Stay on top of scouting this season as pests and diseases seem to be striking earlier.
⋅ By Amanda Huber ⋅
Planting conditions around the peanut belt varied from cool and dry to rain delays and drought. In Florida, it was low temperatures in the Panhandle that slowed planting. From Mississippi to North Carolina, it was dry at planting. Ongoing drought has engulfed Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma. Owing to the resilience of the peanut, stands are now looking good in each of these areas. Unfortunately, pest pressure arrived early this season with the hot, dry weather.
Dry Planting Conditions
Conditions were uncomfortably dry, while not yet considered a drought, for row-crop producers at planting time in Alabama, says Kris Balkcom, Alabama Extension peanut specialist. Whereas cotton seed can be “dusted in,” peanut seed can be planted deeper in the soil where adequate moisture could still be found, which is an advantage for peanut producers.
“Peanuts can stay in the ground until there is adequate moisture to make a stand,” Balkcom says. The longer seed have to wait, the less likely seedlings will be as strong and healthy. Quick germination and vigorous growth is always the preferred outcome.
Overall, Balkcom says in a normal year with high input prices, farmers tend to gravitate toward peanut production so they can apply minimal fertilizers and avoid the risk of high-priced inputs.
“This year I expect to see less peanut acreage and more cotton acreage,” Balkcom says. “With $1.20 to $1.30 cotton, producers are going to say cotton production feels like it is worth the gamble.”
Adding To The Research Base
While dry conditions are unfortunate, Balkcom says researchers make note of weather patterns and conditions as they plant peanut variety trials across Alabama. Research station and on-farm trials are important tools to help farmers determine the right variety for their location and accompanying crop pressures.
“We plant on-farm variety trials on eight farms across the state,” Balkcom says. “The same six varieties will be planted at each farm location. We can use data from the eight locations to determine how each variety responds to different soil types, weather patterns, pests and disease pressures.”
The more information researchers are able to provide, the better prepared producers are to manage the crop throughout the year.
Heavy Thrips Pressure
Mark Abney, University of Georgia Extension entomologist, says the value of at-plant insecticides for thrips management was readily apparent in UGA trials by late May in Tifton. While untreated peanuts were getting hammered by thrips, those treated with in-furrow insecticides were holding up pretty well.
“Thrips injury generally peaks around 28 days after planting, and if the growing environment is favorable, the condition of plants rapidly improves after that,” Abney says. “The recent rains help peanuts that experienced heavy thrips pressure recover and get on to the job of making peanuts.
Abney says he did not have many calls about foliar sprays for thrips, which means either producers did a good job with in-furrow insecticides, or a lack of scouting hadn’t turned up the problem.
“Research suggests that fields with heavy thrips injury at 28 days after planting are unlikely to benefit from a foliar insecticide application,” he says. “By this time, the damage has been done. Drought conditions and/or herbicide injury can change the equation since plants will not recover from thrips as quickly given the additional stress.”
Abney says tomato spotted wilt virus was observed in research plots.
“The incidence of obvious symptoms was not high, but seeing the virus at 28 days is concerning. Plants infected at this age are likely to produce no yield and will probably die. There is nothing that can be done to reduce the spread of the virus once the crop has been planted,” he says.
Abney says other parts of the state are not experiencing heavy thrips pressure. “East Georgia has been seeing relatively light thrips infestations.”
Common Dry-Weather Foe
Hot and dry weather is conducive to lesser cornstalk borer populations, and conditions were perfect in May and early June for this frequent pest.
“There are several dozen LCB pheromone traps in south Georgia peanut fields, and many of them have been catching moths. We should be aware that moths are currently active, and we need to scout fields that are at high risk with dry, sandy soils and skippy stands.”
Scouting is the only way producers can know if LCB has reached a threshold for treatment. Otherwise, Abney says growers can save money by not making unnecessary preventative treatments.
Look For Early Disease Pressure
In South Carolina, most all acres had been planted by June 10. Timely rains helped replenish soil moisture about midway through planting.
Dan Anco, Clemson University Extension peanut specialist says warm weather, with the added soil moisture, helped peanuts emerge pretty well. However, he is quick to warn producers to be on top of leaf spot protection, given the problems producers had in 2021.
“Of the few fields looked at so far, a couple late leaf spot lesions were found on volunteers in one of the fields. That field had excessive defoliation at the end of last year, over 90% in sections, making it not too surprising that we could find lesions there near the end of May. Still, the third week of May is on the early side.
“Fields planted to peanut this year that are near fields where there were leaf spot management challenges last year, including fields that are rotated in split sections, can benefit from a fungicide application and/or a systemic fungicide product with the first application at 30 days after planting. Vigilance in scouting for and removing volunteers, with tillage or Liberty, continues to be invaluable,” he says.
Unfortunately, the early season reminded Anco of another hot year that turned into a bad season overall. Hopefully, that won’t happen.
“In 2019, we saw a similarly heated early part of the growing season, and in test fields where we had prior white mold pressure, it got an earlier start that year,” he says. “White mold pressure isn’t as widely spread across the state and to the same extent that we see with leaf spot.”
Anco says in fields prone to white mold and with the hotter weather, fungicides with activity on soilborne disease applied at the 45-day mark, rather than waiting for 60 days, could be considered. PG