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Peanut planting tips for Midsouth farmers

Extension specialists weigh in on peanut planting in the Delta.

Whitney Haigwood, Staff Writer

March 24, 2023

6 Min Read
Close up of a peanut plant in a peanut field.
Knowing the field history, selecting the least susceptible cultivars, and planting at recommended soil temperatures will get the peanut crop off to a great start.Delta Farm Press

At a Glance

  • Choose high quality seed based on field history and disease susceptibility.
  • Seeding rates depend on planting date and seed size.
  • An inoculant is recommended annually, especially for fields new to peanut production.

March is National Peanut Month, and while the nation is celebrating the protein packed legume, peanut farmers are preparing to plant the crop. Here in the Midsouth, yields were up in 2022 against the national average, and with a few planting tips for success, farmers can keep the momentum going in 2023. 

The USDA National Agricultural Statistics Service shows peanut planted acreage in 2022 was down nationwide by 8.2% compared to 2021. Likewise, acreage was also down in Arkansas and Mississippi; however, these Delta states outyielded the national peanut average of 4,019 pounds per acre. Average yield in Mississippi was 4,500 pounds per acre, while Arkansas rang in at 5,200 pounds per acre. 

Of course, weather and price will determine the planted acreage for 2023. Regardless, selecting certified seed combined with optimum planting conditions will minimize the risk of poor-quality yield when harvest rolls around.  

Travis Faske, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and Brendan Zurweller, Extension peanut specialist at Mississippi State University, weigh in on planting tips for this year’s crop. 

Seed selection and planting conditions 

Know the field history, and base seed selection accordingly. Seed should be matured and disease free with known origin, purity, germination, and quality.  

Select the least susceptible cultivars for any disease issues. Common peanut diseases are tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), southern blight, Sclerotinia blight, early leaf spot, and late leaf spot. 

The ideal planting window runs from April 15 to May 15. Faske said that while some farmers have success with earlier planting, there is risk of soil temperatures dropping from a late frost or freeze.  

“As a good rule of thumb, if it is too cold to plant cotton then it is too cold to plant peanut,” he said. 

Recommended soil temperatures for peanut planting are 65 degrees Fahrenheit or above – measured at a 4-inch depth – for three consecutive days. Temperature should be taken in the morning between 9 to 11 a.m., when soil temperature is usually the coldest for the day. 

Zurweller noted, “If conditions are right, I would consider planting as soon as the third week in April if you have no history of TSWV.” 

One consideration about planting in April is that it does not guarantee reaching harvest maturity earlier in the fall. 

“In many years, earlier plantings have a longer emergence time and slower seedling development than later plantings,” Zurweller said. 

Another important factor is the forecasted temperatures. Zurweller added that if you have adequate soil temperatures and there is a forecasted warming trend for five to seven days, then you are in good shape to get a good stand. 

Faske noted that waiting too late is risky. Planting dates later in the season into warm soil, quickly followed by a cold rain or irrigation can cause erratic stands. Also, peanuts planted after June 1 typically results in lower pod yield. 

Seed size and rate 

Aiming for five to six seeds per foot will achieve a target plant stand of three to four plants per foot of row. Faske said this translates to a seeding rate of approximately 82,500 seeds per acre on 38-inch rows or 104,500 seeds per acre on 30-inch rows. 

In Mississippi, Zurweller recommends typical seeding rates between six and a half to seven and a half seeds per foot of row – and to plant at the higher seeding rate if planting earlier in the planting window.  

Set the planter speed accordingly to plant the desired number of seeds per row, and plant at 1 to 2 inches deep from the top of the seed into enough moisture for germination.  

Seed size matters. Average seeds per pound can range from 625 to 675 for large to medium seeded runner-type peanut, respectively. 

“That is important depending on how many acres and how many seeds you are planting per acre,” Faske said. “The smaller the seed, the less seed you need. The seed bag label or your dealer can provide the latest information on seed size.” 

Remember that seed planted before a hard rain will sink deeper into the soil and delay emergence. If spot planting is necessary, aim for a window within the first two weeks of planting for similar maturity at harvest. 

Inoculant recommendations 

Peanut inoculants contain a specific strain of Rhizobium bacteria necessary for nodule production and nitrogen fixation. An inoculant is recommended annually, especially for fields relatively new in peanut production.  

Inoculation types and rates vary, and not all are created equally.  

“There are several inoculants. Make sure of the rate, because they are not all the same rate or putting out the same amount of bacteria,” Faske noted.  

Ensure that inoculants are not expired and are properly stored in a cool dry place, away from excessive heat. Storage is critical since inoculants contain a living bacteria blend. Furthermore, do not mix inoculants with fertilizers, non-labeled insecticides, or chlorinated water. 

Apply liquid inoculants into moist soil with six to 10 gallons of water per acre. Add and mix de-chlorination tablets into the water first before adding inoculants. Remember that twin rows require a 1x rate per acre seed furrow of inoculate, which is double the rate for single row fields. 

Commonly, imidacloprid is mixed with inoculants at planting to protect against thrips which carry the tomato spotted wilt virus. Fungicides such as azoxystrobin can also be added if seedling disease is problematic.  

Use all inoculants and treat any leftover inoculant as water by adding fresh inoculant to any remaining water in the inoculant tank.  

Other considerations 

Fungicide programs often start around 60 days after planting. Faske noted that timings of first or second fungicide applications depend on planting date, and timing is critical to manage disease before problems arise.  

This is especially important in managing southern blight, the most common soilborne disease.  

“If you plant April 15, you are probably not going to worry about southern blight within 60 days after planting, because it will not be the right environment. The 80 to 100-day window will be more problematic in that case. 

“If you plant May 15, that will change your mindset. You probably are going to apply fungicide at 60 days, because that puts you into July or August when southern blight is more problematic,” he explained. 

Another consideration is crop rotation. Faske said a common three-year rotation is cotton for two years followed by peanut the third year. Another option is cotton, corn or grain sorghum, then peanut the third year. 

“This not only helps manage southern blight, but it also helps with cotton production. Most of the cotton farmers are seeing an increase of about 200 pounds of lint due to the leftover nitrogen from the peanut crop,” he said. 

A rotation to avoid is peanut behind soybean which sets the stage for southern blight. Sclerotia have the potential to start a whole new infection the following season that will last in the soil for about four years. Faske said those sclerotia are what keeps the disease present from one year to the next and are difficult to remove or eliminate with our normal production practices.  

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