V-C Peanut News David Jordan Peanut Notes No. 178 2023

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About that Orioles Hat

V-C Peanut News Fall Edition, 2023

David Jordan

Many of you who have been to peanut field days have noticed that I wear a Baltimore Orioles hat during those events. I think I started doing it when Ripken retired in 2001 and have continued ever since. A friend of mine and I were scheduled to see one of his last games in Baltimore on September 11, 2001. That was indeed a day to remember. I still have my unused ticket. Wearing that hat is as close to professional baseball as I will ever get. It is a fitted wool hat that is orange, white and black with the funny bird Oriole on it. I wear it on hot days in the summer and fall. That hat was purchased in spring 1984; the spring after the Orioles won the World Series in 1983. Lots of history with that hat including many softball games through my early 50s. I’ve played a softball season with almost all of the versions of an Oriole hat, including the St. Louis Browns. I only bring this up because at most field days I will get a few comments about the Orioles. These are mostly given in sympathy based on the past 40 years of major league baseball. There have been a few bright spots, but they have been rare. I guess folks haven’t noticed it so far this year, or maybe they don’t want to jinx the run the Orioles have going. The Orioles have a lot of young talent. Let’s hope management doesn’t trade younger talent in their farm system for an aging power hitter they assume will push them over the magical edge. That hasn’t worked out so well in the past. There is a lot of season remaining and a lot that can go wrong. Keep in mind I’m a Pack fan. Some mornings this summer, I have worried about the world we live in. Something just isn’t right about the Orioles being on top of the AL East and the Yankees at the bottom. Perplexing times. I would trade an Orioles appearance in post-season for a good harvest season. But I don’t have control over either of these. But peanuts and peanut farmers are more important.

Speaking of talented young people, over the past few years at NC State we have hired three people who will serve as our foundation going forward in the peanut industry. Adrienne Gorny, our new nematologist, and Jeffrey Dunne, our peanut breeder, have already made significant contributions to the peanut industry in North Carolina. Just recently, LeAnn Lux was hired as one of our new plant pathologists with peanut responsibilities. I’m not an administrator. However, I do listen to them and one day I heard one administrator repeat what another administrator said about hiring people. “The key is to hire people smarter than you and help them succeed.” “Getting out of their way” also might have been a part of the quote. I think this comment was attributed to Dr. Johnny Wynne. I feel good about variety releases in the future and the strategies that will be developed to manage diseases and nematodes with the new faculty members we now have in place. Their talent and dedication along with support from the North Carolina Peanut Growers Association will carry us into the future.

Speaking of harvest, I wanted to share results from some of our recent research and the survey farmers in North Carolina and Virginia participated in this past winter. Craig Ellison presented the survey information at the recent meeting of the American Peanut Research and Education Society this summer. Slides from Craig’s presentation as well as other information about peanuts presented at the meeting are posted on the Peanut Extension Portal. One hundred and sixty-six farmers completed the survey, which represented 48,000 acres across the two states. Someone asked me how we were able to get that many surveys returned. I told them that we do a raffle at each meeting and that in addition to tools we offer toilet paper (one year we raffled what can only be described as disposable plungers.) Some of you will recall the TP this past year with a lavender fragrance. That was an accidental purchase. In the survey, self-reported yield was 4,746 pounds per acre. This was about 400 pounds greater than the state average in 2022. Farmers estimated that 8% of yield loss occurred at digging.

If you recall 2022, we had one major hurricane event across the peanut belt. In North Carolina, the storm did more good than harm. I always worry about the second storm, in part because Hurricanes Denise, Floyd, and Irene did so much damage in 1999. Rainfall from Hurricane Ian in 2022 ranged from 2.18 inches to 4.19 inches (Wakefield, VA; Lewiston-Woodville, Rocky Mount, Clinton, and Whiteville, NC; Florence and Orangeburg, SC.) Of course, there were places that received more rain and some less. These events caused me to think about how growers view digging before or after a storm. A little over half of growers indicated that they would dig before the storm. Thirty percent said they would dig after the storm and just under twenty percent mentioned digging both before and after a storm event. As you could image, there were a number of good reasons listed for the decision. Forty-two percent listed pod maturity as the determining factor with 36% mentioning wet fields. Ten to 18% stated that soil texture and drainage, projected rain, vine health, and pod loss were high on the list for their decision. Some farmers listed hull brightness and washing of dug vines out of the field as reasons for their decision on when to dig.

A major element of deciding when to dig is related to digging losses. In the survey, 72% of growers indicated that losses were due to field conditions. About 36% indicated that either equipment or pod maturity affected pod loss. Vine health and excessive growth were listed at about 11% each as contributors to pod loss during digging. Pod shed, variety selection and digging flat ground in strip-till systems were also listed. When the focus was on field conditions, dry soil (28%) and hard soil (14%) were listed with wet soil listed by 9% of growers. Recall that in 2022, Hurricane Ian did more good than harm. Some peanut fields were dry and soil was hard prior to the storm. After the storm, fields typically dried out soon enough that field operations were not delayed in a major way. With respect to equipment contributions to digging losses, challenges included setting the digger and vine inverter and digging too fast. Not having ground speed and inverter action synchronized and imbalance of acreage and equipment were also listed. Having rank vines and poor plant health were listed as challenges by an equal number of growers. With respect to rank vines, just under 50% of growers indicated that they applied prohexadione calcium (Apogee or Kudos) once while just under 30% applied this plant growth regulator twice.

As we move into harvest season, I decided to include three figures I used at the peanut production meetings this past winter. One of the figures (figure 1) includes a list of possible digging losses caused “by the field.” We can’t always control these losses. We can find ourselves in a pickle based on weather conditions. The second figure (figure 2) is related to losses associated with equipment or the operator. There is some cross over. For example, use of a plant growth regular (prohexadione calcium) or RTK is related to both field conditions and operator (a management decision with repercussions in some years.) While I need to do some verification this fall, yield losses from four pods per square foot are substantial (see figure 3.) Some pod shed is natural. We just need to avoid excessive shed.

One way to give yourself the greatest flexibility in digging is to have your vines as healthy as possible. Leaf spot epidemics can move quickly once they start. Presence of lesions can double from week to week and the same is true for pod shed. In three weeks, you can go from no defoliation to almost all leaves defoliated depending on weather conditions. Make sure you maintain an effective fungicide spray program all the way up to digging.

Mitch Smith also presented information from pod maturity clinics in Pitt County at the meeting this summer. When growers evaluated pod maturity twice during the season, the order of fields for digging shifted from the first evaluation to the second one for 50% of the fields. This reminds us that evaluating fields more than once during the fall is important.

We will post more information on the Peanut Extension Portal relative heat units, pod maturity, and late-season disease management as we move into the fall season.

V-C News Jordan Fall 2023 update