Rainfall, though oftentimes welcome, was a consistent issue for peanut producers during the 2020 growing season. Continuous moisture hindered timely harvest and put a damper on a year with many challenges in the field. However, according to Kris Balkcom, an Alabama Cooperative Extension System peanut specialist, the 2021 growing season is already off on a better foot.
“We knew going into 2020 that there would be some seed quality issues, just based on issues encountered during the 2019 growing season,” Balkcom said. “It was just as bad as we anticipated at planting time with lousy stands that needed patch replanting.”
However, he says 2021 crop seems to have excellent germination quality, based on the germination samples sent off by both producers and researchers.
“All of our seed samples have had 85 percent and higher germination rates,” Balkcom said. “Most everything has been in the low 90s as a good average. We are excited about those rates and looking forward to a good start as we get into planting season.”
For years there has been an industry standard seed treatment. Now, there is a new product available for producers. Researchers were able to test the product last year and it showed a consistently higher germination rate.
In-furrow treatment applications are also important. Balkcom said seed treatments and in-furrow treatments are a beneficial combination early in the planting season.
“As soil temperatures rise, in-furrow treatments are not necessary in addition to the seed treatments, but the combination is adding a definite advantage when planting early in the season,” he said.
There are many variety options for producers. Each producer will need a different variety to fit his or her operation.
“There are a lot of advantages to the varieties on the market right now,” Balkcom said. “It is important to take advantage of attributes and put varieties in situations where they can be most beneficial to your operation. Look at variety trial data from research stations nearby, as well as on-farm variety trials and performance on a larger scale.”
From this information, producers should be able to see a stand-out variety—whether there is one across the board, or one at certain locations.
Disease packages are another important aspect of variety selection.
“There is a lot of diversity across the state related to rainfall and disease pressure,” he said. “Producers need to look at these aspects and see how different varieties measure up. How much disease pressure can each variety handle?”
Good spray programs can also make up for varieties without a great disease package.
Planting and prices
Balkcom said there has been a lot of research, time and effort put into the peanut prescription program.
“The research for this program has been going on for a number of years and I think it is beneficial for farmers to take a look at it as they make management decisions because it is all about risk management,” he said.
During the past few years, researchers have raised the soil temperature from 65 degrees Fahrenheit to 68 F. Balkcom said the 3-degree difference has made a big increase in germination rates.
“This year, with warmer temperatures and an early Easter, I fully expect to see planters moving at the end of April,” Balkcom said. “Planting in April gives us the longest, best opportunity to make a good crop.”
Early in 2021, the agricultural crop market seems pretty strong. Balkcom said peanuts had a slow start but have hovered around $500 per ton. He believes there is an opportunity for producers to take advantage of the contract pricing and for some to earn more than $500 per ton for premium variety contracts.
Alabama Cooperative Extension contributed this article.