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Dry conditions may slow peanut planting
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Mississippi's peanut growers have been planting ahead of the five-year average, but fields need rain to keep them on track.
By the May 6 crop report issued by the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Mississippi, farmers had planted 12 percent of the state's peanut crop. The five-year average for that date is 5 percent. Agronomists with Mississippi State University's Extension Service said the ideal planting time typically concludes around June 1, but peanuts can be planted later if necessary.
Charlie Stokes, area Extension agronomist based in Monroe County, said peanuts need moisture, but they can endure a drought pretty well.
“Peanuts are responsive to timely rains throughout the growing season, but most of their yield develops in the last weeks before harvest,” Stokes said. “Diseases are the peanuts' biggest challenges.”
Mike Howell, area agronomist based in Harrison County, said it is important to plant at the proper depth with adequate soil moisture to reduce the risk of tomato spotted wilt virus.
“Growers should plant peanuts between 1.5 and 2 inches deep with good soil moisture to allow quick germination and seedling emergence, followed by a uniform stand,” Howell said. “Planting into dry soils also can cause inoculants added to the soil to die.”
Inoculants are live bacteria that growers add to the soil to help each plant make its own nitrogen. The need for grower-applied inoculants decreases over the years in peanut fields as the bacteria levels increase and remain in the soil.
Howell said inoculants in the soil and disease problems cause different challenges for Mississippi growers compared to growers in historic peanut-growing regions.
“Mississippi peanut fields do not have the disease problems other growers face in fields that have grown peanuts for many years. Our growers are able to handle most disease pressure by maintaining a spray program,” Howell said. “On the other hand, growers in Georgia, for example, do not have to apply inoculants because the bacteria is already in the soil in most of those fields.”
Howell said newer peanut varieties are gaining in popularity for their disease resistance and yields. In the past, as much as 90 percent of the southeast Mississippi fields were planted in Georgia Green. Two other varieties – Georgia-O2C and AP-3 -- are being planted in more fields this year.
George County Extension director Mike Steede said most Mississippi growers are relatively new to the peanut business. To inform them and help them anticipate issues as the growing season progresses, the MSU Extension Service and Syngenta, an international crop-protection company, are sponsoring monthly video conferences and toll-free conference calls.
“The idea started with monthly meetings in our Lucedale office when about eight growers would come in to discuss issues concerning their peanut crops,” Steede said. “With the video conferencing, we are able to bring more growers together as well as bring in regional experts to address subjects such as marketing decisions, weed control, insects, diseases and peanut maturity.”
The first video conference of the 2007 season took place on April 20 with 35 growers involved. The second conference will be near the first of June. Growers should contact their local Extension offices for conference dates.
Steede said plans are under way for additional educational opportunities later in the season. A tour of peanut farms and facilities in Alabama and Georgia will be held in late July. A peanut field day in George County will be in August.