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Winning the peanut wars: Part I

This was one of those years when row-crop farmers wonder why everything seemed to be stacked against them. Almost every crop presented its own set of challenges when growers began trying to put seed in the ground.

Unfortunately, peanuts were no exception to that rule, according to Jason Sarver, Extension peanut specialist with Mississippi State University. Dr. Sarver talked about production issues during the Mississippi Farm Bureau’s Summer Peanut Commodity Meeting in Greenwood.

“We did lose some acres late, as y’all well know,” he said. “It stayed wet all spring; it wouldn’t warm up; sunshine wouldn’t come out so we did lose some acres. I got a lot of calls during the spring, but my second set of calls came in late May, and they were ‘how late can we plant peanuts? What’s the hard cut-off date?’”

Dr. Sarver, who came to Mississippi from receiving his doctorate at the University of Georgia, said he looked at the freeze probability dates and talked to veteran peanut growers to see what their experience had been in the past to try to come up with an educated answer.

“Some of the guys down south have gone out to the 20th of June and still made a crop,” he noted. “You get up here (in Greenwood), in Clarksdale, Batesville, Hamilton, and I don’t think we’re going to get away with June 20 peanuts very often, at least not being able to mature them out. You might can dig them, but once we get past June 7 or 8 around here you’re playing Russian roulette.”

Much of what the peanut plant can or cannot do depends on growing conditions throughout the season. Those have improved for Mississippi’s peanuts.

“Right now we’re making a lot of heat units,” said Sarver, who spoke on July 9. “We’ve had the moisture for the most part; we’re getting these temperatures up in the 90s; lows in the low to mid-70s. It’s exactly what a peanut wants to mature.”

Replant decisions

Sarver confessed that he did get down on the crop when conditions were adverse. “The first set of calls that came in – just like last year – centered around ‘Do I need to replant?’” he noted. “Allen Henn (Extension plant pathologist) and I looked at a lot of fields where the peanuts had been sitting in the ground, just like last year, two, three and even four weeks, in some cases.”

After digging around, they found the peanuts and determined they would emerge, eliminating the need for replanting. In other cases, they had flooded conditions that led to seed rot, and a few fields had to be replanted.

“All in all, I’m always advocating for peanuts, but they are so tough,” he said. Despite all the adversity early, Sarver said most farmers have a good crop even if it is delayed.

Sarver did see more Valor herbicide injury this year than before. “We got a lot of calls with growers saying ‘my peanuts are dead. Come out here and tell me what I can do about it.’ In 99 percent of the cases, the peanuts came out of it and were no worse for wear other than being a few days behind.

“So, again, a tough seed, a tough seedling, a tough plant,” he noted. Two other problems growers are dealing with are late season weed control and nutrient deficiencies that growers may need to address to finish out the season.

“I hate going in this late and hitting peanuts with anything,” he said, referring to herbicide applications. “Honestly, we’re getting close to canopy, we’re flowering, we’re starting to put pods on, and, in some cases, we’re starting to fill seed.

Manganese deficiency

“When I was at Georgia we could do that, get everything taken care of before canopy and not spray anything after about 60 days. Here I think it will be the rule more than the exception that we will be fighting late weeds, especially if we continue to have springs like we have the last couple of years.”

He cautioned growers to be alert to symptoms of manganese deficiency. “This was not at all uncommon last year,” said Sarver, displaying slides of manganese deficiencies up close and field-wide. “These photos were taken in the Delta, and it’s not at all uncommon.”

In most cases, the deficiencies are showing up on high pH soils. “About all we need is 5 pounds of manganese in the soil to prevent deficiencies. With a high pH that manganese is being tied up and is unavailable for plant use.”

Research at the University of Georgia indicates foliar applications of manganese can be warranted if growers are three weeks or more from harvest. Recommendations call for an application of one-half pound of manganese sulfate or a quarter-pound of chelated manganese per acre to correct the deficiency.

“Most of the time this is going out after the symptoms have shown up, which is contrary to what we normally say,” said Sarver. “But it’s unpredictable as to when it’s going to pop up, and we have shown good results by coming in to fix the problem.”

For more on manganese deficiency in peanuts, go to


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