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A Look Back At 2000

Drought to non-stop rain, extreme heat to snow, this crop had it all.

By Amanda Huber

Feast or famine is the best way to describe the Southwest’s crop.

"Up until harvest time, the story for Texas peanuts was the drought of 2000," says Robert Lemon, Texas A&M University Extension peanut specialist. "For most of the state, little significant rainfall was received after mid- to late-June, and our soil profile was not replenished going into the critical month of July.

"As a result, growers had to rely solely on irrigation to provide the needed moisture. Many systems did not have the capacity to meet the water demand during pod fill, especially with the constant heat."

Lemon says high temperatures in August and September devastated dryland acreage, much of which was never harvested.

"We finally started receiving rains in early October," he says. "But it continued well into November."

Heavy rainfall, low temperatures and even snow hampered harvesting efforts.

"A large portion of the acreage was dug in October, but was not harvested until four to six weeks later," Lemon says. "Generally, we have the majority of our acreage harvested by early November. This year harvesting continued into December."

Lemon says, even though they experienced several nights of freezing temperatures, freeze damage was limited.

"Fortunately, the vines held together better than expected," he says. "Grades were good, in the upper 70’s to low 80’s."

Yields are expected to average 600 to 800 pounds less than the 1999 average of 3,310 pounds per acre.

"We thought the drought of 1998 was tough for Texas, but 2000 will end up being much worse," Lemon concludes.

Snow Catches Southwest By Surprise
Texas’ neighbor to the North was unfortunately caught in the same weather pattern.

"Record high summer temperatures and lack of rainfall really took a toll on Southwest farmers," says Ron Sholar, Oklahoma State University Extension agronomist. As in most states, Oklahoma’s dryland peanuts were a total loss.

"As harvest approached, peanuts that were well irrigated had the potential to produce an average yield, and then disaster struck again," Sholar says. "An unusually early killing freeze in October created a situation where everything needed to be harvested at once. Obviously that could not be done. As harvest got underway, the rains started."

For weeks, he says, growers were kept out of the already dug fields because of rain. To compound problems, an early snow fall of several inches further delayed harvest. All of these conditions reduced total production in the Southwest.

"Growers are hoping for better conditions in 2001," he says. "Some growers have said that they will plant some spanish peanuts to avoid being so vulnerable to the weather.

"Undoubtedly, this year will further reduce planting of dryland peanuts," he adds.

A Hit-and-Miss Crop In the Southeast
Hit and miss accurately describes the Southeast’s year. Tropical rains hit Georgia, saving their crop, but missed Alabama, leaving the state in devastation.

"In May, the recorded rainfall at the Coastal Plain Experiment Station was 0.03 inches," says John Beasley, University of Georgia Extension agronomist. "Below normal rainfall continued through June and July, and many fields were abandoned.

"The saving grace for Georgia’s peanut crop was two tropical storms, one in early September, shortly after Labor Day, and one late in September. Since most of the acreage was planted late, the storms benefitted the crop and only a small percentage was lost from harvesting delays."

Beasley says the hot, dry conditions triggered outbreaks of lesser cornstalk borer, some so severe the fields had to be treated twice, almost unheard of in Georgia. Thrips pressure was also heavy, but growers, doing all they could to reduce their risk by following the Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV) Risk Index, did not have the level of severity as in year’s past. White mold was a problem in many fields following the rain in early August.

"Palmer amaranth, one of the pigweed species, was especially troublesome in the drought conditions," Beasley says.

USDA reported 510,000 acres were planted in Georgia with the variety Georgia Green accounting for 95 percent of the acres and varieties C 99R, AgraTech 201 and AgraTech 1-1 accounting for most of the remaining acreage.

Yield averages continued to climb during harvest. In November, USDA estimated an average of 2,800 pounds per acre for Georgia.

Use of twin-row pattern continues to increase dramatically, and Beasley estimates 40 percent to 50 percent of the acreage was planted in twin rows.

"Most growers were pleased with the crop this year," Beasley says. "Considering how the season started, it was a blessing that it turned out as well as it did."

Low Aflatoxin Only Good News
Wishing the same could be said of Alabama growers, about all Dallas Hartzog, Auburn Extension agronomist, could say was that it was a tough year for farmers there. Alabama’s peanut-growing areas received 40 percent less rainfall than normal and most problems were drought-related.

"The dry weather reduced herbicides ability to work," Hartzog says. "Some fields were devastated by lesser corn stalk borers, a pest that prefers dry weather."

Yields dropped dramatically, and USDA estimated a yield average of 1,350 pounds per acre, down from 2,350 pounds per acre in 1999.

"Quality was also poor, with grades generally between the 50’s to the low 70’s," Hartzog says.

Ben Whitty, University of Florida Extension agronomist, says that a little of what happened in both Georgia and Alabama, happened in Florida.

"The crop was real spotty, with some farms having good crops while others had near disasters," says Whitty.

As with other states, adverse weather conditions were the problem. A dry winter and spring resulted in record-low water levels and delayed planting on non-irrigated farms.

"When some areas started getting a little rain in late June, other areas did not get enough for a satisfactory crop," Whitty says. "Dry weather and an early cold spell prevented some late-planted peanuts from fully maturing."

Whitty says that, except for some instances of lesser cornstalk borer damage, pest problems were about normal. TSWV, however, was not as severe in the panhandle region as it has been in recent years.

Approximately 80,000 acres were harvested, with the state-wide average yield estimated at 2,450 pounds per acre.

South Carolina did not escape the drought, either.

"We had some exceptional yields, more than 5,000 pounds per acre, and grades produced under irrigation, and we had some peanuts that failed to produce a stand due to the extreme early-season drought," says Jay Chapin of Clemson University. "In general, the worst of the drought was in the southern production area."

"The major disease issue was the increased incidence of TSWV, with economic injury spreading into a few northern coastal-plain fields," Chapin says. "We continue to refine our fungicide program, and our growers are doing an excellent job of managing Rhizoctonia limbrot, white mold and leafspot.

According to USDA, 11,500 acres were harvested in South Carolina, with the average yield of 3,000 pounds per acre.

A Good Year for the Virginia-Carolina Area
When compared to the hurricane-riddled crop of 1999, 2000 was a good year.

"We were looking at a record crop through much of August," says Charles Swann, Virginia Tech Extension agronomist. "Despite a dry May and some acreage being planted as late as June, growers obtained good stands."

According to Swann, growers primarily planted varieties NC-V 11 and VAC 92R. Substantial acreage was planted to the variety VA 98R, and growers are also interested in Perry, a Cylindrocladium Black Rot (CBR) resistant variety. Acreage of these two varieties is expected to increase substantially in the next several years.

"Abundant rains and cool conditions in late August and September resulted in heavy disease pressure by harvest time," Swann says. "CBR, Sclerotinia and web blotch were especially severe. Some growers dug their fields early to avoid a substantial decline in the crop. A late-season Section 18 registration of Omega 500 helped reduce losses due to Sclerotinia."

Swann also says the increasing incidence of TSWV is a concern for 2001.

Harvest conditions were generally excellent, even though some areas were hampered by a record-dry October that prevented efficient digging.

Approximately 75,000 acres were harvested with an average yield of 2,850 pounds per acre. Quality was excellent, with bright hulls needed for in-shell use.

More TSWV and Web Blotch Than Ever Before
Disease pressure also affected the North Carolina crop. Like Virginia, North Carolina had more TSWV, but a combination of CBR, Sclerotinia and web blotch did the most damage.

"We had more web blotch than ever before," says David Jordan, North Carolina State University Extension peanut agronomist. "It showed up early and was hard to control."

USDA reported 124,000 acres were planted in North Carolina, with an average yield of 2,850 pounds per acre.

"It was a good crop early in the year," Jordan says. "But rains in September hurt us, and some growers rushed to harvest the crop late in the month when it had not yet reached maturity and conditions were still wet. In October, harvest conditions were great.

"Dry weather affected pre-emergent herbicides, but weed control was generally okay." Jordan says.

2000 Crop Highlights

- Drought and high temperatures for most of growing season.

- Heavy rainfall, snow and cold hampered harvest.

- Dryland acres abandoned.

- Drought and record high temperatures devastated dryland acres.

- Early freeze, rain and snow compound harvest problems.

- Spanish acreage may increase in 2001.

- Dry weather delayed planting.

- Drought and early cold snap affected late-planted crop.

- More Lesser cornstalk borer damage due to drought.

- Tropical storms save state from record drought.

- More than 40 percent of acreage planted in twin rows.

- Severe Lesser cornstalk borer outbreaks.

- Extreme drought causes reduced yields and poor grades.

- Herbicides not effective in dry weather.

- Less-than-expected levels of Aflatoxin.

South Carolina
- Exceptional yields, failed stands.

- TSWV on the increase.

- Continue to refine spray programs.

- Mostly good weather during growing and harvest.

- CBR, Sclerotinia and web blotch severe in areas.

- Excellent quality crop.

North Carolina
- Good crop early on.

- Rains hampered harvest in September.

- Most ever spotted wilt and web blotch.