Summary of v-C Peanut Production

— Written By

This is an overall yet brief summary I provided to JLA

Even though the 2011 peanut crop in the V-C region could be characterized by the terms variable and challenging, yields in the three states were very good, especially in North Carolina and Virginia but also in many areas of South Carolina. While projections on market grades have been inconsistent, in general grades may be off slightly from previous crops that yielded well but should be adequate to fill demand as it parallels quantity. The following brief statements summarize the 2011 crop.

Planting in the region was generally on time and growers had good moisture to get the crop up and going. However, as we moved into late June and through much of July conditions were dry across much of the region creating concern that the 2011 crop would mirror yields in 2010. Unlike 2010 rainfall was adequate in late July and into August for peanut to establish pods and fill pods creating the potential for a very good yielding crop. Temperatures were adequate through September for the crop to mature. However, early October had relatively low night time temperatures for the first few days (high 40 F) which slowed crop progression. The delay in maturity established by dry conditions in July and August in many areas and cool temperatures in early October prevented continued maturation in many fields. Essentially, the effect was yield and most especially grades, were lower once growers were forced to harvest the crop. Heat units were insufficient to allow further crop maturation during much of October. Rainfall during portions of September and October hampered some field activities and forced growers to delay digging and combining. As is the case in many instances, this delay actually helped some growers by keeping them from digging peanut prior to optimum maturity. While some pod shed occurred due to inability to dig when desired, loss was minimal. Freeze damage became a concern for growers digging in mid to late September and into November. Final numbers are not in on Seg 2 production but this should be very low but certainly noticeable for some farmers. One of the biggest challenges faced by the peanut industry, especially at the farm level, is fewer growers with more acres and demands of other crops. This creates a situation where if everything works out well and falls into place growers have success (and their success translates into success for the industry.) However, any delays caused by unforeseen circumstances or extended poor digging and harvest conditions can create loss and vulnerability to freeze damage or a sense that operations, especially digging, have to be rushed and done well ahead of time. This will continue to be a challenge. Timeliness is essential at every step of peanut production.

Disease was not a major issue for most growers other than the expense associated with controlling disease. Rotations have been established that promote good plant health and minimize disease and nematode issues and excellent crop protection products are available for disease control. Tomato spotted wilt was minimal and while Sclerotinia blight was present, especially as temperatures cooled in early October, growers were able to control this relatively well. Leaf spot and stem rot were present but not at levels that caused problems primarily because the outlook for production was good once rains occurred in early August and growers maintained tight and effective spray programs. CBR while present did not create huge losses. Several new varieties have excellent disease resistant packages and contributed to the good disease control and good yields experienced in the region.

Like disease, growers were able to keep all major insects in check. Refinement in recommendations for southern corn rootworm have been accepted and utilized to minimize damage from this pest. Growers used up remaining stocks of Temik and implemented Orthene or Thimet/Phorate with adequate success for thrips control. Spider mites did not develop on par with 2010 and this prevented yield loss and high expense for management. Traditional issues with fall armyworm and corn earworm were handled effectively and inexpensively and beet armyworms did not develop. Growers were able to maintain control of these pests and protect yield.

Most fields were relatively weed free for the majority of the season. Herbicide resistance and limited rainfall for activation of residual herbicides at planting and early in the season created some concerns. However, growers implemented aggressive and ultimately effective strategies to protect peanuts from weed interference. Certainly some weed escapes were observed and herbicide programs were relatively expensive, but success in these areas was essential in obtaining the good yields experienced during 2011.

Growers had little trouble maintaining fertility programs and most growers have grown accustomed to spending money to establish optimum pH and are applying gypsum to peanut without hesitation. The strong fertility programs have been essential in optimizing the genetic potential of our newer varieties. In addition to disease resistance, the newer variety releases have taken peanut yields up to a new level. The “new average,” given our crop protection products, extended rotations, production on well-suited peanut soils, genetic capacity, and equipment and management capabilities, is in now in the 3500 pound/acre range.

Looking to 2012 is a mixed bag. Prices should be very good to encourage production. What will this mean for long-term prices, especially for new growers considering peanuts for the first time or growers considering a return to peanut production? Will the labor and equipment capacity be sufficient to achieve high yields (timeliness is critical for essentially all practices?) Will growers maintain the good rotations developed over the past decade (given the reduction in total acreage in North Carolina and Virginia?) All of these questions are important and will have an impact on yield potential in 2012 and total production. Although circumstances we are now in have created challenges for shellers and manufacturers and consumers, growers are in a position to make significant economic gains in the coming year.

Article first appeared as North Carolina Peanut Note (PNNC-2011-071))