Weather Holds Peanuts’ Fate

first_img John Beasley, UGA CAES Peanut plants produce pegs, a kind of elongated stem, that enter the ground and swell to produce peanuts. White mold on a peanut plant (in circle.) As dry and hot as the summer has been, a Universityof Georgia scientist says peanuts still stand a chance to make a good crop.”Overall, the crop looks good,” said JohnBeasley, an Extension Servicepeanut agronomist with the UGA Collegeof Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. “It’s getting late in the season. Butwith good weather — even less than ideal weather — we could still harvest a good crop ofpeanuts.”center_img Beasley said the temperature has affected peanuts as much or more than the drought.”Even irrigated peanuts have suffered in the extremely high temperatures we saw allover the state through June and July,” he said.He calls 1998 an “almost bizarre year.” Too much water in the spring keptfarmers from planting. Then too little water in the summer has kept the plants fromblooming and pegging.And for Georgia’s peanuts, valued in 1997 at $360 million, the blooms and pegs are thecrop. The blooms form pegs, or elongated stems, that enter the ground, swell and producethe fruit we know as peanuts. The weather from the first of August through October is what will make or break thepeanut crop, Beasley said. Growers hope for warm days and a late frost to keep the cropmaturing.But other factors are complicating the maturity of the crop. Late planting meant theharvest was already delayed. Rain through the last week of July and into early Augustprovided water for peanuts and for weeds, insects and diseases.”All of those factors can harm plants and delay maturity,” Beasley said.”Worst of all is the white mold we’re seeing.”Tim Brenneman, a CAES plantpathologist, said white mold is the worst he’s seen in the state in five years.”We’re seeing (white mold) the worst in irrigated fields,” he said, “wherethe high temperatures and available water provided ideal conditions for the mold to begindevelopment earlier than we’re accustomed to treating for it.” Brenneman said fungicides are available to decrease the fungus’ presence and impact inthe field. But once the fungus is there, it’s hard to control. The good news is that onlyabout 40 percent of Georgia peanut fields are under permanent irrigation, and drylandfields aren’t as susceptible to the fungus.The last “really bad” year was 1991, Brenneman said, when white mold cutyields by $57 million. “We don’t think it will be that bad this year, since we’ve gotgood fungicides,” he said. “But it has still caused, and will continue causing,some losses.”Beasley remains optimistic, though.”There’s still a very good chance the peanut crop can set and be harvested,”he said. “Peanuts have an ability to withstand early-season drought and then put on agood crop during the last half of the season. We’re betting that’s going to be the casethis year.”last_img read more