Jordan Virginia-Carolina Peanut News Winter Column Peanut Notes No. 258 2023

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This year seemed to be an odd year for peanut production. We started out with very cool temperatures (May through early June.) Rainfall was sporadic, and when we arrived to the fall, we had a cool snap in late September followed by some unseasonably cool days in October and then a hard freeze in early November. In some ways, it seems amazing that the crop did as well as it did with those extremes, especially on the front and back end of the growing season. How did peanuts respond this year relative to recent years? One of our projects includes planting dates from early May through late June with Bailey II. Our highest yields in 2023 were with early and mid-May plantings. If you planted in early, mid or late June yields decreased significantly. However, the same trend was noted in 2020 when we had a much better start of the season but I think we also had the late September cool snap that year. This is a reminder of how unpredictable a response might be based on what we might think will happen in any given year. The later planted peanuts in 2023 never had a chance to catch up to reach optimum maturity. By the time early October came around, peanuts advanced very little from a maturity standpoint from that point forward. Still, we had yields across the state that were average or slightly above average in 2023. Market grades were lower and we had a higher percentage of damaged peanuts. However, I would have predicted lower yields and perhaps more problems with quality based on our start in May and June, drought in some areas, and a relatively cool fall.

LeAnn and I will address a range of topics at the production meetings this winter. Here are a few findings from 2023 stand out from our research. We had more Sclerotinia Blight in our disease field than what I have noticed over the past four years. Weather was perfect of this disease to come in late in the year – cool and wet in September. Many growers have adopted Miravis plus Elatus and part of that, especially in the northern part of the state, is for Sclerotinia Blight suppression. Weather patterns and fields we were in on the station over the past few years have not allowed us to compare fungicide treatments for Sclerotinia Blight control. This year was different. We found that a single spray of Miravis plus Elatus reduced disease, but it took two sprays spaced three weeks apart to have the greatest impact. We also observed more Sclerotinia Blight when we applied three or more applications of chlorothalonil. This response was documented many years ago and we mention it in our recommendations. It was good to see that response in recent trial. It reminded me of why my favorite uncle on my dad’s side expressed what can only be described as hatred for the “B word” when I first started this job back in the day. We also noted that one or two applications of chlorothalonil does not create a problem with Sclerotinia Blight. We have not sorted through all of the data in our trials, but there may be other examples of where we get some Sclerotinia Blight control with products other than Miravis plus Elatus. It has just been a while since we have had outbreaks of this disease in our research areas to make comparisons.

Rick and I continue to look at alternatives to Lorsban for southern corn rootworm. In the trials Ethan Foote sprayed and Brian Royals scored for rootworm damage, we did not see value in applying three sprays of Steward or Brigade to reduce pod scarring from this insect pest. We had a decent amount of damage in our non-treated controls. That helps us feel good about saying something worked or did not work. In terms of thrips control, Vydate did a good job suppressing thrips both on the research station and at three on-farm locations. Rick will cover this in more detail.

We looked at the herbicide Brake in a number of trials. I am glad we have it because it brings a new mode of action to the table in our peanut herbicide programs. It will be a big help, especially if we have more and more PPO-resistant Palmer amaranth and common ragweed deal with. However, it does require significant water soon after planting to be effective. In our trials where we had some water within a few days after planting and our weeds are not PPO-resistant, metolachlor plus Valor SX performed as well as any of the Brake combinations. In that scenario, it comes down to cost. Further north, where common ragweed is hard to kill with PPO chemistry, Brake can be an effective and economical treatment. Where resistance is not prevalent, the less expensive combination of metolachlor and Valor SX is more practical. This combination will work with less water than what Brake needs. Some folks are mixing Brake and Valor SX and maybe other herbicides. That is certainly a good treatment. However, in many fields, the Valor SX is good enough and it is inexpensive.

We established a trial with a range of fungicide programs with plans to have multiple digging dates after optimum maturity. Our goal was to document the pace of pod shed and yield loss with disease compared pod loss with healthy plants. We certainly observed a more rapid decrease in yield after optimum maturity when more disease was present. We also left the trial in the field long enough to see what would happen to peanut vines and yield after the freeze in early November. I appreciate the station folks agreeing to let me keep digging a few peanuts each week. They had wrapped up harvest several weeks earlier. Yield continued to decrease but not at an alarming pace. Of course, we did not have a no-freeze control, but we did not see an immediate shedding of pods after the plants were damaged. The vines seemed to hold on in a manner you would expect in the absence of a freeze. Even though most of the canopy had severe freeze damage, the bottom 20% was still alive. That was obvious when we dug pods and inverted vines.

We had many questions about when to stop digging relative to a frost or freeze. One of my recommendations was that folks stop digging after Saturday with a freeze predicted for Wednesday night-Thursday morning. I use 72 hours between when you stop digging and when the frost or freeze occurs to avoid freeze damage and Seg 2 peanuts. A few weeks ago, I mentioned this and stated that I did not know where the data were to back this up. I have been saying this since 1996 when I started in this job. I am not sure if Dr. Sullivan did trials to observe this or if he was repeating recommendations made by Astor Perry (the specialist before Dr. Sullivan.)  In that dialogue, I was reminded of my age. There were some old timers in the room but some people a decade or so (okay, maybe two decades) younger than me. They had that “who are those guys?” look. Even though they may not know them, those people established a foundation for many of the things we continue to build on.

This past fall when we knew there was almost a certainty that a freeze was coming, we dug peanuts on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday (the day of the freeze), and then a few more times during the next week or so. We collected pods from all of the digging dates, and we are in the process of getting market grades and an assessment of freeze damage from Greg at NCDA&CS. Moisture was relatively high that Thursday regardless of digging date. I am looking forward to seeing how the 72 hours holds up. I do wish we could have included a digging date on the Saturday and Sunday prior to the freeze. We can seldom get everything we want in a study. I am just grateful the station folks let me keep some peanuts in the field well into November.

We have a lot of good information on the trials we conducted and the recommendations we develop from them are posted on the Peanut Extension Portal. We also incorporate many of the results in 2024 Peanut Information guide. In the new guide, we have a chapter devoted exclusively to results from large plot trials conducted on station and with farmers. Let us know if you have any questions about the results from those trials.