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Top 10 list: Tips to improve peanut profitability

Peanut growers crowded into a recent peanut production meeting in Orangeburg, S.C., to get the latest in peanut production information from Clemson University peanut specialists and industry leaders.

Though peanut production information ranged from weed management to harvest technology, the peanut producers' top ten list clearly drew the most attention from producers. Jay Chapin, South Carolina peanut specialist, said that following the 10 steps won't guarantee a profitable crop of peanuts, but will give producers a solid base on which they can build a program that includes production factors specific to their individual farms.

The top 10 list includes:

  • Field selection and rotation. Peanuts require well-drained land and a sandy surface. The Clemson peanut team notes that avoiding fields with a history of soybean production and taking soybeans out of the rotation is critical for long-term peanut production. A two- or three-year rotation with a non-legume crop, ideally cotton or corn, is likely to provide the best long-term rotation.

  • Soil test. The South Carolina Peanut Team suggests using the South Carolina Peanut Production Guide (distributed at the meeting and available from any South Carolina county Extension office) to compare soil nutrient values. The Clemson scientists warned that high zinc levels, a particular problem for growers using poultry litter for fertilizer, can stunt or kill peanuts.

  • On new-ground peanuts, use a liquid in-furrow inoculant. Pointing out that inoculants are live bacteria, the Peanut Team stressed proper handling and urged growers to use at least 5 gallons of non-chlorinated water when applying inoculants.

  • In fields with a history of tomato spotted wilt virus, plant resistant varieties. Among Virginia-type peanuts, Gregory and NC V11 have the best resistance, but the most popular runner-type peanut, Georgia Green appears to be losing resistance to the virus. Planting between May 5-25, controlling thrips, and using strip-tillage are other ways to reduce risk of tomato spotted wilt virus.

  • Weed control in the first 45 days is critical for a peanut crop. In fields with severe pigweed pressure, the South Carolina Peanut Team recommends using Valor at 2 to 3 ounces per acre. Gramoxone or other burn-down materials may be needed prior to using Cadre at 30 to 35 days post-planting and grass control herbicides, such as Poast Plus or Select, are critical for grass control in the first 45 days.

  • For Virginia-type peanuts, 300 pounds of calcium is critical for optimum growth and pod strength. If applying calcium in landplaster, apply 1,500 pounds per acre and apply it early in the growing season for best results.

  • Even on new peanut land, controlling leafspot and white mold are critical. Though less disease pressure should be evident on new peanut land, it is critical to start treatments for leafspot no later than 45 days after planting and for white mold no later than 60 days post-planting in fields with a history of soybean production and 75 days in fields with no legume history in the past five years.

  • If possible, irrigate to enhance optimum peanut growth and to decrease the risk of insect damage and aflatoxin contamination. Applying irrigation water to provide total moisture of 1.5 inches per week during pod fill (60 to 110 days after planting) provides needed moisture for optimum growth and also enhances returns on calcium, herbicides and fungicides.

  • Check for worms, but don't over-react, the Peanut Team warns. Peanut plants that are fully lapped and unstressed can tolerate up to eight worms per foot of row. Soilborne pests are best managed with irrigation, but left untreated can cause serious damage to peanut plants.

  • The number one way to make money on peanuts, the Clemson peanut specialists say, is by using optimum digging times. For most growers, it is critical to begin digging before peanuts reach optimum maturity. A good rule of thumb to follow is to use the pod blast hull scrape method to determine when 70 percent of the peanuts are in the black, orange-brown category and start digging. In South Carolina, 130 to 140 days after planting is the critical time to make digging decisions.

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