After a long and arduous peanut season in 2017, producers in the Suwannee Valley were gripping for the worst, as they anticipated the 2018 harvest season. To recap, 2017 yields were some of the lowest in many years, with an unknown condition called “peanut collapse” devastating our peanuts in the Southeast. The decline primarily occurred after Hurricane Irma and impacted over 25,000 acres in North Florida with the bulk of it being in the Suwannee Valley area. The peanuts yielded a decrease of 1,500 pounds per acre on average across the region. The environmental conditions during that time were similar to our recent 2018 season; wet, warm, consecutive mild winters, and low solar radiation during important periods of plant development. With the surplus of rain we experienced, it was only fitting to expect worst-case scenario again for the 2018 harvest. However, after talking with local peanut buying point managers from Lee Peanut in Madison County and Suwannee River Peanut in Hamilton County, they reinforced the rumors that this season was a vast improvement from previous years. With the added struggle of continuously low market prices, peanut growers in the Southeast desperately needed the yield reward this season.
Overall Grade and Yield
Brooks Garland, Manager of Birdsong’s Buying Point in Madison Florida (Lee Peanut), provided the following remarks, “The peanuts had more meat versus hulls this year compared to last year. Last year, hollow and shelled peanuts were around 23% and this year it was only about 21%.” He also noted, “that may seem like an incremental difference, but in the end, it made a big difference in marketable yield overall.” Seth Adams of Suwannee River Peanut reinforced the same concept by mentioning that peanuts this year just seemed “much heavier with less hollow shells”. Additionally, Adams stated that in 2017 yield took a nose dive after hurricane Irma, but this year, yields and quality remained good or possibly increased toward the end. Garland said that yield from his farm alone were up this year by almost 900 pounds/acre and final calculations from the buying point indicated that grade quality was up from 72 to 76.5 of total sound mature kernels (TSMK) on average. Adams commented that even non-irrigated acres looked great yield-wise, and the only issues with peanuts this season were mainly associated with certain varieties or problems with equipment during machine harvest. Some producers were held up waiting for peanuts to dry out from the abundant moisture as well. Overall, problems were much less compared to recent years.
After a rough year in 2017, many producers decided to test new varieties going into 2018. On average, most were happy with the new varieties but the traditional Georgia 06G still maintained its status as a top contender, with robust yields and performing well against disease pressure under humid, warm conditions. Other varieties that received positive reports from local producers included Georgia 12Y, FloRun 331, and Georgia 16HO. The Georgia 12Y showed a good option for non-irrigated acres but was not as resilient during handling and processing at the buying points. As far as a replacement for Georgia 06G, the jury is still out on these new varieties. However, it is reassuring to know that producers have several viable options in their toolbox that show potential for future production. Before selecting next year’s seed purchase, explore the characteristics of each variety to know what’s best for your operation and environmental conditions. Consider location disease history, previous crop on rotation, irrigation availability, management of inputs, early versus late maturing varieties being planted, and growth habit of each variety.
What worked well for one producer, may not be ideal for another operation based on differences in these factors among others.
Updated information from University of Florida/IFAS peanut variety trials will be released soon, so contact your local extension office for more information on this topic. The Tri-County Peanut Producer’s Annual Meeting Update will be held again this year at the Branford Community Center on March 7th. Please call 386-362-1725 to be placed on an email list to receive updates, new information and notifications on commercial row-crops and programs.
Regional Specialized Extension Agent, Row Crops