Friday, April 12, 2024

Looking For Something Better Than The Board

amanda huber
Amanda Huber,
Peanut Grower Editor

Indeterminate. As an adjective, it means uncertain in extent, amount or nature; not definite; inconclusive; unable to be predicted, calculated or deduced. Peanuts are an indeterminate plant, and all those adjectives pretty much describe trying to nail down crop maturity and when to harvest. 

In February, Auburn University and the Alabama Cooperative Extension System offered a precision ag workshop. One presentation was entitled “Prediction of Peanut Maturity and Yield using Satellite and Drone Images and Artificial Intelligence.” The research was conducted and presented by AU’s Mailson Freire de Oliveira. What unfolded in those 20 minutes was an interesting discussion about how variable peanut maturity can be in one field and how much researchers are working on trying to find a more modern method than the Peanut Maturity Profile Board.

Although many factors go into the decision to dig, including weather and amount of acreage, maturity of the crop is also important. Harvest too early or too late reduces yield potential. Determining maturity by pulling samples, blasting off the hull and matching colors on a board is labor intensive and subjective to the person doing the profile board.

Wouldn’t it be great if a drone could take special imagery that correlated with maturity? What about an artificial intelligence model for predicting maturity and yield? These are some of the ways being studied in an attempt to determine maturity with newer technology. 

In the discussion period, Alabama Cooperative Extension precision ag specialist Brenda Ortiz asked, “If you had an image that shows the variability in the field, would it be helpful? Would you make decisions using it?”

Several growers said they would take anything that would offer another way to look at maturity. With a picture or “map,” that shows the areas of greatest maturity and also the least, they would know better where to pull samples to get a more representative profile board. 

According to Ortiz, soil texture and soil temperature in the pegging zone are important factors in peanut maturity. “I know that one day we will find a way to take the variability out of determining maturity.”

They may not be there yet, but researchers won’t give up on the search for a better way to make peanut harvest decisions a little more predictable and less “indeterminate.” 

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