A ‘better-than-expected’ year given drought, lack of heat units is a tribute to farmers’ flexibility and commitment.
⋅ BY DAVID JORDAN ⋅
North Carolina State University Extension Peanut Specialist
The 2023 peanut crop in the Virginia-Carolina region was unique. The season began with unusually low temperatures in May and went into early June. This weather pattern minimized heat unit accumulation across the region, limiting early season growth. Slow growth early in the season placed pressure on systemic insecticides applied in the seed furrow at planting designed to control thrips. Most growers made postemergence insecticide applications to extend control into mid-to-late June.
In most instances, growers were able to establish adequate and uniform plant stands in spite of lower temperatures. However, in some fields, the pathogen Rhizopus was more pronounced under cooler temperatures causing poor stands. Eventually, growers were able to establish adequate stands in most of these fields. Rainfall across much of the region was adequate for activation of herbicides applied after planting but prior to weed emergence. Weeds tended to grow more slowly due to cooler soil temperatures. In some fields, there appeared to be a shift from Palmer amaranth to common ragweed. Common ragweed often emerges under cooler soil temperatures than Palmer amaranth.
Drought, Lack Of Heat Units Slowed Crop Development
Considerable variation in weather patterns and peanut growth were observed throughout much of the growing season. The degree and timing of drought for many farmers is what determined yield at the end of the season. Peanuts tended to be behind for much of the season in terms of development and pod maturity. While variations were observed, optimum pod maturity occurred approximately one week later in 2023 compared with 2022. Heat unit accumulation occurred at a slower pace, and this translated into the need to dig peanuts later in the fall.
The peanut crop needed more warm days and moderate temperatures at night in September and October to reach its full potential. Unfortunately, cool nights in late September slowed the pace of pod and kernel maturation dramatically. Cool temperatures occurred once again during the Oct. 7 weekend, persisting for much of the month. Freezing temperatures were observed across the central and northern area of the region Nov. 2 and 3, causing a great deal of injury to vines and, in some cases, freeze damage of kernels already dug.
A majority of the crop was harvested prior to Nov. 15, and only a fraction of peanuts remained in the field as of Nov. 30.
A Hard-Fought Effort For Good Yields
Yield was lower in 2023 than in 2022, due in part to a record-yielding crop in 2022, less-than-ideal growing conditions in 2023 relative to temperatures and drought and an immature crop at harvest in areas of the region. However, early on, there was great concern yields would be much lower than observed. This once again underscores the resiliency of peanuts and the flexibility and commitment by peanut growers in the region to manage the crop under less-than-ideal conditions.
Peanuts with modest but adequate rainfall throughout the season yielded and graded well. Peanuts experiencing stress from dry conditions had reduced yields and poor market grades. In many instances, peanuts under stress early in the season received rainfall later, resulting in higher yields.
Considering the entire growing season in the V-C Region, yields were average with market grades mixed. Yield is estimated to be 4,100 pounds per acre. PG