RAIN WELCOMED BY PEANUT FARMERS
HEADLAND, Ala. -- The 2003 Alabama peanut crop is off to a good start thanks to abundant
and well-spaced rains in the early part of the season. About 180,000 acres of peanuts have been planted this year in the state, and the majority of those acres
are in the Wiregrass region of southeast Alabama.
"Except for one 10-day period, we have had exceptionally good rainfall," said Jimmy Jones, a county agent with the Alabama Cooperative Extension System in Henry County. "Rainfall is running close to normal
and has come at the right time so far."
Wiregrass farmers are glad to see the rains after the last four to five years of extremely dry conditions. Peanut yields in drought-stricken 2000 dropped to below 1,500 pounds per acre -- that is the lowest average yield in the last 18 years.
But the rainfall can create problems fthat armers will need to manage.
"Peanuts are vulnerable to fungal diseases, particularly leaf spot," said Dallas Hartzog, an Extension peanut agronomist. Hartzog, who
is based at the System's Wiregrass Regional Research and Extension Center in Headland, said rains that splatter soil onto peanut leaves set up the potential for leaf spot problems.
"Right now, farmers are applying fungicides to ward off leaf spot problems," he said. "It's much easier to stay ahead of the problem than trying to play catch up after the disease becomes well-established in a field."
In addition to spraying their fields for leaf spot, most farmers are applying herbicides to knock down rapidly growing weeds.
A growing peanut production practice, twin row planting, also aids in the battle against weeds. There is a quicker canopy closure with twin row planting, reducing weed growth and cooling soil temperatures.
Hartzog and Jones agreed farmers would prefer to work around rains than go through yet another dry summer.
While this early season rainfall is important, Hartzog emphasized that continued rains are crucial to setting a good crop.
"With our sandy, well-drained soils in the Wiregrass, we are 10 days away at any time from drought conditions," said Hartzog. "Regular rains from now until August are needed to encourage a good crop set and
to develop a good quality crop."
While the bulk of the Alabama crop is in the Wiregrass, peanut acreage has been increasing in other southern counties. Farmers are planting increasing numbers of acres in Baldwin, Dallas, Escambia,
Mobile, Monroe and Washington counties.
Alabama is third in peanut production nationally, trailing Georgia and Texas. About two-thirds of the peanuts harvested in the state will wind up on grocery store shelves as peanut butter.
Source: Dr. Dallas Hartzog, Alabama Cooperative Extension System
Agronomist, (334) 693-2010