Challenging Year In South Carolina

Hopes for good harvest weather were dashed with Hurricane Matthew

The 2016 peanut harvest is under way in South Carolina and pests and weather have been the main issues affecting this year’s crop.

The 2016 peanut harvest has started in some parts of the state with several growers who have started digging Virginia type varieties. Other growers will have to wait from one to four or more weeks until their peanuts will be at optimal maturity before harvesting.

Long-lasting Thrips Issue

Tomato spotted wilt virus is one problem the state’s peanut growers have had to face.

“The tomato spotted wilt virus was greater this year than what we’ve seen in previous recent growing seasons,” says Dan Anco,

Clemson peanut specialist. “Some folks thought thrips stayed around longer this year than on average and how much the plant is affected by tomato spotted wilt depends on the variety planted.”

For much of the summer, drought conditions were something South Carolina peanut producers had to contend with.

According to Mark Malsick of the South Carolina State Climatology Office, the average rainfall amount across South Carolina from May 1 to Aug. 31 this year was 3.79 inches, with June being the driest month. The normal average rainfall amount for these four months is 4.80 inches.

Hermine Brought Needed Moisture

Anco says these amounts weren’t “the best for producing the greatest yields,” adding the majority of the state’s peanut crop, about 80 percent, is grown without irrigation.

Hurricane Hermine brought a break in the drought, dropping five to nine inches of rain on many fields.

“Most fields were dry enough to use it,” he says. “What really helped out was, for the week following Hermine’s rain, it was hot and dry, which gave the ground time to deal with the water it had.” But, hot and dry conditions may have contributed to two-spotted spider mite infestations, he says.

As peanut harvest began, growers were hoping for a few more weeks of good weather for digging, drying and combining, but that wasn’t to be. Hurricane Matthew, which crushed the Caribbean and then blasted the coast of the United States from Florida to North Carolina, took no pity on South Carolina either. Though the extent of damage was still being determined, thousands of acres of cotton, peanuts, soybeans and vegetables took a significant beating.

Matthew Brought Too Much

John Mueller, director of Edisto Research and Education Center in Barnwell County, says that his area took less of a hit than the southeastern and northeastern portions of the state, but still sustained localized flooding.

“Some fields of peanuts will be okay, but others that were heavily flooded will be lost due to rot,” he says. “I think the bottom line is that damage will vary field-by-field, but the post-flood weather this time is much better than last time.”

Charles Davis, Extension agent and agronomic crops expert based in Calhoun and Richland counties says that peanut growers rushed to harvest their crops before the storm struck.

“There was a fair amount that had already been dug up but not yet harvested, which were lying on the ground and in danger of rot,” he says.

According to the USDA’s National Agricultural Statistics Service, an estimated 106,000 acres of peanuts were grown in South Carolina this year, compared to 110,000 acres in 2014 and 2015.

Article by Denise Attaway, Clemson University College of Agriculture, Forestry and Life Sciences.