Peanut Grower Magazine Jordan Column for March Peanut Notes No. 15 2023
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In discussions this winter with growers, there seems to be interest in planting more peanuts in 2023 compared with 2022. The increase in the V-C region is likely to be modest and will depend on contracts. In our production meetings, I’ve been pointing out important things new peanut growers should consider. The points are also helpful for experienced growers who are thinking about picking up new land through expansion of acres.
First on my list was making sure zinc levels are not excessive. In North Carolina, we have a significant animal industry with a lot of waste that has to be handled in an efficient and environmentally favorable manner. One important use is spreading waste on fields. But we know peanuts are very susceptible to zinc, so we have to use caution in spreading or planting peanuts in fields that have a history of waste application. If our NCDA&CS index is at 250 or above, I encourage growers to look for other fields. This is especially the case if soil pH is low. Soils with higher pH values are at less risk, but the 250 index needs to be taken seriously. There is no correction for zinc toxicity.
Second on the list is inoculation for nitrogen fixation. If the field has been out of production for a long time or if the field is considered new ground, the most important thing a grower will do (after checking the zinc level) is to make sure a liquid (or granular) in-furrow inoculant is placed in the bottom of the seed furrow. Our data in new ground fields indicates that yields are 60 to 70% of optimum yields if there is an inoculation problem and a nitrogen deficiency occurs. There is a 40 to 1 return on investment in new ground from inoculation and a 4 to 1 return on an investment in rotated ground. Inoculant cost is about 1% of the total budget for most growers. I also recommend placing a peat-based inoculant in with the seed in the hopper box for insurance on new ground fields or for fields without peanuts for many years. If the orifice gets stopped up on a planter unit, or something prevents live inoculant from reaching the bottom of the seed furrow, the peat-based product with seed will make a huge difference. Correcting a nitrogen deficiency will cost well over $100/acre when nitrogen fertilizer is broadcast over an entire field.
Third on the list was making sure pH across the field is around 6.0. If you are using one sample as the average for the field, lime to get pH above 6.2 (to make sure the low pH spots are above 5.8.) We have seen yield decreases when gypsum is applied to fields with low pH.
A fourth point is to make sure digging and harvesting capacities are adequate for the acreage you have. Availability of trucks for hauling to buying points can be a bottleneck, but making sure you can dig as closely to optimum maturity is important finically. Digging too soon because you have more acres than your equipment can get to in a timely manner as well as digging fields too late because of the same issue, can result in significant yield loss.
The final point I’ve been making is to get as much information on pests in the field as you can. If the field is a new one for you, there will be limited information on most soil-borne pathogens that impact peanuts. However, one should be able to get a handle on the weeds that are present by asking a few questions. A nematode sample can help you know populations and their distribution in and across fields. Cropping sequence for the past five or so years can also help you make an educated guess on potential problems. We can pencil in significant weed control costs in most fields. We also need a solid fungicide program for leaf spot (spores move around in air) and thrips and tomato spotted wilt control strategies need to be considered. Thrips are abundant across the coastal plain of NC and spotted wilt is vectored by this insect.
There are a lot of good things that can result from peanuts going into a new or relatively new field. We just need to make sure we are on top of things and get help developing an effective plan if you have limited experience about peanuts or if you find yourself planting in a new field.