Stay The Course

Remember the lessons learned but stick with proven methods this season.

⋅ BY AMANDA HUBER ⋅

The best thing I can tell you in 2024, says University of Georgia Extension agronomist Scott Monfort, is “Don’t use 2023 as a measuring stick. Don’t change anything or make any decisions based on 2023.”

That’s what an aberration 2023 was, says Monfort, who encourages farmers to just stay the course with proven practices. Yield and quality took a hit in 2023, but the reasons have little to do with what producers did and more about weather conditions.

Continue With Proven Practices

Monfort says, for the most part, peanuts can be grown based on recommendations from universities and Extension.

“We know, based on all the research that has been done on peanut, that if the weather does not play a role, about when things will happen,” he says. “If the weather cooperates, we can expect blooming at about 30 to 35 days.”

But it’s that “weather cooperating” part that did not happen in 2023. “We didn’t start to see blooming until 45 to 60 days after planting for a lot of our peanuts,” he says.

Conditions ‘Add Insult To Injury’ On Low-Vigor Seed

“We started off cool and wet in April and May. We couldn’t get planted on time and that pushed our planting date out,” Monfort says. The other problem was low-vigor seed combined with the weather conditions.

“If we had had warm temperatures and a bit of moisture, we probably would not have had problems with the low-vigor seed. But with the cool, wet soils, that did not happen. We had a lot of fields that did not come up very well.”

By June most of the crop was planted and progressing, even if it was a bit behind. However, about the third week of July started a dry spell. “We went through 25 days of no rainfall at 95-plus degree temperatures. Some places didn’t see any rainfall,” Monfort says.

Too Much Heat, Not Enough Rainfall

A peanut plant needs 1.7 to 2 inches of water per week when it is in peak bloom and early podfill. The problem for any early planted crop, the water-use curve did not sit where it is supposed to. These plants sat in May and did not grow, physiologically.

“With the water-use curve shifted to the right, peak bloom ended up in the hottest period of the year. At 95 degrees, plants tend to shut down and not do anything,” he says.

At that temperature, peanut plants are losing 1.8 inches a week in evapotranspiration. They need 2 inches per week during peak bloom and podfill. Is there an irrigation system out there that can put out 4 inches a week, Monfort asks.

“This is one of the reasons why we lost some of our yield. The plant started aborting one of those two peanuts in the pod or they never filled out.”

Still Needing Heat, Weather Cools Off

By September and October, when the crop still needed warm temperatures to get to maturity, the heat tapered off. The amount of immature pods meant grades were also down considerably from the normal range.

“The only way to get the weight and grade is to pull that lagging 50% toward maturity,” Monfort says. “In 2023, that took more than 145 days, and a lot of peanuts were 150 to 160 days old. We had some that went out as far as 180 days.

“When growers started putting pods on the board, and we saw the brown and black up front, folks were saying, ‘They are ready to dig.’ But there were also a lot of immature pods in a second group on the board. We needed to bring that lagging group up.”

Monfort says after the first couple of weeks of maturity board profiles, they tried to get the word out to Extension and farmers that whatever the board says, add 10 to 20 more days. “The board is a guide, and this year showed us that sometimes we need to be flexible in determining when to dig.”

While there is much to learn from a difficult crop, it doesn’t mean growers should do anything different for 2024. PG

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