Above-average rainfall and eye-popping armyworm infestations are part of the story in 2021.
• By Amanda Huber •
Although the ending has yet to be written on the 2021 season, the beginning and middle are all about more-than-average rains, armyworms and a tremendous amount of leaf spot.
Good harvest weather would help Texas peanut growers finish out a promising year. Favorable markets and good growing conditions are reasons to be optimistic.
Emi Kimura, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension peanut specialist, says despite delays, fewer planted acres and slow progress, Texas peanut growers are expecting above-average yields.
The season started with planting delays because of wet conditions, and the rain did not stop until July.
Rains Were Mostly Welcome In Texas
“We appreciate the rain, but it did not stop, and we were behind at least two weeks,” Kimura says. “Farmers in Central Texas missed the planting window because they could not access fields, some of which had to give up and look for other options.
”Producers in West Texas were able to plant, as well as in South Texas and the Rolling Plains, but overall acreage was expected to be down slightly, Kimura says. Planted peanut acreage in Texas was estimated at 178,000 acres compared to around 190,000 in 2020.
“Rain, cooler temperatures and cloudy days have slowed the crop’s progress after delayed plantings, but the moisture has allowed plants to produce heavy pod sets. Sun and heat in the later season should help the crop reach maturity,” she says.
Kimura believes proactive management for diseases has kept them in check so far. The main pest problem this year has been weeds because of wet conditions and late canopy development.
The delays and slow progress through July could push harvest for many fields later into October than preferred, Kimura says. Last year, the first frost arrived in the Rolling Plains during the second week in October. Grade deductions from an early frost would be disappointing for producers who are looking at a bumper crop and good market prices.
Francisco Abello, AgriLife Extension economist, says a majority of Texas peanut acres are grown under contract. High demand, low U.S. stocks and acreage reductions in major peanut-producing areas, such as Georgia, created strong contract prices for producers — $575 per ton on average, up $100 per ton compared to last year.
“Domestic demand, consumption and increased exports led to a price jump,” he says. “With producers in other areas looking at other commodities like cotton and corn as a profitable rotation option, we don’t expect there to be any significant gains in peanut stocks, but we do expect demand to remain high.
“This is a much better position for Texas peanut growers. If they locked in around the average price and fields deliver on yield and quality expectations, it could be a good season.”
Armyworms March Into North Carolina
More fall armyworms than North Carolina State University Extension entomologist Rick
Brandenburg had seen in his 40-year career is not what any producers in the Tar Heel state want to see in their fields.
Fortunately, he says fall armyworm is not as bad a some other common lepidopteran pests.
“They have the potential to damage peanuts but are not as aggressive of feeders as corn earworms or budworms,” Brandenburg says. “Currently, the threshold for worms is eight to 10 per row foot, and I believe that fall armyworm could be higher, at least 12 and perhaps 15 worms per row foot.
“In the past, there have been instances that when peanuts are dug, the fall armyworms move up and feed on pods. I really don’t know how much damage these do, but it can be a scary sight.”
Armyworm numbers aside, NCSU Extension peanut agronomist David Jordan says weather conditions for harvest did not present a scary picture.
“Growers in the Virginia-Carolina region are well into peanut harvest with approximately 75% of peanut fields across the region dug and 30% threshed,” he says. “Weather conditions for the past two weeks have been excellent for digging and threshing.
“Adequate heat unit accumulation for Virginia-market type cultivars has been reached for peanuts emerging during May and into the first week of June in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia,” Jordan says. However, drought has affected the crop in some areas.
“Estimated yield potential is 3,970 pounds per acre. This estimate is substantially lower than current U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Agricultural Statistics Service estimates for the region. Prolonged dry weather in some areas is worrisome, especially for later-emerging peanuts. In addition to limited soil moisture for pod fill, some fields need moisture to prevent pod shed during the digging and vine inversion process.”
Jordan says area planted to peanuts in North Carolina, South Carolina and Virginia is 105,000 acres, 85,000 acres and 28,000 acres, respectively.
Leaf Spot Spreads Over The Southeast
Like the Southwest, rain is the story in the Southeast. Wet and warm most always leads to
more disease pressure than producers would like.
University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist Bob Kemerait says, “The story in many Georgia peanut fields is all about leaf spot, primarily late leaf spot, which has exploded more than ever before in my career.
“The persistently wet conditions throughout the growing season have really started catching up to some fields in the last couple of weeks. Favorable conditions for fungal growth combined with too-wet-to-work soils delaying fungicide applications have resulted in high levels of disease pressure as we near harvest.”
Kemerait says they are not seeing a collapse of fungicides or active ingredients. “At UGA, we have too many trials out across the state that prove our chemistries and programs, while not bullet-proof, are holding.”
However, he says conditions have been perfect this year for leaf spot epidemics.
“We have had beaucoup rain that enhances infection by leaf spot pathogens and spread of leaf spot diseases. Wet weather has led to extended delays between fungicide applications and even missed applications. We have also had shortages on many fungicides resulting in use of something other than what we really wanted.”
Kemerait also says that some of our newer peanut varieties are more susceptible to leaf spot than Georgia-06G.
“Delays in planting mean that much of our crop was still in the field when pressure from leaf spot was intense and blistering.”
In Florida, the picture was nearly the same.
“Leaf spot pressure, especially late leaf spot, is tremendous right now, and fields that have not been adequately protected, likely because it’s been too wet to spray, are experiencing substantial defoliation,” says Mark Mauldin, Washington County, Florida, Extension agent in early October.
“Additionally, in some areas foliage-feeding insects are adding to the problem. At this point in the season, most fields are mature enough to harvest; however, wet conditions may be delaying the process.
“For June-planted fields, defoliation, not maturity, may well dictate when the field needs to be dug,” he says. “If you’re losing leaves, you’re probably starting to lose pods.” PG
Portions of this article provided by Texas A&M AgriLife.