Jordan April V-C News Column Penaut Notes No. 22 2021

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Key Steps to Growing Peanuts Successfully

This past winter in our virtual peanut meetings we discussed important management practices that can help us be successful. For this article I am going to focus on these with some explanation.

1) Apply nutrients based on soil test results and lime to get all areas of the field greater than pH of 5.8. We get significant increases in yield as we move toward pH 6.0. There is very little downside to having areas of fields with pH above 6.2 but we do have issues with lower pH.

2) Avoid excessive magnesium and K potassium apply these if the soil test calls for them.

3) Avoid fields with zinc. The critical level for zinc in North Carolina is 250. There is no way to correct zinc toxicity.

4) Establish good rotations with cotton, corn, sorghum, or sweet potatoes as key components. Tobacco is not perfect but can be effective. Other than continuous peanuts, soybeans are the most detrimental to peanut. Plant soybeans the year after peanuts and then get three or more years of cotton or corn prior to planting peanuts again. Soybean yields do not take a hit nearly as badly when soybeans follow peanuts compared to peanuts following soybeans. Fumigation in tobacco can likely help peanuts if they are planted the year after tobacco due to reductions in nematodes.

5) Plant the best varieties around the middle of May. We often experience our highest and most consistent yields with that planting date. But I know it takes a while to get all acres planted.

6) Establish at least four plants per foot of row.

7) Plant in conventional tillage with beds unless you have experience with reduced tillage. Setting the field up in the fall for efficient digging and minimizing pod loss in this operation can be traced back to seedbed preparation in the spring. Sandy fields give the greatest flexibility but some caution is warranted on finer-textured soils when planting in reduced tillage. Some of our top producers strip till peanuts. But we also have top producers who plant peanuts in conventional tillage systems with moldboard plowing as a part of the operation.

8) For irrigation, target the first irrigation to help set the first pegs.

9) Inoculate with Bradyrhizobia for nitrogen fixation regardless of field history. We have observed a 40:1 return on investment in new ground from inoculation applied in the seed furrow at planting. In fields with a recent history of peanuts, we have noted a 4:1 return on this investment.

10) Apply calcium at pegging using the 1X rate for all Virginia market types, and apply at least a 0.5x rate for all runner market types. Response to gypsum can be unpredictable if application is based on calcium levels in soil. For runner market types, response based on soil calcium is more predictable. However, the prediction for determining response of jumbo runners to calcium is more challenging. Applying at least some calcium to runners is recommended. Liquid calcium products do not supply adequate calcium for peanuts. The concentration of calcium in the pegging zone has to be high enough to supply calcium directly to the developing pods and kernels. The plant, either through absorption by foliage or roots is unable to meet the calcium demand for pods.

11) Apply the micronutrients boron and manganese as needed. Deficiencies of boron are not noticed until the kernels develop, so a standard application is recommended on all acres. Use caution when deciding rates to use. Excessive boron can burn foliage. Manganese is not needed in all fields but is very often needed in fields with high pH. However, manganese is inexpensive, and many growers apply it routinely with their first or second fungicide spray. For both of these micronutrients, make sure the product you use provides adequate boron on manganese to address the issue. We discuss rates in 2021 Peanut Information.

12) Dig peanuts and invert vines based on pod mesocarp color. Our profile charts can help make you make this decision. Keep in mind that digging one week early can result in not realizing 5 to 10% of the yield potential. That “loss” is enough to cover your fungicide bill for the season. But I get the dilemma of delaying digging to get peanuts as mature as possible – we all know poor weather can set in and delay digging well past the optimum date. Getting the equipment capacity lined up with acres is critical.

13) Control pests using integrated pest management practices. Be timely with all applications and select the correct pesticide. Practice resistance management is also critical for long-term sustainability.

14) Timeliness has been mentioned a few times already, but it is critical for everything to work well and get the most out of the investment.

15) Growing peanuts on the most suitable soils adds another important layer to yield potential, especially being able to avoid pod loss during digging.