South Carolina peanut growers get money-making pointers

More than 250 people, mostly peanut growers, crowded into the gymnasium of the Orangeburg, S.C., Baptist Family Life Center recently to get the latest in peanut production information from Clemson University peanut specialists and industry leaders.

With only slightly more than 300 peanut growers in the state, the high percentage of producers in the audience is clear evidence that peanut production in the Palmetto State is on the increase. Though peanut production information ranged from weed management to harvest technology, the Peanut Producers’ Top Ten List clearly drew the most attention from producers.

South Carolina Commissioner of Agriculture, Hugh Weathers, set the stage for the meeting by describing some of the challenges he faced as a first time peanut grower in 2005.

“We are in a sharp learning curve on our farm and looking forward to a sharp earning curve,” the South Carolina commissioner joked.

During the meeting, the South Carolina Peanut Board presented a trophy symbolic of the State’s top yielding peanut crop to Brady Rowe from Riverside Farms. A district grower award was also presented to Ricky Neese.

The meeting also featured a trade show in which 32 companies exhibited their products and interacted with producers during program breaks.

A highlight of the meeting was a discussion of the South Carolina Peanut Producers’ Top Ten List. South Carolina Peanut Specialist Jay Chapin notes that following these 10 steps won’t guarantee a profitable crop of peanuts, but will give producers a solid base on which they can build a program that includes production factors specific to their individual farms.

The Top Ten List includes:

(1) Field Selection and Rotation — Peanuts require well drained land and a sandy surface. The Clemson peanut team notes that avoiding fields with a history of soybean production and taking soybeans out of the rotation is critical for long-term peanut production. A two or three year rotation with a non-legume crop, ideally cotton or corn, is likely to provide the best long-term rotation.

(2) Soil Test — The South Carolina Peanut Team suggests using the South Carolina Peanut Production Guide (distributed at the meeting and available from any county Extension office) to compare soil nutrient values. The Clemson scientists warned that high zinc levels, a particular problem for growers using poultry litter for fertilizer, can stunt or kill peanuts.

(3) On new ground peanuts, use a liquid in-furrow innoculant. — Pointing out that inoculants are live bacteria, the Peanut Team stressed proper handling and urged growers to use at least five gallons of non-chlorinated water when applying inoculants.

(4) In fields with a history of tomato spotted wilt virus, plant resistant varieties. — Among Virginia-type peanuts, Gregory and NC V11 have the best resistance, but the most popular runner type peanut, Georgia Green appears to be losing resistance to the virus. Planting between May 5-25, controlling thrips, and using strip-tillage are other ways to reduce risk of tomato spotted wilt virus.

(5) Weed control in the first 45 days is critical for a peanut crop. — In fields with severe pigweed pressure, the South Carolina Peanut Team recommends using Valor at 2-3 ounces per acre. Gramoxone or other burn down materials may be needed prior to using Cadre at 30-35 days post planting and grass control herbicides, such as Poast Plus or Select are critical for grass control in the first 45 days.

(6) For Virginia type peanuts, 300 pounds of calcium is critical for optimum growth and pod strength. — If applying calcium in landplaster, apply 1,500 pounds per acre and apply it early in the growing season for best results, the South Carolina peanut specialists advise.

(7) Even on new peanut land, controlling leafspot and white mold are critical. — Though less disease pressure should be evident on new peanut land, it is critical to start treatments for leafspot no later than 45 days after planting and for white mold no later than 60 days post planting in fields with a history of soybean production and 75 days in fields with no legume history in the past five years.

(8) If possible, irrigate to enhance optimum peanut growth and to decrease the risk of insect damage and aflatoxin contamination. — Applying irrigation water to provide total moisture of 1.5 inches per week during pod fill (60-110 days after planting) provides needed moisture for optimum growth and also enhances returns on calcium, herbicides and fungicides.

(9) Check for worms, but don’t over-react, the Peanut Team warns. — Peanut plants that are fully lapped and unstressed can tolerate up to eight worms per foot of row. Soilborne pests are best managed with irrigation, but left untreated can cause serious damage to peanut plants.

(10) The number one way to make money on peanuts, the Clemson peanut specialists say, is by using optimum digging times. — For most growers, it is critical to begin digging before peanuts reach optimum maturity. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use the pod blast hull scrape method to determine when 70 percent of the peanuts are in the black, orange-brown category and start digging. In South Carolina, 130-140 days after planting is the critical time to make digging decisions.

Peanut production in South Carolina has more than tripled since the 2003 crop to more than 62,000 acres in 2005. During that same time period, peanut production in North Carolina and Virginia dropped more than 15,000 acres.

The 2006 Peanut Money Maker Production Guide, written and compiled by Clemson scientists Jay Chapin, James Thomas and Chris Main; provides details of the top 10 production tips and is available from any South Carolina Cooperative Extension System office.

e-mail: [email protected]

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