Peanut Tour showcases Georgia’s 2015 crop

The top peanut-producing state in the country showcased its 2015 crop during the annual Georgia Peanut Tour, which was held Sept. 15-17.

The University of Georgia, along with the Georgia Peanut Commission, coordinated the three-day tour, which allowed participants to visit southwest Georgia, home of some of the top peanut producers in the state. The tour, which included farmers, industry personnel and visitors from other countries, educated participants about all aspects of peanut production — from planting and harvesting to the manufacturing of the crop.

Tour attendees learned why peanuts are a high-value crop for Georgia farmers.

“The tour has been excellent. We got to visit a number of sites that showcased Georgia’s peanut production,” said Rajagopalbabu “Babu” Srinivasan, UGA entomologist and chairman of the peanut tour committee. “We got to see farming operations on a big scale, digging and picking. We had a good session at our research station in Attapulgus, Georgia, (Wednesday) that allowed us to highlight our research findings over the years.”

Srinivasan and fellow UGA team members, including plant pathologists, agronomists, entomologists and economists, provided insight as to why peanut production is a complex — but rewarding — process.

“Even though we have a number of people who participate in the peanut tour every year, we have several newcomers. What we wanted to do was show to them everything we could in a couple of days about peanut production. This being the time for harvest, we were able to show them how the peanuts are harvested and processed” Srinivasan said.

The tour included visits to multiple farming operations in Decatur, Grady, Miller and Seminole counties, including John Harrell’s peanut field in Grady County on Thursday.

“I’ve been on every Georgia Peanut Tour since 1999, and this is the first year I haven’t traveled all the way with the tour. This is a highlight of mine, to have the peanut tour on my farm north of Whigham, (Georgia),” Harrell said. “My irrigated peanuts look great. We went through tough times in August, so it’s going to affect these yields on my dryland peanuts.”

Srinivasan said Georgia was expected to grow almost 800,000 acres of peanuts this year. Such an increase was attributed to the poor commodity prices for corn and cotton. While peanut prices are not ideal, they do present better opportunities for profit, which is why achieving high yields is so important for farmers in southwest Georgia.

“Like I said the first day, we grow a lot of peanuts and we grow the world’s finest peanuts. This is the peanut capital of the world,” Srinivasan said. “There’s no other place that could top this, I would say.”

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Photo Album.

By: Clint Thompson, University of Georgia

Birdsong Peanuts: The Final Stop

21504049441_ee47a17e20_oAfter a delicious lunch at Moby Dick Restaurant in Colquitt, Georgia, tour attendees traveled right down the road to Birdsong Peanuts’ shelling facility. Birdsong Peanuts is a family-owned company based out of Suffolk, Virginia, and has been in business for more than 100 years, extending five generations. During this time, the company has delivered nutritious peanuts to manufacturers around the world to make food products such as peanut butter, trail mix, snack nuts, candy and many other items. Other than the school system, Birdsong Peanuts is the largest employer in Miller County, Georgia.

In Birdsong’s business, peanuts are carefully selected directly from farmers’ fields. After selection, they are cleaned, shelled, sized and shipped in truckloads or rail cars in lots to manufacturers who turn them into many popular food items.


Peanut Flow Diagram provided by Birdsong Peanuts

Peanut Flow Diagram provided by Birdsong Peanuts

During the peanut tour visit, attendees had a chance to walk through the shelling plant and see how peanuts are brought in, shelled and prepared for shipping to manufacturers. Joey George, Colquitt shelling plant manager, gave participants an overview of what to expect before entering the plant and went through the steps of the process:

  1. Cleaning: peanut vines, glass, metal, sticks, etc. are removed from the peanuts; de-stoners are also used to remove rocks and stones from the product
  2. Shellers: several banks of shellers are located in the plant; the size of the peanut determines which bank shells it; about 80 percent of peanuts are shelled on what is considered the “first pass”
  3. Gravity: used to separate any foreign material left after the peanuts have been shelled
  4. Sorters: “electronic eyes” used to pick out dark spots and blemishes unwanted in product
  5. Sizers: includes jumbo, medium and number one sizes; splits are also included; Carter Day machines are then used for additional sizing
  6. Packaging: 2,200 lb bags are packaged out; 20 or 21 bags are used to make a complete lot; it takes about 60 seconds to fill a bag; this plant fills about 600 bags per day
Tour attendees hearing from Joey George before touring the plant.

Tour attendees hearing from Joey George before touring the plant.

George went on to discuss the general operations of the plant.

“At our facility we run 24/7 year-round; we have a few holidays we take, but we shell year-round,” he said. Due to the large volume of peanuts shelled, the facility isn’t able to close. “We shell about 1.5 million pounds of peanuts a day, so that’s a lot of peanuts that have to go somewhere.” George also mentioned the facility ships out by rail and truck. Some peanuts are also stored in cold storage. According to George’s knowledge, this facility houses the largest peanut storage warehouse in the United States.

One thing that makes Birdsong unique is their commitment to focus solely on peanuts. From planting, harvesting, shelling and shipping, Birdsong monitors every peanut to make sure it is the highest quality product sent to manufacturers. Today, the company operates six shelling plants throughout the peanut belt made up of 11 states extending from Virginia to New Mexico. In addition, Birdsong operates 85 buying points where farmers’ stock peanuts are bought and stored. Also, cold storage warehouses, which enable Birdsong to keep peanuts in a protected environment until shipped to customers, are located at some facilities. Finally, Birdsong has extensive farm operations in Florida and Texas where they grow peanuts on 100 percent irrigated land.

For a glimpse inside one of Birdsong’s shelling facilities, view the video below.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Album.

Fudge Peanut Buying Point

Attendees were able to visit Fudge Peanut Buying Point in Colquitt, Georgia, on the 29th Annual Georgia Peanut Tour. During the visit participants were able to learn more about the grading process for peanuts and the sorting, drying and storage methods at a buying point. As peanuts enter the buying point the semitrailers of peanuts are dried and then samples are taken from the trailers for grading. The peanuts are graded by employees of the Georgia Federal State Inspection service. Fudge Buying Point currently has 92 dryers that work to dry the peanuts to at least 10% moisture. The dryers are like large hair dryers that are hooked up to the trailers. Sometimes peanuts enter the buying point at 20% moisture level and it can take up to 20 hours to dry the peanuts. At Fudge Buying Point, they are testing moisture sensors in each trailer that will allow them to make sure they are not over drying peanuts. All of the dryers are hooked up to a computer that allows the buying point to change the temperature of all 92 dryers at one time. They take caution to not dry the peanuts too fast which can cause splits or to burn the peanuts. Fudge Buying Point is owned by Birdsong Peanuts.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

A Southern Staple

At this stop, tour attendees were able to see a different aspect of peanut farming c21480962042_95c13a0e0f_oompared to previous stops. Vic Fleet, owner of Rolling Hills Farm, Inc., located in Colquitt, Georgia, plants green peanuts for  boiling.  A boiled peanut, botanically, is like a regular peanut. However, boiled peanuts are harvested earlier when they are still immature, and they are then boiled and soaked in salt water. The handling of green peanuts is completely different than that of a commercial grown peanut. A green peanut is a perishable product, and if not dried or frozen, will start rotting from the moment it is harvested.

Once the green peanuts have been picked, they are taken to be washed, put into crates and then refrigerated until they are boiled, frozen or processed. Fleet has been in the green peanut business for about 10 years now. His peanuts are sold for $1.00 per pound and in 40 pound crates for $40.00. Vic begins to plant his green peanuts in April, which is earlier than commercial peanuts. On Fleet’s farm, he plants GA 11, which is a Virginia variety. This variety is a larger nut and is easier to get out of the shell. Fleet plants an average of 250 acres of peanuts, which he sells commercially. He uses 12 of those acres for his green boiling peanut business.

Of course, after all the talk about these delicious green boiled peanuts, tour attendees were treated with this wonderful southern staple. Many of the attendees had never tried boiled peanuts before.

Brock Ward, Miller County Extension agent, told the group that one quarter of everything that comes through Miller County is centered around peanuts.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Album

Dryland Peanuts North of Whigham, Georgia

Left to right: John Harrell, Douglas Harrell and Tommy Harrell

Left to right: John Harrell, Douglas Harrell and Tommy Harrell

Day two of the Georgia Peanut Tour began at Mr. John Harrell’s farm in Grady County. Harrell and his brother, Tommy along with his son, Douglas, farm approximately 10 miles north of Whigham, Georgia. Harrell and his brother are 6th generation farmers on their family’s land and have been farming together for 40 years. Together on their farm, the Harrells raise cattle and grow approximately 300 acres of peanuts and nearly 1,000 acres of cotton.

During the tour visit, attendees got a chance to see dryland peanuts at 114 days old. These peanuts had received approximately eight inches of rain from planting through the month of July. In August, they received around one inch and since Sept. 5, they had received more than three inches.


Dryland peanuts at 114 days old.

Harrell attributed the “cleanliness” of the field to timeliness of herbicide application.This field, along with most of the peanuts planted on the Harrells’ farm, is planted in single rows. Unlike some farmers, Harrell prefers single row when compared to twin rows; he believes it works better for them. Overall, roughly half of the Harrells’ peanut crop is irrigated and half is dryland. Also, GPS technology is not used on their farm.

John Harrell is an advisory board member at the Georgia Peanut Commission and the representing member from Georgia for the National Peanut Board. He also serves as the chairman of the Georgia Farm Bureau Peanut Commodity Committee. Harrell is on the research committee for both GPC and NPB and commented on the research dollars contributed on behalf of Georgia peanut growers. “Georgia farmers are funding their research at approximately $1.2 million per year,” Harrell said. Funding from GPC is approximately $300,000 per year and NPB funding is approximately $800,000 per year.

According to Brian Hayes, UGA extension agent, Grady County is mostly dryland. Approximately 25 percent of the farmland is irrigated. Historically, farmers in Grady County have grown between 6,000 and 8,000 acres of peanuts. In 2015, there is approximately 10,000-12,000 acres of peanuts planted. When compared to neighboring counties, the field sizes in Grady County are much smaller.

View the video below for an interview with John Harrell about his peanut crop.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Album

Low Country Boil at the Plantation


Dow AgroSciences is a tremendous supporter of the tour by preparing the low country boil for attendees every year.

Peanut tour attendees were able to relax and enjoy some southern hospitality after a full day of peanut education. This year, tour attendees were treated to the traditional low-country boil and friendly fellowship the Georgia Peanut Tour has to offer at Pebble Hill Plantation in Thomasville, Georgia. Pebble Hill Plantation originated when Melville Hanna acquired the property in 1896. In 1901, the plantation was given by Melville to his daughter, Kate. This is where Pebble Hill Plantation’s story begins.

With its relaxed order and sense of timelessness, Pebble Hill puts everyone immediately at ease and invites a closer inspection of the plantation and its former occupants. Gracious and vital with the South’s rich traditions, Pebble Hill is a home rich in both art and history. The overall impression one receives from this remarkable plantation is more felt than defined.

This low country boil tradition is sponsored by Dow AgroSciences. Marvin Stewart, regional sales rep. with Dow AgroSciences, has attended all 29 peanut tours and sponsored the low-country boil every year. Supper was finished up with a variety of peanut butter flavored ice-cream. This year the tour boasted more than 180 attendees from 14 states and 2 countries including Canada and Africa.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

A Family Tradition Built by World Class Machinery

Lewis Carter welcoming tour attendees to LMC.

Lewis Carter welcoming tour attendees to LMC.

Before heading to dinner, attendees of the Georgia Peanut Tour visited LMC Manufacturing in the heart of peanut production in Donalsonville, Georgia. With a history of more than 70 years, Lewis Carter and his family have built equipment ranging from peanut shellers for Georgia farmers to bow hooks for the Navy during World War II. At the root of it all remains the consistent mechanical innovations, which have helped the peanut industry operate smarter and more efficiently.

Through the years, LMC has become a world leader in manufacturing peanut shellers and equipment for the peanut shelling process. Approximately 90 percent of the commercial peanut shelling market uses LMC equipment. The machines are designed to maximize processing and speed up separation effectiveness. The need for peanuts to be cleaned and graded more efficiently is required now more than ever. LMC’s engineers work to produce the highest quality, most efficient machines specific to the industry’s needs.

LMC employee giving attendees a tour of the manufacturing facilities.

LMC employee giving attendees a tour of the manufacturing facilities.

Below are some of the types of peanut processing systems LMC can design and build from the ground up:

  • Peanut Shelling Systems
  • Peanut Blanching Systems
  • Peanut Sizing Systems
  • Buying Point Operation Systems

IMG_0625LMC offers the following equipment specifically designed and engineered for peanut processing:

  • Peanut Sheller: Used to shell peanuts with high efficiency, high capacity and minimum split creation
  • Sizing Shakers: Used to separate dry, flowable products, like peanuts, by specific size
  • De-stoners: Used for removal of large stones, dirt clods and glass in the pre-cleaning stages and precision small stone removal in finishing circuits
  • Roll Feeders: Used to regulate flows and evenly distribute product flow across processing equipment
  • Vibratory Feeders: Used to evenly distribute product flow across processing equipment
  • Aspirators: Used to separate lights (shells, pops, sticks and stems) from heavies (inshell and meats) based on aerodynamic profile and density
  • Air Gap Cleaner: Used to remove twigs, stones and dirt from peanuts; capable of receiving large volumes of product, while also providing accurate cleaning capability
  • Easy Dump Elevators: Used to gently elevate products
  • Vibratory Conveyors: Used to gently convey products
  • Gravity Separators: Used to separate lights from heavies based on density

With LMC’s large range of peanut customers, they have made contacts all across the globe including: South America, Australia, the Middle East, Europe and the Western United States including California.

Click the video below to learn more about LMC and the Lewis Carter Family.

 View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album


Harvest at Glenn Heard Farms

Glenn Heard is a third generation farmer from Brinson, Georgia. He farms in Seminole and Decatur counties. On his farm, he grows wheat, milo, corn, cotton, peanuts, sweet corn and carrots. The peanuts on Glenn Heard’s farm are mostly irrigated and he plants the GA O6-G variety along with a few High-Oleic and FloRunner 107. Problems Heard faced on his farm this 2015 growing season included insects such as nematodes, and diseases like white mold and leaf spot. The weather was also an issue this season, which has put him behind on his harvesting schedule.

While visiting the Heard farm, attendees were able to see peanuts being harvested and loaded into wagons. Most of the equipment Heard uses is driven via GPS. This allows for their farming practices to   stay accurate and to do a better job.  In the beginning of the season they spread lime and fumigates by GPS, which allows them to vary the rates across the fields, then they can plant in straight rows. Heard says during digging it is critical to stay within a couple of inches of the rows in order to minimize loss.

Also at this stop, Rome Ethredge, Seminole County Extension Agent, explained to tour attendees how to determine maturity in peanuts using a Peanut Profile Board. The board is color coded from lighter to darker colors so researchers and extension agents can separate them via color on the chart to determine the number of days until maturity.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour photo album. 

TSWV and leaf spot in peanuts

Albert Culbreath, University of Georgia research plant pathologist, focuses his research projects on tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) and leaf spot. According to Culbreath, TSWV has flared up quite severe this year in some areas and has been a challenge for growers. The virus is spread by thrips so he is studying various insecticides that may help. There are also new peanut varieties developed by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture that has improved resistance to TSWV. He has noticed that the planting date that minimizes TSWV seems to maximize leaf spot. Culbreath is also working with geneticist and breeders to develop molecular markers to develop selection of lines with TSWV and leaf spot resistance.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour photo album.

Soilborne disease in peanuts

Tim Brenneman, University of Georgia research plant pathologist, focuses his research projects on soilborne disease in peanuts. In the Southwest corner of Georgia, nematodes can cause a lot of damage to peanuts so Brenneman focuses his research at the UGA Attapulgus Research and Education Center on nematodes. “In Attaplugus we have some great fields to study nematodes,” Brenneman says. “The soils are very sandy and very conducive to high nematode populations.”

According to Brenneman, there are some new nematicides and new peanut varieties that are nematode resistant. His research trials focus on two new nematicides and the different ways to use those and use of those new products on susceptible varieties and the new nematode resistant varieties.

Brenneman has also noticed a huge outbreak of white mold this year in Georgia. He says, white mold is one of the oldest diseases for peanuts in Georgia and in his almost 30 years of work, this has been some of the worst white mold he has seen in a long time. The weather conditions have been very favorable for white mold this year.

View the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour photo album.