AUBURN, Ala.–One year removed from a drought of epic proportions, Alabama peanut farmers are happy with the rainier summer of 2017. Though wet conditions can cause a separate set of issues, peanuts are looking very strong thus far.
According to the National Agricultural Statistics Service in Alabama, 91 percent of peanuts had reached the pegging stage by Aug. 7, compared with 85 percent at the same time last year. In addition, a full 80 percent of peanut crops were rated as “good” or “excellent” by the NASS.
Dr. Austin Hagan, an Alabama Extension plant pathologist, recently gave his take on the status of peanuts statewide. “Anytime it rains, that’s good,” Hagan said. “And we’ve had rain all year.”
The steady rainfall has presented some problems, like standing water, slowed emergence and an uptick in leaf spot. But Hagan said these are minor issues, preferable to those presented by a prolonged drought. He also noted that the overall health of the crop is in good shape.
“We don’t have any dry areas, so we don’t have some of these situations that were holding back yields last year,” Hagan said. “Even if it stops raining next week and doesn’t rain for the rest of the year, we’ll still have a good-sized crop.”
Effects of steady rain
One pesky peanut disease–– white mold–– has been all but vanquished by the rain. “We’re not seeing a lot of white mold this year, whether the farmers sprayed for it or not,” said Hagan. “White mold is a very aerobic fungus that likes a lot of oxygen.” Wet conditions, he continued, have basically drowned out the disease.
On the other hand, there has been an increase in leaf spot, a fungus that prefers wet weather. However, Hagan explained that advances in technology have helped with resistance. “To be honest, a lot of the varieties we have today hold up a lot better than the varieties from 30 years ago,” he said. “With these kinds of foliar diseases, you don’t see pod-shedding, and the plants can withstand a little leaf-shed.”
Still, farmers may want to tackle the leaf spot they see this year, if only because the crop is looking so strong. “If you do see disease, you might want to shorten up intervals on fungicide sprays or switch to premium fungicide,” Hagan said. “Yields are looking good enough this year that farmers should switch, as they will see a payout from this investment.”