Water Quality and Irrigation Peanut Notes No. 198 2023

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Even though we had a record crop in 2022, we had some areas last year that were dry well into September. Some growers had access to irrigation but there were relatively high levels of salts that had potential to injure peanuts. In 2022, some of our very best peanut growers in the state were faced with the dilemma of not irrigating and fighting mites with drought-stressed peanuts versus irrigating with water with elevated salts. It was not an easy decision. Ultimately, these growers had significantly lower yields than normal. Some of the yield loss was from drought and spider mites (even with irrigation) while some of the yield loss came from salt in irrigation water. It is difficult to tease out all of the causes of lower yield.

Irrigation water from sources like the Chowan River and Albemarle Sound carries greater risk than ground water sources further inland.

Irrigation is an important management tool and it can have a tremendous positive impact for people with access to water (who have invested in irrigation systems.) However, it’s not a natural process and elements in the field can change drastically depending on what is in the applied water.