Georgia Organics, in cooperation with researchers from the University of Georgia and USDA-ARS, will host a field day for organic peanut production on June 11, 2010, beginning at the Lang Farm in Tifton, Ga.
Jonathan Tescher, Farmer Services Coordinator with Georgia Organics, says the group is helping to organize the event because they feel organic production of peanuts offers a real economic development opportunity for Georgia.
“There is a market for Georgia organic peanut butter,” Tescher says. “This field day will bring together the different players from the value chain to share ideas and move it forward.
“Georgia already has all of the infrastructure to process peanuts from farm gate to finished products. Plus, there are good cultivars and techniques to grow organic peanuts.”
Look At Lower Input Costs
Producers, particularly those interested in value-added production, Extension agents, agriculture professionals, shellers, roasters and processors are all encouraged to attend. If it is not so much the organic aspect that interests producers, learning to use production methods that result in less input costs might.
Whatever the reason, anyone interested is welcome to attend to learn more about the research into organic and/or sustainable peanut production.
Carroll Johnson, research agronomist with USDA-ARS Coastal Plain Experiment Station, says the research trials he will be talking about at the organic peanut field day will focus around refined strategies related to cultivation, seeding rate and fallow-tillage methods to reduce perennial weeds.
“Embedded in those objectives will be demonstrations of how to cultivate peanut at different stages of growth and proper set-up of cultivation equipment,” he says.
Cultivation And Cultivars
Scott Tubbs, cropping systems agronomist with UGA’s crop and soil sciences department, has two trial topics that will be featured at the field day.
“One is modeled after one of Carroll Johnson’s tests on the duration and frequency of using a flex-tine cultivator for weed control,” he says, “and the other test is in conjunction with Albert Culbreath, UGA plant pathologist, and is primarily a cultivar evaluation test.”
The field day starts at Lang Farm, then the group travels down the road to Ponder Farm for equipment demonstrations and methods. Finally, the field day will conclude at Black Shank Farm for lunch and a presentation of on-farm organic peanut production successes in Georgia.
Although Georgia produces nearly one-half million acres of peanuts, less than 50 acres certified as organic were produced in 2009. Organic peanuts are grown in New Mexico, but the market is consistently short of supply. PG
NCSU To Work On Organic Varieties, Including Peanuts
With the help of a $1.2 million grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, N. C. State University has launched an effort to develop corn, soybean, wheat and peanut varieties adapted to being grown organically.
North Carolina State University’s Chris Reberg-Horton, assistant professor of crop science, and George Place, crop science research associate, will coordinate the project. However, NCSU plant breeder, Tom Isleib, who is well known to the peanut industry, will conduct research projects relating to peanuts.
Growing Organic Market In N.C.
Growing organic field crops is a niche market in North Carolina, but Reberg-Horton says it is expanding.
“The state now grows about 8,000 acres of organic field crops, estimating that 60 growers are involved in organic crop production, which is a drop in the bucket compared to field crops grown with conventional methods,” he says. “However, a number of organic crop processors have located in the state.
“North Carolina also is home to the largest organic egg producer in the nation along with two mills that produce organic flour and an organic soybean crusher.”
No certified organic peanuts have been grown in the state thus far.
Early Diseases The Focus Of Peanut Work
The three-year grant will be used to develop corn, soybean, peanut and wheat varieties with traits identified by farmers as necessary for organic production. As for peanuts, organic producers indicate they are most concerned with soilborne and damping-off diseases.
Conventional producers control these diseases by using seed treated with fungicides, which is very effective against damping-off fungi. But organic producers cannot use seed treated with the usual products, and approved organic seed treatments have not proven to be effective.
Isleib explains that damping off reduces plant stands and exacerbates problems with TSWV and weed control.
“So, we have embarked on a brand new sub-program to try to find sources of resistance to the various elements of the damping-off complex, fungi of the genera Aspergillus, Fusarium, Pythium and Rhizoctonia.”
Isleib notes that the task is far from easy. “There has not been much selection for resistance to damping-off fungi for the past several decades as there were cheap, effective chemical controls, so we may have to screen a lot of old or exotic germplasm to find high levels of resistance,” he says. “In other words, this could be a long-term project.”
The grant, entitled “Farmer Driven Breeding: Addressing the Needs of Southeastern Organic Field Crop Producers,” runs for three years.
“If we can use this grant money to develop reliable screening techniques for the damping-off fungi and get a start on screening germplasm for sources of good resistance, perhaps additional funding can be secured to monitor the reactions of these breeding lines to the diseases we are already watching, such as leaf spot, CBR, Sclerotinia blight, TSWV and southern stem rot.”
“In the meantime,” Isleib says, “I hope organic producers will make use of Bailey and Sugg along with disease-resistant runner cultivars from the Southeast.” PG