Harvest Decisions


Most everyone would agree that determining when to dig peanuts was a challenge this past year, and many farmers did not get the grades and yields they wanted, especially on the earliest harvested portion of the crop. Hopefully, the 2024 crop will not be as difficult.

Don’t Leave Weight Behind

University of Georgia Extension peanut specialist says if anything was to be learned from the 2023 harvest it is that folks need to be flexible with the maturity profile board and patient for the crop to reach maturity.

“The board is a guide,” Monfort says. “It is not an absolute. “We need to be flexible, but it is still the best tool we have for determining when to dig based on maturity.

Weaknesses of the maturity profile board are that it’s time-consuming and requires several sample collections to accurately predict maturity before the crop is ready for harvest. “Separating pods by color is highly subjective because it relies on visual color differentiation that can vary dramatically among individuals,” Monfort says.

On the other hand, he says when peanuts are dug early, producers are cutting themselves short on yield.

“If you don’t take samples and have a maturity profile board run, you could lose as much as 500 pounds per acre if you don’t gauge maturity right,” he says. “I think when peanuts are dug early at 130 to 135 days and they could have gone to 145 to 150 days, if you look at the crop coming along on the profile board, I think we are leaving some weight behind.

“A lot of people do a good job with running the profile boards,” Monfort says. “These maturity clinics are one of the biggest things we do that pays dividends.”

Use Multiple Methods

A less subjective method for gauging maturity by tracking growing degree days. The value for adjusted growing degree days is calculated by taking into account the maximum and minimum temperatures as well as rainfall and irrigation received.

“Peanuts reach physiological maturity after the accumulation of approximately 2,500 growing degree days,” says Mark Mauldin, agriculture and natural resources Extension agent in Washington County, Florida.

The adjusted growing degree day, (aGDD) tracker can be used to approximate how your fields are progressing. For more precise tracking of your fields, go to PeanutFARM.org and set up your fields in the system. You will be able to enter field-specific rainfall/irrigation data and soil type. Temperature data will come from the closest weather station system.

Even with the use of the aGDD tracker, Mauldin says it is still important to have a good, resprentative sample pod-blased so that the maturity board can help optimize harvest timing.

“There are many factors that determine how rapidly peanuts mature with the two most important factors being heat and available moisture,” he says.

Don’t Use Days After Planting

One thing both Extension agents  agree on is that days after planting should not be used to determine harvest.

“I know you have to start somewhere,” Monfort says. “Is the board 100% right, no because it is a subset of the whole crop, but it is definitely the best tool we’ve got to judge maturity. You shouldn’t use days after planting at all.”

Mauldin says, “In Extension, we say every year, ‘don’t dig based solely on the calendar.’ While this adage is always true, it is especially applicable in years when the crop faced challenging conditions.”

He adds that disease management is crucial to holding fields together long enough to reach optimum maturity.

Keep Up The Remainder Of The Crop

Wes Porter, UGA Extension precision ag specialist, says irrigation remains important until all peanuts are dug.

“If a maturity check says the crop is a couple weeks away, and it’s supposed to be dry, you should not terminate irrigation. The crop will need water to reach  maturity,” he says. “Keep the soil profile at least somewhat moist.”

However, Porter says what can happen, especially in a hot, dry year, is that harvesting starts, but there are still acres of peanuts in the ground that you may not get to for a few weeks. “Keep monitoring those peanuts and irrigating as needed,” he says.

Mark Abney, UGA Extension entomologist, says the same can be said for insect management.

“When you put the digger in the field the first day, 90% of your peanuts are still growing, and it will be a while before you get them. Velvetbean caterpillar can defoliate your peanuts in a matter of days.

“On the remaining crop, you can’t  stop paying attention to  insects, disease, irrigation or whatever it is that you’ve done for the first 120 days and lose the crop in the last 25-35 days.” PG

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