Greener, Georgia-07W, Florida-07 and Tifguard. There also are some new varieties, and there will be limited supplies of those this year, including Georgia-10T, Georgia-09B and FloRun ‘107.’

Adequate seed supplies

Seed supplies should be adequate this year, he adds.

“In the Southeast, there was a little more than 100,000 acres planted in 2011 to produce Foundation Registered Certified Seed. Seventy-three percent was planted in Georgia-06G.

“A majority of those acres, about 96,000, were planted in the state of Georgia, overseen by the Georgia Crop Improvement Association. Georgia-07W, Georgia Greener, Tifguard and Florida-07 all were about 5 to 7 percent of the acres planted for seed, a pretty equal distribution.

“Two percent of the acreage was in Georgia-09B and less than 1 percent in the other varieties. It’s a process, and it takes time to build up to these levels. A majority of the seed available to you will be Georgia-06G.”

Peanut producers, he says, have some very good cultivars to select from. “Breeders have done an outstanding job, and we’ve got genetics unlike we’ve ever seen. It’s amazing the yields we’re seeing from these cultivars.”

Yields throughout Georgia were spotty this past year, says Beasley, especially in non-irrigated fields, with growers in one location making zero yields while a grower just down the road might have made 4,000 to 5,000 pounds per acre.

“I’ve been thrilled with the performance of these large-seeded runner cultivars in non-irrigated conditions. It’s exciting to know that the cultivars we have will work well in irrigated and non-irrigated conditions.”

Before selecting a cultivar, Beasley suggests that growers look at how it has performed over the past several years.

It’s a little early to say something definite about the seed quality situation, he said in mid-January.

“The Georgia Department of Agriculture seed lab doesn’t really start to generate much data until after the first part of January. Some of the early samples of farmer-saved seed were not good. The seed quality ranged from poor to good, but we just don’t have enough information in right now.

“We do not expect a seed shortage this year even with increased acres. We could increase acreage 20 to 30 percent, and we still should have an ample seed supply this year.”

Last year, says Beasley, the four Southeastern states of Alabama, Georgia, Florida and Mississippi combined grew 815,000 acres of peanuts, and there’s talk this year of reaching 1 million acres in the four states.

phollis@farmpress.com