South Carolina peanut acreage increasing

The contract price for peanuts in 2008 has increased interest in production, especially in the Carolinas and Virginia.

In South Carolina acreage continues to increase slightly and will likely settle at 65,000-68,000 acres, according to Clemson Peanut Specialist Jay Chapin.

In North Carolina production is expected to remain about the same, though Peanut Specialist David Jordan, says growers are late making planting decisions this year. Growers who were not happy with corn profitability last year may convert some of those acres to peanuts, though the increase in wheat acreage indicates most of it may go into double-crop soybeans.

In Georgia, production is expected to go up this year, primarily based on the drought-related shortfall in peanuts in 2007. Predictions of a La Nina-based dry winter and spring have not materialized so far across Georgia’s peanut belt, indicating adequate spring planting moisture and more acres in the nation’s top peanut producing state.

In South Carolina in 2007 peanut growers fought the drought most of the year, but at harvest time they enjoyed near perfect weather conditions. “The result is that we were able to get virtually all our crop out of the ground. The drought reduced the potential of the crop, but ideal harvest weather allowed our growers to harvest a pretty good crop last year,” Chapin says.

This year contract prices for Virginia type peanuts in South Carolina have been in the $550 to $600 per ton range, and this will likely encourage some growers to expand acreage and others to get into the peanut business.

For new growers, Chapin says be aware of the 10 basic rules of new ground peanut production:

• Select well-drained soil with a sandy surface. Avoid fields that have had heavy soybean production. Nematodes and other disease and insect problems have proven to be greater in soybean/peanut rotations.

• Always soil test, but pay special attention to zinc. Chapin says the high cost of fertilizer has led many peanut growers to use high volumes of chicken litter to get the needed nitrogen for their crops. In 2007, zinc toxicity was a sporadic, but serious production threat to South Carolina growers.

• With about 80 percent of the state’s crop going to Virginia-type peanuts, always provide adequate calcium. Chapin says use only liquid in-furrow inoculants and use a minimum of five gallons of water when applying these materials. He warns these are live bacteria and getting maximum benefit requires careful handling and application.

• Again, with a high percentage of Virginia-type peanuts, it is critical to avoid tomato spotted wilt virus, because many of the top varieties are highly susceptible to this disease. Strip-tillage seems to have a positive effect on TSWV management as does timely planting (May 5-May 25) in South Carolina.

• Weed control is critical, but avoiding herbicide resistance may be even more critical. Most peanut producers grow other crops. If cotton, corn and soybeans are in the mix, use of glyphosate for burndown is common. If using Valor for pigweed control in peanuts, growers should consider other families of herbicide for control to reduce the risk of losing Valor control of pigweed.

• Virginia type peanuts need calcium and new growers should be aware that it takes approximately 1,500 pounds of land plaster to produce the 300 pounds of calcium per acre needed by Virginia type peanuts.

• Even if growing peanuts on new ground, the risk of foliar diseases is significant enough to spray. In fields with a history of soybean use, growers should pay special attention to white mold and CBR (cylindrocladium black rot) which have proven to be especially prevalent with this cropping history.

• Check for worms late, usually in late July through August is a good insurance policy against late season damage.

• The biggest threat to yields, Chapin says, is losing a crop at digging time.

In 2007, several new varieties performed well in peanut variety tests at the Edisto Research and Education Center where Chapin is headquartered. Though seed supply won’t be adequate for much production from these newer varieties, Chapin says the outlook for the future is bright.

Among the runner type peanuts tested, Ga06G was the highest producer, with a yield of 5,783 per acre and a per acre value of $1,566.

Georgia Greener, an improved variety of Georgia Green, produced 5,499 pounds per acre for a value of $1,523 per acre.

The standard runner type, Georgia Green, produced $5,081 pounds per acre for a per acre value of $1,354.

Of the Virginia types, ATVC2 was the top producer with $5,693 per acre for a per acre value of $5,693.

Chapin says the drought in 2007 caused some seed quality problems for Virginia type peanut seed, because of tomato spotted wilt virus complications. “We can make a good crop with less than optimum seed quality — we’ve done it before, but the main issue is TSWV,” he concludes.

Of the newer varieties currently being developed, Champs, a relatively new variety developed by Virginia Tech University, will be available on a limited basis. “For our growing conditions, it looks real promising,” Chapin says.

He warns that the jury will remain out on these newer varieties until they are planted on a large scale to see how they react across the scope of production challenges. For now, the old reliable varieties will likely continue to dominate South Carolina production.

“Most of our growers are new, or relatively new to peanut production, and they tend to be very careful about the fundamentals of growing peanuts. As a result, we expect an increase in acreage will likely result in an increase in production for 2008,” Chapin concludes.

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