Rain Chances Drive Harvest

Weather threatens crop yields in the East, while the West starts harvest with a month of good  field conditions.

By Amanda Huber

With a crop that was good in many areas, fair in others most of the season, the weather at harvest reminds us of the first line of the old Whitney Houston song, “Didn’t We Almost Have It All,” which says, “Remember when we held on in the rain.” Rain has had most producers on hold at some point during digging, with the Virginia-Carolina region in grave jeopardy from rains before, during and after Hurricane Joaquin.

V-C Area Underwater

Dell Cotton, Virginia Peanut Growers Association executive director, says the dry weather through much of the season has resulted in mostly a tap-root crop, which producers started digging a little early. “We had quite a few on top of the ground when it started raining, and now it has rained for a week,” he says.

Then Hurricane Joaquin happened. While the storm not coming ashore was a blessing, it still sent bands of rain onto the coastal states soaking areas that were already water-logged and causing flash flooding in others.

“It’s a real mess now. We need sunshine and we need it bad,” Cotton says.

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Peanuts sit neatly in rows for the eighth day in a row on Glen Heard’s farm. Harvesters moved slowly beneath the threatening skies to get what they could.

All’s Quiet In Texas

In Texas, Jason Woodward, Texas A&M University Extension plant pathologist, says that the most common theme of the early growing season was weed issues.

“Disease pressure has been extremely low with only a few isolated occurrences of Sclerotinia blight and pod rot being observed over the past few weeks,” he says. “Harvest is just getting under way with a few Valencia fields having been dug and thrashed. The prospect of rain over the weekend hindered many producers from getting in the field last week. Rain was widespread throughout the High Plains with accumulations of as much as an inch and a half being received in places. Forecasts over the next several days are calling for additional rain. Hopefully, digging will resume the first to middle part of next week.”

Woodward says it is too early to tell what yields will be; however, maturity is as variable as he had seen it in his nine years in Texas peanut production.

“Maturity is the big unknown as Texas’ producers begin harvesting, but I have been pleasantly surprised at the yield estimates from fields we have been monitoring over the past several weeks,” Woodward says.

Georgia Harvesting Between Showers

In late September, with harvest running wide open on the earlier-planted peanuts, Scott Monfort says what he had seen looked pretty good. “This doesn’t look like a bumper crop or as good as the 2012 crop by any means, but dryland peanuts range from fair-to-good and irrigated fields look good, too.

Warm temperatures and an abundance of rainfall leads to more white mold in peanuts. This picture shows the possible devastation of this disease.

Warm temperatures and an abundance of rainfall leads to more white mold in peanuts. This picture shows the possible devastation of this disease.

“Diseases have hurt some fields, and we’ve had a spike in tomato spotted wilt virus.” he says. “With 770,000 acres, we have peanuts behind peanuts and in some areas peanuts three years in a row.”

White mold is particularly bad this year because of the warm, moist conditions, but Monfort says he hasn’t seen any really bad situations yet.

“Overall, though, it’s nothing terrible or widespread, and we can’t complain too much.”

In early October, cool fronts began to move through the Southeast following rain storms of one to two inches. A lot of peanuts were dug and on the wet ground. Sunshine was needed for farmers to get back to digging and drying full time.

The less-than-ideal harvest weather has many producers concerned about the loss of peanuts on the ground and the cost of drying.

Alabama Expecting Big Crop

Alabama Extension Regional Agent Kim Wilkins says she has been pod-blasting in fields throughout her area helping farmers get ready for harvest.

Wilkins says weather this growing season has been conducive for peanut growers in her area.

“Although the weather impact varies because my area is large, overall this growing season has been better suited to growing peanuts than last growing season,” Wilkins says.

Last year, rain fell at planting time and at harvest with very little moisture in between. She says this year the rain showers came at the right time for farmers without irrigation.

Several farmers in her area have irrigated peanuts and generally see a flourishing crop, but with ample rainfall this season Wilkins says the current crop is similar across the board.

Wilkins says the earliest fields have been harvested, while other farmers will begin digging peanuts in upcoming weeks.

Alabama producers planted 200,000 acres of peanuts this year, with a forecasted harvest of 709 million pounds, up 28 percent from 2014.