Whitney Yarbrough, Joy Crosby and Jessie Bland with the Georgia Peanut Commission. Thanks to Grant Tuttle for the photo.
We have enjoyed sharing the stories from the 31st annual Georgia Peanut Tour. Through the tour, attendees have seen peanut harvest first-hand, met former President Jimmy Carter and learned more about all segments of the U.S. peanut industry. This year the blog was prepared by Joy Crosby, Jessie Bland and Whitney Yarbrough with the Georgia Peanut Commission. We hope you enjoy browsing and reminiscing through the blog.
We sincerely appreciate each of you for joining us on this exciting tour and hope, through the experience of this tour, you will understand and appreciate the heritage of peanut production in our state. Each of us engaged in the peanut industry – farmers, buyers, processors, researchers, Extension personnel, Georgia Peanut Commission representatives and everyone in between, are proud Georgia is the leading peanut producer in the United States, and we are all the more happy you could join us either on the tour or through this blog!
On the final stop of the 31st Georgia Peanut Tour, attendees were able to learn about the quality control measures of the industry through utilizing the services of JLA, USA. J. Leek Associates, Inc. was formed in 1990 as a technical services organization providing strategic quality assurance systems in the food and beverage industry. Their experience in analyzing food products spans the global market. From a humble beginning in Southwest Georgia, their business has grown to include locations in Argentina, Brazil, and China. With over five locations across the United States, JLA USA headquarters is located in Albany, Georgia. As a marketer and producer of confidence regarding safety and performance of food and beverage ingredients and products, JLA provides their clients with knowledge and reliable, cost-efficient systems and information to assure that their product safety and performance needs are met. JLA assists companies with analysis and certification to carry their products from shore to shore, or private consultation in highly technical areas to assist them in meeting the unique challenges of the food industry. JLA has long-term expertise in peanuts and treenuts. Their services include aflatoxin management and testing, quality measurements such as oil chemistry, total fat, moisture, protein, as well as flavor and grade. They also offer services on advanced chemistry and microbiology tests of finished products.
Attendees were able to see peanut harvest at the Lee Farm in Bronwood, Georgia. The family farm consists of Ronnie Lee and his three sons, Neil, Ron and Chandler. The family farms as a partnership growing peanuts, cotton, corn and pecans, along with cattle. There are 1,700 acres of the farm planted in peanuts, which are irrigated. They also have an additional 250 acres of dryland peanuts. The family farms in several counties in Georgia including Terrell, Dougherty, Webster, Lee and Sumter counties. During the farm visit, attendees were able to see peanut picking first hand as the equipment moved throughout the field and workers filled the peanut wagons.
Georgia Seed Development is responsible for overseeing the foundation plant material production in Georgia. Since 1997, this effort has resulted in over $15 million of additional support for UGA cultivar development.
GSD works closely with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, the University of Georgia Research Foundation and the Georgia Crop Improvement Association in supporting various research projects and in bringing new cultivars to market.
Georgia Seed Development has an active seed production program for most crops grown in the state including peanuts, soybeans, small grains, cotton, canola, blueberries and bahia grass. Our programs maintain varietal identity and high seed quality as we increase seed quantities from a small amount of breeder seed to a sufficient volume of certified seed and plant stock for commercial crops. Quality factors such as purity, germination and freedom from noxious weeds are monitored during the certification process.
GSD also maintains foundation material of vegetatively propagated turfgrass and horticultural cultivars developed by the University of Georgia and the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service.
We manage the collection of licensing and royalty fees for cultivars developed by UGA.
GSD has an 11-member board and our operating funds are derived from seed and vegetative plant material sales as well as royalty collections.
Bob Kemerait, Extension specialist at the University of Georgia, focuses his research efforts on peanuts, as well as cotton, soybean and corn nematode diseases as well. “One of the most important things I work with is the peanut crop and fortunately for plant pathologist, but unfortunately for peanut growers in the Southeast, we have any number of disease and nematode problems,” Kemerait says.
In Kemerait’s Extension role, he cooperates with Tim Brenneman and Albert Culbreth, who coordinate the research projects. Kemerait works with them to get the results and information from the research to extension agents and farmers. Kemerait credits the Georgia Peanut Commission for sponsoring the research projects.
Some of the research focuses on the use of resistant varieties to minimize disease impact, use of fungicides and new improved fungicides, new modes of action coming out in fungicides and looking at ways we can fight nematodes. Kemerait does assist in the research, but his main job is to extend this information through our county agents to the growers so they can make better timely management decisions and hopefully stay profitable into the future.
Kemerait is excited to have the Georgia Peanut Tour visit the University of Georgia Southwest Georgia research and education center in Plains. Kemerait realizes that a lot of people around the country think of President Jimmy Carter when they think of peanuts and Plains, but he encourages individuals to also think about the agriculture research that happens in Plains.
Through Kemerait’s program, he coordinates research with graduate students at the University of Georgia. Recently he has been working to study the impact of production practices on tomato spotted wilt virus. As recently as ten years ago, tomato spotted wilt virus could have been a threat to our industry and we’re seeing a resurgence now. One of the ways farmers fight tomato spotted wilt virus is to look at all the production factors, the planning date, the variety, the seeding rate, the use of in-furrow insecticides.
Scott Tubbs, cropping systems agronomist with the University of Georgia in Tifton, Georgia, focuses his research efforts on peanut agronomic research. He initiated several trials to assess replant decisions in peanuts. Through his research he is assessing what is the original plant population and at what point does it trigger a replant decision for a farmer based on that original plant population. He has tried several different methods of replanting that could include replanting by planting next to the original row or wiping out the original row completely and just starting over with an entire new replant for the full field being a maximum seeding rate.
In one trial in Tifton, Georgia, Tubbs has a replant trial where he is only replanting the initial gap in the field by forcing a two foot, four foot or six foot gap in the row where the original plants were pulled out of the ground and then replanting that either in that gap or replanting the entire row. This can make it easier on the equipment and the driver to not have to assess where the gaps occur but the final phase of this project will be to hopefully use equipment where Tubbs can assess the gaps in the row while the machinery is moving through the field and only replant the sections of row that need to be replanted based on the research that he has for yield drag, for a length of gap and the potential to improve grade as well.
The replant trials have multiple phases and locations including one in Plains, Georgia at the Southwest Georgia Research and Education Center. The research projects in Plains this year are in phase 2 where they are assessing only the yield drag alone in the length of gap. In those trials, Tubbs has one foot, two foot and three foot gaps in the row after the initial planting by forcing and pull thinning those plants out to force those gaps in the row and those gaps of one, two, and three foot occur either twice or three times in each 40-foot row. So essentially, the plots end with nine feet out of 40 feet of row missing from the field or roughly very close to a 25 percent stand decline from what the original plant stand could be, but that research by itself does not assess the replant decision.
That’s where our phase three project comes into play in Tifton this year where we are not only removing the gaps but we’re also replanting the gaps in the gap alone or with a full row replant so there are multi phases to this project that occur over time and in multiple locations, Tubbs says. The ultimate goal of this research is to help farmers assess a plant stand in the field and determine whether that plant stand is either uniform enough to leave alone or if it is spotty enough to require a replant decision, to helping them improve either yield or grade or hopefully both.
The research by Tubbs goes into more than just replant decisions. Some of his work focuses on rotations, how many years between peanut and how does that affect the plant when it grows in the field. Shorter rotations have a tendency to increase disease and nematode issues on peanut and can cause issues with herbicide resistance with weeds. Tubbs is also focusing some of his research on inoculants and inoculate formulations, when to use inoculants, how much benefit do we get from inoculants either in short rotations versus long rotations. He has also focused some research effort on tillage research conservation or conventional tillage research and seeding rates.
The Southwest Georgia Research and Education Center lies in the upper Coastal Plain near Plains, Georgia. The 512-acre center was established in 1951, when local citizens deeded 453 acres to Sumter County and later to the University System Board of Regents. The station’s purpose was to stimulate the depressed rural economy by helping area farmers diversify and increase crop yields.
The site was selected because of its heavy red clay soil, which is predominant in this region of the state. It is difficult soil to farm, but can be highly productive when carefully managed. Research here is geared to the 240-day growing season and average annual rainfall of 48 inches. Nine full-time employees maintain research for UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and U.S. Department of Agriculture researchers.
Current research focuses on every major row crop in south Georgia, including peanuts, cotton, corn, soybeans, grain sorghum, wheat, canola, peaches, watermelons and pecans. Animal scientists use the station’s 80-head cow-calf herd to conduct breeding and forage studies. The addition of irrigation in the mid-1980s made it possible to maintain crops during the area’s frequent droughts.
Food safety was a primary topic during the Georgia Peanut Tour Hot Topics seminar. Attendees were able to hear updates from researchers at the University of Georgia Griffin Campus and from JLA USA.
Anand Mohan, UGA researcher, focused his presentation of FSMA and its effects on peanut processing. Food facilities are required to register with FDA under sec. 415 of the FD&C Act. The researchers at Griffin Campus are working to provide food facilities assistance with a food safety plan, preventive controls, management responsibility and principles of equipment design. View Anand Mohan’s presentation.
In addition to learning about new regulations, attendees were able to learn about some of the peanut related food safety issues from Francisco Diez-Gonzalez, director of the UGA Center for Food Safety. According to Diez-Gonzalez, there are different type of foodborne diseases in foods ranging from intoxications, infections and sensitivies. The peanut’s main food safety risks are allergies, mycotoxins and salmonella. View Francisco Diez-Gonzalez’s presentation.
The final presenter in the food safety panel, Jack Davis of JLA USA, presented information on managing aflatoxin in peanuts. Aflatoxin is a prominent class of mycotoxins which are a product of fungal growth and invisible to the human eye. The Food and Agricultural Organization estimates 25 percent of the World’s crops are contaminated by mycotoxins. Aflatoxin contaminates a range of important crops including corn, peanuts, cotton, rice, nuts, chiles and spices. The U.S. peanut industry has invested heavily over the past fifty plus years to miniize aflatoxin in the edible market. View Jack Davis’s presentation.
Peanuts are a sustainable crop because of their nitrogen-fixing properties that benefit soil and other crops. Now researchers are recommending that farmers plant sod in rotation with peanuts to further improve the sustainability of the land, and the health of America’s favorite nut. During the Georgia Peanut Tour Hot Topics seminar, sustainability efforts of the peanut industry were presented to attendees.
David Prybylowski, sustainability consultant for the American Peanut Council, provided an update on the peanut industry’s initiatives regarding sustainability. According to Prybylowski, meeting the needs of the present while improving the ability of future generations to meet their own needs by increasing productivity, improving the environment and improving profitability for growers. Simply put, getting more peanuts from the same or less inputs.
Prybylowski shared a crop comparison water footprint of shelled peanuts versus shelled almonds, walnuts and pistachios. Shelled peanuts utilize 4.7 gallons of water per ounce while almonds use 80.4 gallons of water per ounce, walnuts use 73.5 gallons of water per ounce and pistachios use 16.8 gallons of water per ounce.
Even with this outstanding data on water usage, the peanut industry is still working towards measuring sustainability as the science continues to advance. In fact, Georgia has brought together farmers, researchers and other industry representatives in a pilot project through the Georgia Peanut Sustainability Initiative. According to Marshall Lamb, committee member of the Georgia Peanut Sustainability Initiative, the initiative plans to gather initial farm-level data on sustainability efforts to help provide data to better understand the efficiency, conservation and economic returns to producers. Additional projects include development of education and outreach programs to help peanut producers and continue to educate consumers with sustainability messaging.
Scott Monfort – University of Georgia peanut agronomist
To kick off the 31st annual Georgia Peanut Tour attendees were able to learn more about the peanut crop and food safety during the Hot Topics Seminar Tuesday afternoon. During the seminar Scott Monfort, University of Georgia peanut agronomist, provided an update on the 2017 peanut crop. According to Monfort this is the third year that Georgia has had more than 700,000 acres planted to peanuts. For the 2017 crop, 828,000 acres were planted with a predicted yield of 4,600 lbs. per acre. However, the weather and other complications could have an impact on the final production for the year. The year 2017 did bring the longest planting season on record going from March 27 to July 5, according to Monfort. However, some farmers did have poor stands due to weather and poor vigor of the crop, chemical injury, aspergillus crown rot, aspergillus flavus, nematode damage as well as damage from hogs and simple grower mistakes. Then recently farmers had to deal with Hurricane Irma. However, many farmers were able to pick their peanuts before the hurricane hit or the peanuts were still in the ground. However, farmers who also grow cotton or pecans had damage to those crops. Overall, Monfort says irrigated yields and quality so far have been above average. Some of the non-irrigated yields were impacted by the dry weather in August. However, time will only tell in the final outcome of the 2017 Georgia peanut crop.
In addition to the crop update, Stanley Fletcher, director of the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness, provided an update on the farm bill discussions. According to Fletcher, many of the farm bill mark-ups will take place this fall and may be considered in the U.S. House and U.S. Senate at that time. However, it is too soon to know when the final bill will pass Congress. Fletcher also provided an update on the Representative Peanut Farms. The 22 farms across the U.S. provide Fletcher with information on the operating costs and other expenses on the farm. This data helps Fletcher provide an economic analysis on what will work or not work for peanut farmers across the U.S. in the farm bill.