Severe drought and significant pressure from Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus are headlines of this season.
⋅ BY AMANDA HUBER ⋅
By mid-October, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service rated the total U.S. peanut crop as 8% excellent and 55% good. However, the rating of 6% poor was greater than the week prior and the same time the previous year. At that time, 43% had been harvested, which was an increase from the five-year average of 39%.
In Georgia, acreage was down in 2022.
“In 2021, we grew 748,000 acres,” says Scott Monfort, University of Georgia Extension peanut specialist. “This past year, there was a drop of about 70,000 acres, so we are down in acres in this state as well as other states.”
Production is expected to be reduced as well.
Monfort says in Georgia, it was an above-average year for rainfall, although the state is about 55% irrigated.
“Most of the dryland crop looks good because of the amount of rainfall we got this year. We’ve had dry spells, too. June was a record for us with dry and hot conditions — over three weeks at 95 degrees, some days over 100 degrees with no rain. That hurt the dryland crop initially. Luckily, it was not too far into the growing season, and we were not heavily blooming yet.
“For the most part, I think we’re in a very good yield potential year. Not a bumper crop, but good yield and quality.”
The biggest and most concerning problem this season, says Monfort, was the amount of Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus.
“This is one of the worst years we’ve seen in 10 plus years. We’ll be down in yield in heavily affected fields,” he says. “Some of the worst fields were planted very early when the risk index shows it will be a problem.”
Overall, Monfort estimated the average yield would be around 4,300 pounds per acre. “Price was good, but inputs were triple what they should be, taking away any possible profit.”
Rain Ahead Of Cool Weather In North Carolina
Hurricane Ian hit the Virginia-Carolina region about harvest time, and if not actual harvest, then harvest decisions were being made.
North Carolina State University peanut Extension specialist David Jordan says, “By the last week of September, approximately 40% of the peanut crop was dug in the Virginia-Carolina region with 15% threshed. As Hurricane Ian approached, many growers were deciding whether peanuts would be more protected if they were not dug or if the threat of heavy rains would cause greater risk to peanuts if soils dried out slowly.”
Jordan says the threat of additional rainfall and cooler temperatures made decisions especially challenging.
“Water-soaked soils and cloudy weather can also slow the pace of maturation, and this could be the case relative to Hurricane Ian. However, some rain was needed across the region to enable digging of pods and inversion of vines without substantial pod loss.”
Overall, Jordan says planting estimates for the region was 110,000 acres, 26,000 acres and 77,000 acres for North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia, respectively.
“Yield potential has been decreased across the region from the previous report of 4,000 pounds per acre to 3,900 pounds per acre, primarily because of a relatively widespread drought in late-August and throughout much of September.”
Jordan says a new tool, The Frost Advisory, developed by the North Carolina State Climate Office and supported financially by the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association and the Virginia Peanut Growers Association, will be a valuable resource for producers.
“This is a great service to the peanut industry and will be a very useful tool as we move into the remainder of the season with a percentage of the crop remaining in the field to be dug and harvested,” he says.
Cool Temperatures A Risk In Arkansas, Too
When peanut harvest began in Arkansas, grades were in the lows 60s, says University of Arkansas Division of Agriculture Extension plant pathologist Travis Faske.
“A few fields have been thrashed, and grades started in the low 60s due to the number of immature pods,” Faske says. “The proportion of immature pods is due to the hot summer temperatures that caused flowering to stop and thus delayed pod set. This resulted in an early and late pod set.”
For farmers, he says the challenge is to wait long enough to allow immature pods to mature without losing the early pods.
“To complicate the situation,” Faske says, “Cooler fall temperatures slow pod maturity. As harvest is delayed, the risk of freeze injury increases.
“Pod injury occurs when peanuts are dug a day or two before morning temperatures dip below freezing or 27 to 31 degrees F for a few hours. After a few days, kernels with freeze injury can be detected. Injured kernels are darker in color than non-injured kernels and often have a shriveled testa,” he says. “A light frost is not a major issue.”
More Peanuts In Missouri
Peanuts continue to take root in Missouri says University of Missouri Extension soils and cropping systems specialist Justin Calhoun.
In 2022, Calhoun estimates there may be more than 15,000 acres of peanuts in the Bootheel region.
“Some of this new interest comes from the formation of the Missouri Peanut Growers Association, which has funded multiple projects this year to promote the state as a major peanut producer,” he says.
Calhoun oversees three checkoff-funded research projects this year at the MU’s Fisher Delta Research Center in Portageville. He also says most peanut fields will average around 5,000 pounds per acre.
Severe Drought Mars Texas Crop
The one state suffering most significantly on the USDA NASS peanut condition report was Texas. Only 1% of the state’s peanut crop was rated excellent, while 30% was good, 50% was fair, 15% was poor and 4% was very poor.
Yields will be below average because peanuts were affected by drought and heat like most crops across the state, says Emi Kimura, AgriLife Extension state peanut specialist.
Texas peanut production is reliant on supplemental irrigation, and water capacities vary from operation to operation. Kimura says low soil moisture, low humidity, extreme heat and windy conditions made it difficult for irrigation to meet crop demand.
Some fields that received around-the-clock irrigation looked good but will likely produce below-average yields, while others with limited water capacity failed or were expecting very poor yields, she says.
Aside from the drought, Kimura says producers faced few issues. “Pest, disease and weed pressure were below average due to the arid conditions, though weeds were becoming an issue in some fields following widespread rainfall,” she says.
“The peanut season started off dry, hot and windy, and those conditions were consistent until late-August,” she says. “It has been a tough season.”
Texas peanut producers planted around 170,000 acres, Kimura says. The reduced acreage was likely due to the drought outlook, higher input costs and commodity price competition from other crops like corn and cotton. Peanut producers typically plant between 180,000 to 190,000 acres annually.
The latest USDA Farm Service Agency report estimates nearly 20,000 acres failed. Fields that survived the drought were not progressing properly under difficult conditions.
Kimura says peanut pods were not filling properly and some were empty, which will mean further reduced yields.
Oklahoma Crop Mostly Good
In early October, David Nowlin, Oklahoma Peanut Commission field specialist, says peanut harvest was getting underway in the state.
“The five-day rainfall totals gave us some much-needed moisture but has slowed peanut harvest in several areas.”
Nowlin says conditions the month prior were just right for southern blight (Sclerotium rolfsii).
“Most fields were caught up on their irrigation — providing wet soils, a little more humidity and warm soil temperatures ideal for Southern Blight.”
With most of the crop rating good (77%) and fair (23%), producers in the Sooner State are faring better than their southern neighbor.
A Good Year In Most Of Alabama
Alabama producers were keeping one eye on the Gulf of Mexico because of recent history but thus far had managed to have the greatest percentage of crop conditions ranking excellent at 16%.
“Hopefully the tropics will remain quiet, and weather will be favorable for harvest and late-season management decisions,” says John Vanderford, regional Extension agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension Service, in the mid-September row crop report.
“Peanuts are continuing to look good in the area, and final fungicide applications have happened in many fields. The west central pod blast found several producers still a week to two weeks out from digging,” he says.
The remainder of Alabama’s crop was 75% good, 8% fair and only 1% poor. PG