Low Country Near the Low Country

IMG_2946 (002)The 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour concluded with dinner hosted at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah. The botanical gardens are part of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and offer year-round education classes and workshops for all ages and abilities, as well as special events and opportunities for visitors to connect with nature and be inspired through beautiful gardens and collections. The garden is a popular Savannah attraction featuring a museum of plants, a tranquil escape, a living classroom and a historic venue for special events. The botanical gardens host more than 100,000 visitors each year.

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Corteva Agriscience representatives

 

This year’s closing dinner featured the famous low country boil and peanut-inspired ice cream sponsored by Corteva Agriscience. Corteva, formerly Dow AgroSciences, has sponsored the low country boil for many years, making it a tradition most all tour attendees look forward to. The boil includes shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn.

 

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This year, the tour featured nearly 200 attendees representing 19 states, as well as international guests from four different countries (Malawi, Zambia, Bangladesh and India). Participants ranged from industry personnel, to government agencies, to manufacturers. All had the opportunity to learn more about Georgia peanuts and production. Thank you to all who have made the tour possible, attended or followed along via the blog. We look forward to seeing you in 2019!

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GPT Chairman Dr. Bob Kemerait accepts a gift from tour attendees visiting from Malawi.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Growing the Organic Peanut Market

2018_gpt_savannah_0407sAttendees on the Georgia Peanut Tour learned about challenges organic farmers face with producing peanuts at the farm of Al Clark. He started farming in 1979 and began transitioning to organic production in 2007. Today Clark grows approximately 276 acres of organic peanuts, corn and soybeans at Healthy Hollow Farms in Brooklet, Georgia.

In 2018, Clark planted 20 acres of peanuts in two varieties — including Georgia 06-G and the less popular Georgia 12Y, which has proved promising in an organic system due to a viney growth habit that enables it potentially to outcompete weeds and general disease tolerance. Clark sourced untreated seeds and used a garlic-based inoculant (a mixture of neem and BacPac) at planting time, noticing better germination and foliage development among 06-G plants where the rate of this inoculant was doubled. This early growth, commonly referred to as “plant stand,” is key for organic peanut plants to overcome weed and pest pressure.

Despite a good stand, Clark has continued to struggle with weeds this season. While it has been shown that organic peanuts can be grown successfully in Georgia, the single biggest challenge is weeds, which in the Deep South can be diverse and aggressive. Organic growers do not have effective herbicides in their toolbox, which means they must rely on timely mechanical cultivation to kill weeds before they can get a foothold. But with constant rains throughout 2018, Clark could not get into his fields he needed to cultivate.

2018_gpt_savannah_0426sHowever, in recent years, Clark has employed an electrifying new technique: a lightning weeder. A long journey to North Dakota resulted in this purchase, which uses electricity run across a conductive bar running horizontal to the ground, above the sprawling peanuts, to electrocute tall weeds in the field. Although not effective on grasses, for weeds such as the prolific pigweed with a center stalk and deep taproot, the lightning weeder has a chance to shine (or, to be more literal, flame).

The lightning weeder does not come without limitations: scarcity, cost, and the huge amounts of power it uses. And even with successful weed control, there are still obstacles in producing organic peanuts. There is a lack of high quality, untreated seed for growers, and a lack of marketing power for organic Georgia Grown peanuts due to the smaller acreage and lack of infrastructure. In a Certified Organic system, each step from harvest to handling to processing has to be certified through the National Organic Program. With the scale of peanut production and associated infrastructure in Georgia so large, and the acreage of organic production so small in comparison, there can be little economic benefit to going through the certification process for shellers in Georgia. And without organic shellers to maintain the certification of the peanuts, there is a lack of supply for the marketplace.

And this is where Georgia Organics plays a role. Through a combination of USDA and private grants, and a partnership with the Southeastern African American Farmers Organic Network, Georgia Organics has been working with farmers actively growing or interested in growing organic peanuts to share production best practices, develop marketplace connections, address issues of seed supply, and facilitate the growth of organic peanuts in the peanut capital of the world to meet the high demand for Georgia-Grown Certified Organic Peanut products.

To learn more about Georgia Organics, organic peanuts in Georgia, and upcoming opportunities and events, contact Perri at perri@georgiaorganics.org.

Peanut Farming: A Family Tradition

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Left to Right: Emanuel County Farmers Clay and Carl Hood; Mark Crosby, Emanuel County Extension Agent; Chris Hood, Emanuel County Farmer; John Harrison, Young Farmer Advisor

Purchased by Carl Hood and his wife in 1970 Canoochee Farms in Emanuel County has grown throughout the years. Clay Hood, one of five kids born into the Hood family now farms Canooche Farm alongside his dad and has done so for 25 years now. The Hood’s have 900 acres in cultivation as well a small beef cattle operation. Out of those 900 acres 300 of those are in peanuts and the rest are planted in cotton. According to Mark Crosby, Emanuel County Extension agent, Emanuel County is primarily a cotton-cotton-peanut rotation. The field peanut tour attendees were able to see on Canoochee Farms was a total of 226 acres. 175 of the 226 acres were irrigated and the rest were dryland.

The peanuts in this field had a plant date of May 3, 2018 and are at a 136-day maturity; weather permitting, the Hood’s will begin picking next Tuesday, September, 25. Carl and Clay plant the Georgia 09B variety peanuts which are a high oleic peanut, which means they have a higher oil content which is popular many candy manufactures. Another advantage the Hood’s see to planting this variety is they have a high resistance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. On their farm they also plant a cover crop of rye, which helps retain the moisture in the soil. Tour attendees also had the opportunity to take look at their harvesting equipment. The Hood’s harvest with an AMADAS self-propelled picker as well as a 6-roll pull type hoodspic1picker.

 

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

 

Proper Peanut Rotations Can Have Positive Impact on Yields

As a research agronomist for the University of Georgia, Dr. Scott Tubbs conducts research in a lot of different areas and during the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Dr. Tubbs had an opportunity to present his research to the tour attendees. Some of that relates to cropping systems with rotations of peanuts and other crops. Farmers may have more success growing peanuts if they don’t continuously plant peanuts in the same field, and that is the message Dr. Tubbs is wanting to convey. Other crops that rotate very well with peanuts include corn and cotton and there’s about a million plus acres of cotton any given year, anywhere between 250,000 300,000 acres of corn any given year and this is about twice as much acreage as what we have in peanuts. “With a rotation on peanuts we usually recommend three years rotation, two years out of peanuts before we go back into peanuts the third year. The acreage of these rotation crops allows this except when we increase acreage of peanuts and decrease acreage of these other crops. It does put our rotation under pressure for shorter rotations which can cause additional disease and pest problems with weeds and insects as well”, says Dr. Tubbs. Peanuts do rotate well with other crops since it is a legume. Peanuts have a lot of nitrogen they can supply to other crops that are usually fertilized with nitrogen so peanuts are a good scavenger of nutrients by pulling those nutrients from deep in the soil profile by bringing those back to the surface.

“Once the peanut is harvested the remaining residue of peanut is left on the ground and will disintegrate and provide nutrients to the subsequent crops that are planted behind peanuts,” he continues. “Some of the research I am conducting this year include replant decisions for peanut and populations including gap situations where we force a stand gap where there are no plants growing just to assess the yield drag from having no populations in the field. We also conduct research on inoculants, different formulations and their interactions with other in furrow products that are placed in ground at planting. This year we initiated some trials on physical damage to peanuts to simulate hail damage or deer damage to peanuts and we are assessing different levels of damage by different timings of the crop just to assess how yield and grade will be affected at the end of season with these different damage levels with different timing.”

For more information on crop rotation, visit the UGA Extension publications by clicking here.

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Tour attendees hear from Dr. Scott Monfort at the Southeast Research and Education Center

Scott Monfort, peanut agronomist with  the University of Georgia  is one on many researchers conducting research at the Southeast Research and Education Center in Midville, Georgia. At this particular research station here in east Georgia, Dr. Monfort conduct several different types of research trials. Two of the biggest ones he conducts here are cultivar or variety trial along with 10 different tillage trials. “We are growing those or conducting those for two different reasons,” he says. “One, we want to try to keep ahead as far as the information going out to the growers on any new varieties or production practices. The second thing is, we try to answer questions that the growers have.”

In this particular part of Georgia, tillage is a big problem for these growers because they have highly erodible soils. “What we try to do is look at the conventional tillage which most of Georgia does to produce peanuts compared to reduced tillage which a lot of growers in this area conduct. We are trying to make these comparisons to show these growers where they can save money but where they have to spend money to be productive. As far as the varieties, it’s the same thing. We try to showcase different varieties that are coming out that might do better in this region because it’s a different micro-climate there than it is in south west Georgia or other parts of Georgia where peanuts are grown. We try to look at what we can do to increase productivity of any grower throughout the state of Georgia and this area is important just like the southwest part of Georgia is. So, we try to do as much as we can for each grower throughout the state and all the research done here is looking at localized situations or trying to fix localized problems to increase productivity”, he continues. The Southeast Research and Education Center in Midville is one of many research facilities where UGA researchers conduct peanut research throughout the state of Georgia. There are research centers all over the state, but they do not produce peanuts at every single one, but peanuts are produced at a majority of the ones in the south.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

 

Peanut Entomology Update from Dr. Mark Abney

Dr. Mark Abney, research and Extension peanut entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus gave an entomology update at the UGA Southeast Research and Education Center. At this location, Dr. Abney said they have a research trial looking at different materials for managing thrips. Thrips are an early season seedling pest, but they remain a concern throughout the growing season. They cause damage to the plant by feeding on it and by spreading Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. The research he is conducting in Midville will allow him to make recommendations to growers for how to best manage thrips on their farm.

For the 2018 crop year, thrip pressure has varied across the state. Some areas have seen very little pressure, while others have had moderate to heavy pressure, as well as higher levels of TSWV. Overall, Dr. Abney thinks virus levels are lower than they were in 2017; however, it is still there and needs to be managed.

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Another major insect affecting peanuts that Dr. Abney studies is the burrow bug. The burrow bug is a stink bug that lives in the ground. It feeds on the developing peanut pod inside the shell and causes grade loss for farmers when they sell their peanuts at a buying point. This grade loss equates to financial loss for the farmer. The insect is difficult to manage; however, Dr. Abney has a few ways to monitor and control them. He is working to understand the biology of the insect better, as well as looking at potential products to use to control it. Currently, there is only one insecticide available to control the burrower bug and it is slated for cancellation by the Environmental Protection Agency, so research is being done to find another alternative product. Another soil insect pest Dr. Abney studies is the southern corn root worm. It’s not a big problem for most growers in Georgia; however, it’s an insect that likes wet weather, so during raining growing seasons, it can be seen. It is also managed with the same product used on burrower bugs, so an alternative management product is needed for it as well.

Dr. Abney said insect management is really important for peanut growers even though it’s not typically something they think about when managing their production practices. He and his colleagues continue to work to find more tools for Georgia peanut farmers’ tool belts so they can better manage insect pressure on their farms and continue to grow quality Georgia peanuts.

To follow entomology updates, visit the UGA Peanut Entomology Blog.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Peanut Disease Update from Dr. Bob Kemerait

While at the University of Georgia’s Southeast Georgia Research & Education Center, tour attendees were given a disease update from Dr. Bob Kemerait, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. Kemerait said diseases are one of the biggest problems for peanut production in Georgia and many are caused by viruses, fungi and nematodes. At the research and education center in Midville, Dr. Kemerait and others are working to learn more about managing diseases in peanuts and giving that information to the farmer to help him grow a better crop. He said the research he is doing is two-fold; one to find an integrated management system for how to manage a virus and two, to do trials and experiments to evaluate what is available in terms of varieties and fungicides that can help growers better manage diseases.

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Dr. Bob Kemerait showing tour attendees what TSWV looks like on peanuts.

One disease Dr. Kemerait and his colleagues focus on frequently is Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). According to Kemerait, TSWV is one of the most devasting diseases affecting peanuts. With his research, he is working to understand the relationship between the disease and the vector that spreads the disease, which is a small pest called a thrip. By understanding the relationship, he can create models to predict how many thrips would be in the field and how to best manage the spread of the disease. Dr. Kemerait also studies how other factors affect TSWV such as variety, use of in-furrow insecticide and planting date.

Another aspect of his research is the use of fungicides for disease control. Diseases such as leaf spot and white mold can take millions of dollars to control; however, Kemerait says if they are not managed properly, they could cost tens of millions of dollars in yield reduction from the peanut crop. Kemerait says if growers want to remain profitable, they know they have to fight diseases by taking the research produced at the University of Georgia and integrating it into their production practice, as well as being “upfront” about prevention.

Peanuts are a Passion for Cromley Brothers

The final day of the Georgia Peanut Tour began at one of Bulloch County’s largest farming operations, the farm of Charley and Lee Cromley. The Cromley brothers are fifth generation farmers who grow approximately 2,600 acres of row crops. This year, 1,800 acres were planted in cotton and 800 acres were planted in peanuts. When discussing the current crop, Lee said their biggest challenges this year have been weed and disease control. The large amount of rainfall during the growing season has made it difficult to get tractors in the field to manage these two pests.

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The Cromley brothers’ production practices include a good rotation of cotton and peanuts, application of Elatus for leaf spot control, Valor and Cadre for weed control, and practicing strip tillage. Strip tillage allows them to turn the dirt less, which keeps necessary nutrients and moisture in the soil for the crop. They also plant a cover crop and leave the previous year’s cotton stubble in the ground prior to planting peanuts each year.

Harvest season has commenced, so while at their farm, tour attendees got to see peanuts being dug. Here, the tractor pulls an implement called a peanut digger. This machine digs the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and inverts them upside down so the peanuts are exposed to the sun and the vines are on the ground. Lee said they can dig approximately 60 acres per day with two machines going. After they are dug, the peanuts are left on the ground to dry for approximately three days and then later harvested with a combine, which is a machine that “picks” the peanuts off the vine. Last year, the Cromley brothers harvested approximately 5,000 lbs/acre on their peanut crop. This year, they are expecting to harvest around 4,000 lbs/acre.

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During the visit, Lee also pointed all the importance of peanuts to the economy; especially rural South Georgia. Agriculture makes up 10 percent of Bulloch County’s budget according to Bill Tyson, Bulloch County Extension agent. Peanuts are Georgia’s official state crop and generate approximately $2.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. They are grown in nearly half of Georgia’s counties where they account for nearly 50 percent of the peanuts grown in the United States.

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According to Tyson, the 2018 peanut crop is looking good in his area of the state. The Bulloch County area started off the season wet, with a slow start, followed by cooler temperatures in May. Due to the changes in the weather pattern, much of the crop is spread out in regard to planting dates. Like many other areas, the abundant rainfall has created more disease issues than normal, as well. The farmers in the county grow approximately 75,000 acres of peanuts and cotton; however, they also grow corn, soybeans and small grain. Most of the land in Bulloch County is dryland with approximately 25 percent irrigated.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Take a Step Back in Time at Old Fort Jackson

Old Fort Jackson a restored 19th-century fort, was the last tour stop of day 2. This  fortification is located on the Savannah River, just 3 miles east of the city. It was constructed in 1808 as part of President Thomas Jefferson’s Second System coastal defense initiative and named after Revolutionary War patriot James Jackson. This brick fort was constructed over an old earthen battery from the Revolutionary War which had been called “Mud Fort.” Soldiers were stationed at Fort James Jackson to guard Savannah during the War of 1812. Following the War of 1812, two periods of construction continued expansion of the fort from the 1840s-1850s, prior to the outbreak of the American Civil War.ofj1

Local Confederate militia units occupied the fort at the start of the Civil War in 1861. In 1862, it became the headquarters for Savannah’s river defenses after the fall of Fort Pulaski. In 1864 the Confederate troops quickly evacuated Fort Jackson just prior to the arrival of federal troops under the leadership of General William Tecumesh Sherman after his infamous “March to the Sea,” leaving Fort Jackson under control of federal troops. The last American soldiers to be stationed at Fort Jackson were members of the 55th Massachusetts, an African- American unit of the Federal Army.

The War Department abandoned the fort in 1905 and the state of Georgia reopened it in 1965 as a maritime museum. After the state decided to close the museum in 1975, the newly formed nonprofit Coastal Heritage Society approached the State in 1976 asking permission to re-open and operate the site, which was granted. The historic site was now referred to as Old Fort Jackson. In 1978, Fort Jackson and CHS came under the leadership of Scott W. Smith. Operation continued to grow with modest success as did development of educational programming for regular guests and student field trips.

Currently, Old Fort Jackson has a successful model of independent operation and a solid reputation of delivering high-quality, engaging educational programming for booked groups. This program offering has been expanded to regular operation for daily museum guests and includes cannon, musket firings and other interactive & hands-on activities.ofj2

 

While at this stop, tour attendees had the chance to try steamed oysters and for many this was a first and highlight of the tour, for others, they were just happy with the sunset view they caught on the way out to load the buses. After the oysters and the tour of the fort, attendees had the opportunity to enjoy great southern cooking of fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and dressing. ofj3

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Port of Savannah: The Southeast Gateway for the U.S.

After seeing peanuts harvested on the farm, tour attendees traveled to Savannah to tour the Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City Terminal. The Garden City Terminal is the largest single-terminal in North America and serves 20 percent of the United States population and industry. The facility is 1,200 acres and offers nine container berths comprised of nearly 10,000 ft of contiguous space. The terminal is also home to 30 container cranes; the largest on the East Coast.

According to the American Peanut Council (APC), the U.S. is the third largest peanut producer after China and India, and is the leading peanut exporter with an average annual export of 200,000 to 250,000 metric tons. Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan account for more than 80 percent of U.S. exports. The largest export markets within Europe are the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

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Lee Beckmann, manager for government affairs for GPA, visited with the tour attendees during Hot Topics on Tuesday and gave an overview of current port projects. One key project is the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Here, the harbor is being dredged to 47 feet to better accommodate vessels. The vessels being used now are 14,000 TEUs – the largest on the East Coast. Currently the channel depth is 42 ft and the project is 50 percent complete. Another major project in the works is the Mason Mega Rail Project. This will end up being the largest intermodal yard for a terminal in the U.S. Currently, phase one is expected to be completed by September 2019 with the first bundle of tracks operational. Phase two is expected to be completed by September 2020.

The Garden City Terminal sees an average of 10,000 truck transactions per day. For single moves, trucks average 33 minutes and for doubles they average 53 minutes. When it comes to the containers they are transporting, the terminal houses 25,000 loaded containers and 35,000 empty containers. Nearly 55 percent of the containers are for imports and 45 percent of exports.

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According to GPA, it received its second busiest month on record for containerized trade in July 2018. This was a 12.7 percent increase compared to July 2017. GPA also said rail cargo at the Garden City Terminal increased by 16 percent (60,000 containers) for a total of 435,000 rail lifts between July 2017 and June 2018. This increase in capacity is a driving force behind making Savannah an even more competitive port option on the East Coast.

When looking at Georgia’s economy, GPA says the logistics industry, including the port, provide a boost to Georgia’s economy. For GPA alone, the following statistics relate to the state of Georgia:

  • 440,000 full and part time jobs
  • $106 billion in sales (11 percent of total sales)
  • $44 billion in state GDP (8 percent of total GDP)
  • $25 billion in income (6 percent of total personal income)
  • $5.9 billion in federal taxes
  • $1.4 billion in state taxes
  • $1.5 billion in local taxes

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album