Friday, April 12, 2024

Peanut Pointers: March 2024

Check Soil Temperatures Before Planting

emi kimura
EMI KIMURA
Texas A&M AgriLife Extension
State Extension Peanut Specialist

The 2023 growing season was another hot and dry year in Texas. Having one drought year is tough enough, but two consecutive years of drought made our lives very difficult. Under such challenging environmental conditions and ever-increasing input costs, growers will need to spend every single dollar in the most efficient way to improve yield potential. Fundamental agronomic practices can assist in important decision making for profitable peanut production.

Although peanuts are relatively easy to establish as compared to cotton due to the larger seed size, we want to make sure the seeds are planted at the right time. Understanding the top four inches of soil temperature is critical to determine the best time for peanut planting. Optimum soil temperature for peanut germination is at least 68 degrees Fahrenheit for three consecutive days without a cold front in the forecast.

Understanding the top four inches of soil temperature is critical to determine the best time for peanut planting.

In Seminole, Texas, this can be achieved after May 1, based on past weather data. The average soil temperature in the past 10 years has been above 68.8 F after this date. In contrast, soil temperatures in the last week of April have been highly variable. The range of soil temperatures during the last week of April in 2023, five-year average and 10-year average were 58 to 72 degrees, 67.6 to 71.2 degrees and 67.6 to 76.2 degrees, respectively. Cold snaps and dry soil conditions can slow germination of peanut and cotton. The longer seeds stay in the soil, the more susceptible they become to soilborne and seedling diseases.

Before making planting decisions, check current soil temperatures for your area online at West Texas Mesonet database at https://mesonet.ttu.edu/latest-sobs. Establishment of a good stand is the first step for successful peanut production for the 2024 growing season.

Start By Addressing Known Issues

David Jordan
DAVID JORDAN
North Carolina State University
Extension Agronomist

We often see our most important challenges as the ones we experienced most recently, and in particular what happened in last year’s crop. How often does that issue translate into the growing season that is just around the corner? We probably know the answer, or at least mine would be, not all that often. But, we will do things to keep that problem from being a problem again regardless of how often it will happen.

Of course, some things are relatively constant. In the V-C region, we know each year we have predictable populations of weeds in our fields, and that we will have significant injury from thrips if we don’t apply insecticide when we plant. We also know that response to soil acidity (pH), fertilizer and inoculants for nitrogen fixation is consistent from year to year. Of course, leaf spot is a common denominator, and we know digging date matters.

It is more important than ever before to consider the risks of each practice we put in place and think about what we need to do from a preventive standpoint versus what we can do from a reactive standpoint.

On the other hand, the presence of certain pests and a positive return on some practices are less predictable going into the season. We know that some factors — soil characteristics, weather patterns, planting dates and varieties — create greater risk than others. However, we don’t know exactly how the season will play out until it happens.

2023 was a unique season for peanut production. May and early June were about as cold as most folks can remember.

We had a cool snap in late September that delayed or stopped further pod maturation, and then October seemed cooler than the new normal followed by a hard freeze on Nov. 2 in the upper V-C region. All of this occurred with the backdrop of the warmest year on record worldwide, according to some measures. It seemed like for about a decade, temperatures in September were about like August. But in two of the past three growing seasons, we had a cool snap around Sept. 20 that slowed the pace of pod maturity in a major way.

Large swings in weather from year-to-year and region-to-region are a part of the new norm. And those swings are related to a planet that has experienced changes in climate that are less predictable, with more extremes, due in large part to a warming planet. This brings in more risk to our production of peanuts because of the unpredictable nature of our growing seasons. A big question is, can we successfully manage our crop knowing that some of the principles we have relied on in the past are likely to be less effective or at least less effective at times than they used to be? For example, when will pests become more of an issue in the cropping cycle? How does planting date play into that estimation? These two questions have always played a major role in our decision-making process, but there seems to be more unknowns because of the unpredictable weather now than in the past.

It is more important than ever before to consider the risks of each practice we put in place and think about what we need to do from a preventive standpoint versus what we can do from a reactive standpoint. What flexibility do we have to minimize the adverse effect of each challenge that comes our way? I’ve got more questions than answers in this column. Hopefully, over the next few months, I’ll be able to present ideas on practices that can help minimize risk to yield with the unknowns we have.

With that said, right now we can work toward getting soil pH across each field up to 6.0 with no areas less than 5.8. We can use our soil test reports to apply fertilizers at the right rate across the entire field. Regardless of our tillage system, we can do things proactively to make sure peanuts are weed-free when they emerge. And, we can select systemic insecticides that are effective against thrips, and apply inoculant for nitrogen fixation when we plant, regardless of rotation history. Irrespective of weather patterns, these practices will bring home a positive return on investment.

Look At Options To Reduce TSWV, Seedling Disease

Scott Monfort
SCOTT MONFORT
University of Georgia
Extension Agronomist

The 2024 planting season is just around the corner, and growers have a lot to consider. Initial conversations at grower meetings are pointing to a potential increase in peanut acreage in Georgia. An increase in acreage will cause growers to reduce their rotation interval between peanut crops on some farms, along with planting more acreage in April and early May. With this in mind, growers are encouraged to consider all risks associated with these management decisions.

TSWV has been a recurring problem for the past several years, and it is expected to be a problem for growers in 2024.

Growers can produce high-yielding peanuts under shorter rotation and earlier planting as long as they construct a good management strategy ahead of time. The initial part of this strategy should always include soil sampling to eliminate fertility and soil pH issues ahead of planting. Also, it is important to consider where you are planning to plant peanut and which of these fields/farms are more suited for planting early (well drained, etc). For example, low-lying fields or reduced-tillage fields with cover may not be well suited for early planting as they will remain cooler and wetter longer, which may promote seedling disease issues. The University of Georgia Extension service recommends planting in soil temperatures of 68 degrees or higher to allow for adequate germination and emergence.

Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is also a factor for which growers need to plan. TSWV has been a recurring problem for the past several years, and it is expected to be a problem for growers in 2024. Growers can contact their local county Extension agent to discuss options to minimize potential TSWV and seedling disease. County agents can help direct you to the best varieties to plant, most effective insecticide to control thrips and lower TSWV risk as well as extra fungicide options as needed.

Look At Variety Trial Grade, Yield And Disease Counts

Kris Balkcom
KRIS BALKCOM
Auburn University
Extension Specialist

Looking back over this past crop season, there was ample rainfall early in the season then during the month of June. In July, the rainfall dried up and then vanished for the remainder of the growing season throughout the southern region of the state. It isn’t that uncommon for the southeastern part of the state to have dry pockets during the late growing season. However, it is unusual for the southwest part of the state to be as dry as it was during July, August and September.

Dry weather wasn’t the only issue. We had three weeks of 100-degree temperatures that plagued the lower half of the state from east to west. Coupled with the lack of rainfall, these conditions took a toll on Alabama’s peanut crop. These adverse conditions made yield plummet to an estimated 2,700 to 2,800 pounds per acre. We haven’t been below 3,000 pounds per acre for a state average in several years.

Look at variety trials across the state not only for grades but also yields. You may see some varieties at the top of tests that haven’t been there.

The dry weather also affected crop grades, which affects what farmers are paid per ton. The dry weather caused peanut plants to abort some kernels creating pops. Lack of moisture prevented some pods from fully maturing. The immature kernels caused reduced total sound mature kernels and increased the percentage of hulls, which both decreased the grade and the price per ton received by the producer.

As a reminder, look at variety trials across the state not only for grades but also yields. You may see some varieties at the top of tests that haven’t been there. There may be new varieties or some that have been around for a while. I would encourage you to dig into the data and see what enabled some of these different varieties to outperform the traditional workhorse varieties this past season. For instance, pay attention not only to yield but disease counts. Some may have looked better due to the lack of late rainfall, which led to less late leaf spot.

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