Dryland Peanut Digging Considerations

We checked quite a few more peanut hull scrape samples yesterday, and almost all of these were dryland fields. Many of the these fields a considerable time without rain and are now flowering and have recently set pods. The profiles show this later crop. We’ve had rain, but also cloudy days. Daylight time is getting shorter also. How long can we hold out in these situations? Here is some information from UGA Extension Agronomist Dr. Scott Tubbs:

A month ago, I was telling a few county agents there was a decent chance we would be looking at a late crop with recommendations to leave the peanuts in the ground longer than usual in order to progress maturity to optimum.  There were several reasons behind this rationale:

  1. The crop was planted later than usual because of  too much rain.  When late planting occurs, it usually means a slightly longer growing season, because as the crop is nearing the 135-140 mark, it is also when day length is getting shorter and temperatures are dropping, thus requiring a little extra time to accumulate “Growing Degree Days” and advance to full maturity.
  2. The month of June would have constituted the period when much of the crop was setting its first pods, usually representing the densest and highest grading peanuts, but there was very little rainfall from June 20 through July 10 and thus there was a delay in flowering. And the lack of moisture was slowing movement of Calcium into the early forming pods, further pushing the crop behind in terms of maturity advancement.  Then, with some mid-July moisture, the largest flush of flowers was set later in the season than normal, so advancing this steeper part of the curve further into the brown/black region on the maturity board would be worth the risk of losing a few early pods since they were slower to establish.  However, the continuation of dry conditions through July and large chunks of August has changed things considerably.  Having heard of reports and seen fields where kernels are turning loose in the hull, delaying harvest to progress the remainder of the pods that are behind may not be possible without risking sprouting on the vine once those seed break dormancy.

It will take a careful look at the number of small, underdeveloped pods to determine whether peanuts should be dug early or late.  I am currently of the opinion that the maturity profile board for non-irrigated peanuts is going to be highly inaccurate this year, and we’re probably going to see very few peanuts actually dug “on-time”.  Most peanuts are going to need to be dug early or late.  If they do not have a lot of small pods on the plant, then the majority of the yield potential is already set. In those situations, there may be some opportunity for at least improving grade, but timing digging with enough moisture to put the digger in the ground (especially in heavier, higher silt and clay-fraction soils) is probably more important than taking the risk to further advance the TSMK, so early digging is justified in these type of situations.

In the case of plants that have a large number of smaller pods currently in development (swelling pods approaching the size of a dime, and the plants are around 100 days old), there is still an opportunity to bring those pods along if the plants are allowed to stay in the ground longer than usual.  Remember that it takes in the neighborhood of 40 to 60 days for a pod to develop to a size large enough to be harvested and be maintained in the basket.  Consider that about half of the peanut crop was planted after May 17 this year, and a peanut planted on May 17 would be 111 days old at the time of this writing (Sept. 5).  Adding 40 days to those peanuts would put them at 150 days old on Oct. 11.  I believe there is still time to advance a limb crop of small, currently forming pods to the point that they could be harvestable.  If there are very few larger pods on the plant currently, this may be worth hanging on a bit longer.  But it will require more frequent and consistent rains, and holding onto this hope will also require a decision to make the necessary inputs to carry the crop for a longer period of time, so there is certainly risk associated with the decision to continue maintenance or to cut losses and take what is there.  Thus, the decision to go early or late will be on a case-by-case basis.

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