Although rainfall has been more than plentiful in the Southeast this year, Extension specialists from Alabama and Georgia don’t believe peanuts will make the record-high yields seen in 2012.
“Some people think we’ll make as many peanuts as we did last year, but I disagree with that,” says Kris Balkcom, Auburn University Extension peanut specialist.
University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist John Beasley is in agreement. “Even though the temperatures this year have been slightly cooler, and it has definitely been wetter than last year when we broke yield records, we’re not going to approach those kinds of records this year,” he says.
Balkcom and Beasley reviewed their respective states’ peanut crops during the recent Field Crops Field Day at the Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland, Ala.
“With the amount of rain we’ve had in Alabama, we look similar to last year with a little bit more rain,” says Balkcom. “Last year, we set a yield record in the state with 4,000 pounds per acre on about 218,000 acres. We cut back to about 138,000 acres this year, according to FSA.”
While weather conditions may appear similar to last year, there are differences between the production season in 2012 and this year, he says.
“One thing that was different last year is that we planted a lot of peanuts at the end of April and the first of May. We had warmer temperatures and dry conditions at harvest, so everything was in on time. It started raining at about the first week of August. That set a huge crop, our peanuts was fairly old, and it continued to rain. We had cooler temperatures, and that in turn put a lot of those pegs to fruit, and a lot of blooms were able to set with cooler temperatures, so everything went really well,” says Balkcom.
This year, however, conditions were cool and wet early in the season and not many peanuts were planted in April.
Thrips hit peanuts hard
“That put us into May when we had a late thrips flights that hammered peanuts, causing injury and more delay. Then, it started raining in July. Peanuts were younger and smaller, with root systems that were not as large as last year, so they didn’t survive as well in wet soils, causing a lot of yellowing. That was followed by a brief dry spell, during which peanuts made huge strides, but we got more rain in mid-August. But we really did need that late rain to help set up the peanut crop because it was planted later.”
In addition, Alabama growers haven’t seen many heat units this year as they did in 2012, says Balkcom.
“Looking at peanuts in southeast Alabama, we’ve found that the crop probably is about two weeks late. Peanuts planted at the end of April are still about three weeks from being ready to dig. Those peanuts will be about 145 to 150 days old before they are ready to be harvested. That’s similar to what we saw last year, when the biggest portion of the crop was ready at about 150 days.”
Balkcom cautions growers not to start digging their peanuts too early this year.
Georgia is certainly just as wet as Alabama this year, with some areas being wetter than others, says Beasley.
“We had gone through a two to three-week period where conditions were becoming warmer and drier, but then the rains came again in August, with 8 to 10 inches in mid-August. Fields that are well-drained, and upper parts of fields are going to be okay. Low areas are holding water, and the peanuts that are yellow now will not be corrected. We’ve just run out of time. If all of this rainfall had occurred very early, and we had time to recover, those areas might be okay,” says Beasley.
The percentage of areas affected by excessive moisture depends on the size of the field, he adds. “I’ve seen fields with a pretty good low spot, and the farmer may have lost a couple of acres. I’ve seen smaller places affected in a field that might amount to less than an acre.”
In a year like 2013, growers always want to know if nitrogen will be helpful in greening up peanuts, says Beasley.
“We’ve got some potential, and it’s still early in some places. We wanted to plant early so we’d be ready to harvest by about late August, but because we were so late in planting, it will be well after Labor Day before we see any significant harvest. A lot can happen in September and October with the weather, and we’ll need some dry weather for harvest.”