Organizers of the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Award have reviewed production data from previous winners to arrive at a “Top 10 Keys to Peanut Profitability.” This list of successful production practices is being presented in descending order in Southeast Farm Press and on this website, with sponsorship provided by DuPont Crop Protection. The Peanut Profitability Awards, based on production efficiency in whole-farm situations, is entering its 13th year and is administered by Marshall Lamb, research director for the National Peanut Research Laboratory, and his staff.

While most of the “Top 10 Keys to Peanut Profitability” thus far have consisted of very specific production practices, our No. 3 listing is different in that it describes a concept, one that is proving to be increasingly critical in farming today.

Proactive farm management is an all-encompassing term that takes into account timeliness, and it appears to be a common trait among winners of the Peanut Profitability Award.

“Many farmers said they wanted to keep a very close eye on what they did on the farm so that they never got behind, and that’s how we classified this management style,” says Staci Ingram, technician at the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga.

“It means staying on top of disease management, weed control and other production practices. If you ever get behind in any one aspect, then you’ll fall behind in everything on the farm,” she says.

During the history of the Peanut Profitability Awards Program, farmers have become more proactive and timely, adds Marshall Lamb, research director at the laboratory.

“I think it’s a new mentality of the growers who are farming today. It’s a new management level. It’s almost a generational thing, and farmers now are more empowered to do more through cell and satellite technology and scouting techniques. They’ve got a better toolbox with which to be proactive,” he says.

Proactive management has become especially critical in peanut weed control, with the advent of glyphosate-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed.

Whenever a single weed pest has the ability to produce up to a half-million seed, being timely and proactive is paramount, says University of Georgia Extension Weed Scientist Eric Prostko.

Making strides

“But we are making some strides against herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth pigweed,” he says.

“One of the most important things that has occurred since we discovered resistance in 2004 is that we’ve learned a lot about the biology of the plant. I think we already knew, but we had to re-learn some things.

“We’ve learned about the biology of the seed and how pollen moves, and how tillage and covers influence the emergence of that particular weed species. We’ve also learned a lot about herbicide efficacy.”

By tying all of these things together, Extension specialists can offer better control programs for producers, says Prostko.

The tools are available for managing herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth, he says, “but it’s not easy, cheap or for the faint of heart. We got used to doing things a certain way, and this pest came along and disrupted that. Now we have to change, and nobody wants to change that much if you don’t have to.”

Challenges remain, says Prostko, and one of the biggest is irrigation and/or rainfall. “About 50 percent of our peanut crop is dryland. That will always be a challenge because we need moisture to make residual herbicides work. If you’ve got irrigation, you’re more likely to make herbicides work than with dryland.”

The other challenge, he says, is “farm-size/weed size.”

“We know how important it is to spray weeds when they’re small. We also know that pigweed can grow 1 to 3 inches in a day, and we only have a two to three-day window to be timely. So if you’re a large-acreage grower, that’s difficult to do, especially if you have bad weather conditions when you need to make those applications,” he says.

Growers should consider how many acres they can spray in a day, says Prostko. “How many acres can you spray in a day? What if there’s a lot of wind and rain? I’ve heard growers say they can spray 300 to 500 acres per day, but what if there are obstacles? Farm size is a challenge.”

Diligence also is important, he says. “Whenever I see a clean field, the grower tells me he is aware Palmer amaranth is a major problem, and he is committed to doing whatever is necessary to keep fields free of the weed. You need to start clean. If you go through a field where pigweed is already up, you’re planting peanuts, and the weeds are 6 to 8 inches tall, then you’re probably going to lose.”

Research has shown that if you bury pigweed deeper than 4 inches for three years, such as with a moldboard plow, it’s not going to come up, says Prostko. “So we can get control just by plowing. That doesn’t fit everyone’s system, but it can give you good control.”

Planting in twin rows also helps because peanuts in close rows produce more shade that helps in controlling pigweeds. In addition, irrigation helps control pigweed by activating residual herbicides like Prowl and Valor, and by helping the peanuts grow faster.

Hand weeding suggested

Whenever herbicide-resistant pigweed escapes, hand weeding is suggested, says Prostko.

“We know one female plant can produce at least 500,000 seed, so pulling out the few that may have escaped is a great way to battle this pest.”

Rotation with corn also is helpful in battling Palmer amaranth, he says. Broadleaf weeds that are not easily controlled in peanuts can be controlled by the herbicides used in corn production.

Researchers have come up with two herbicide programs for controlling herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth, says Prostko.

The Valor-based program includes Prowl H20 3.8SC at 32 ounces per acre, and Valor 51WG at 3 ounces per acre pre-emergence. This is followed by Cadre 2AS at 4 ounces per acre with a 1-percent crop oil concentrate pre-emergence.

The Gramoxone-Dual-based program includes Prowl H20 at 34 ounces per acre two days after planting. This is followed by Gramoxone Inteon at 12 ounces per acre, Storm at 16 ounces per acre, and Dual Magnum at 16 ounces per acre 21 days after planting; along with Cadre at 4 ounces per acre plus Dual Magnum at 16 ounces per acre 37 days after planting.

Adding Dual to the Cadre helps provide longer residual control, says Prostko.

If a grower is looking to eliminate Cadre due to interactions with cotton, he suggests using Cobra or Blazer plus Dual instead.

A program that includes Cobra or Ultra Blazer plus 2,4-DB is a good option for farmers who are facing ALS-resistant pigweeds.

He recommends applying postemergence herbicides when pigweeds are 3 inches or less in height.

The future of peanut weed control is bleak at the moment, says Prostko. There are no new modes of action being developed for peanuts.

The herbicides Warrant, Fierce and Zidua are three new materials that are being tested for use on peanuts, and they may be effective on pigweed, but they do not represent new modes of action, and are not yet labeled for use on peanuts, he says.

“Non-selective applications should only be used in salvage treatments. We need to get at least 60 to 70 percent of the plant treated for those treatments to be effective.”

(An introduction to this series of keys to peanut profits can be found here. Keys No. 10 and No. 9 can be found here. No. 8 and No. 7 are here. Cost management, efficient water use two more keys to peanut profits came in at No. 6 and No. 5. Disease control ranked No. 4 and that information can be found here).