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.

First Point of Delivery – Tillman and Deal Buying Point

2018_gpt_savannah_0079sOn the first stop of the 32nd annual Georgia Peanut Tour, attendees visited Tillman and Deal Peanut Buying Point in Statesboro, Georgia. The new buying point opened in the fall of 2017 and buys peanuts for Premium Peanut, a peanut sheller based out of Douglas, Georgia. Premium Peanut owns and operates the newest and largest peanut shelling facility in the world. The shelling plant was founded in the fall of 2014 when seven buying points in South Georgia came together to form Premium Peanut. The shelling facility is grower-owned and was designed to integrate the peanut production process, stabilize the market for growers in the region, and ensure a stable supply of peanuts at a competitive cost.

The Premium Peanut shelling facility was designed with the best and newest equipment in the industry, possessing a shelling capacity of over 300,000 tons of peanuts per year. In January of 2016, one month ahead of schedule, shelling operations began on the 2015 harvested crop. In 2018, Premium Peanut expanded to include a filtered crude peanut oil facility located adjacent to the shelling plant. The new operation has the capacity to produce more than 3 million gallons of peanut oil per year.

Tillman and Deal is the first-place farmers deliver their peanuts to at harvest time. The peanut buying point receive, weigh, clean, dry, inspect, grade and prepare peanuts for storage and shelling. All United States produced peanuts must be inspected by the Federal-State Inspection Service at a registered peanut buying point.

2018_gpt_savannah_0076sTillman and Deal buys peanuts from approximately 30 farmers in the area and grades and stores nearly 30,000 tons annually. As peanuts enter the buying point, a sample is taken to determine the moisture level of the peanuts. All peanuts need to be at least 10.5 percent moisture level or below. If the peanuts are above 10.5 percent in moisture then the peanuts are dried in the wagons to decrease the moisture level. The semi-trailers are hooked up to large dryers where air flows through the peanuts and dry them at 105 degrees F. The semi-trailers hold 30 tons of peanuts per load.

2018_gpt_savannah_0107sOnce the peanuts are dry then a sample is taken from the trailer where the peanuts are graded by the Georgia Federal-State Inspection Service. Peanuts are classed by weight, damage and foreign material. If the sample has more than 7 percent foreign material then the peanuts need to run through the cleaner. Once clean, peanuts are put in elevator and placed on a conveyor belt for storage in a warehouse that can hold 15,000 tons of peanuts. Currently, Tillman and Deal only stores the peanut variety, Georgia O6G, in the warehouse on site. All other varieties grown by farmers in the area are shipped directly to Premium Peanut for storage.

Once peanuts leave the buying point and shelling plant then they are shipped by train or semi-trailers to manufacturers who process peanut butter, candy products or delicious roasted peanuts.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

2018 Georgia Peanut Crop Update

The Georgia Peanut Tour kicked off with a Hot Topics Seminar on Tuesday, Sept. 18. During the seminar Scott Monfort, University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist provided an update on the 2018 Georgia peanut crop. According to Monfort, farmers have a very good crop to look at although we have had several challenges that we have had to face in 2018. We’ve had a lot of rain and we usually don’t complain about rain, but this year we’ve had a tremendous amount of rain throughout the growing year and it has caused some of the crop to be quite a bit late. The peanut production has basically divided into two crops this year. We’ve got our early crop and our late crop and for the most part we are just now getting to dig this early crop and it looks pretty good right now. We are dealing with diseases and insect problems as well as some harvest problems just because of the rain we continue to get. We need a good bit of dry weather in order to get these peanuts out of the ground, get them dry and get them harvested and to the buying point. As you are out this week looking at the different processes we go through to harvest this crop you’ll understand more of what I’m talking about here. Some of these areas will be lush and green then some areas will have dry pockets. For the most part this year its average to above average depending on how well the weather holds out and stays hot through October. That’s going to be a big factor here to how this crop turns up. At this point we are saying that we do have a good crop, but we do have quite a few challenges we are facing and dealing with this year.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Welcome to the 32nd annual Georgia Peanut Tour

Welcome to the 32nd annual Georgia Peanut Tour. This year’s tour chairman Bob Kemerait, University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist, welcomes all attendees, whether this is your first time on the tour or if you are a “peanut tour veteran.” As in previous years, you will be immersed in the production efforts of one of Georgia’s most important agricultural crops and we hope this gives you a better insight not only into the challenges farmers face, but also reasons why we say that the world’s best peanuts are produced here in Georgia. Through the tour, we hope all attendees will come to better understand and appreciate the heritage of peanut production in our state. The 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour is staged in the eastern region of our state’s  production area.  During the tour attendees will be able to see peanut production first-hand while touring four different peanut farms in Screven, Bulloch, Burke and Emanuel County. Attendees will also see research conducted by scientists at the University of Georgia Southeast Research and Education Center in Midville, Georgia; tour a peanut buying point in Statesboro and the Georgia Port Authority in Savannah.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

2018 Georgia Peanut Tour set for Savannah area

The thirty-second annual Georgia Peanut Tour will be held September 18-20, 2018, in Savannah, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The tour brings the latest information on peanuts while giving a first-hand view of industry infrastructure from production and handling to processing and utilization. Tour stops will be made in several peanut producing counties including Bulloch, Burke, Candler and Screven County.

Attendees can expect to see first-hand nearly every aspect of peanut production in the state. This year’s tour hosts many exciting stops including on-farm harvest demonstrations and clinics, research at the University of Georgia Southeast Georgia Research and Education Center and a tour of the Georgia Port Authority in Savannah.

The tour kicks off this year with the Hot Topics Seminar on Sept. 18 at 3 p.m. at Crosswinds Golf Club, Savannah, Georgia. The seminar topics include an update on the 2018 Georgia peanut crop and a special focus on the export market.

The Georgia Peanut Commission, University of Georgia-Tifton Campus and Griffin Campus, Southwest Research & Education Center, Attapulgus Research & Education Center, and the USDA Agricultural Research Service National Peanut Research Lab coordinate the tour.

Hotel accommodations can be made at the Hilton Garden Inn Savannah Airport in Savannah, Georgia, by calling 912-964-5550. Rooms are available at the rate of $129 plus tax for a standard room. Be sure to ask for the Georgia Peanut Tour room block. The room block deadline is Aug. 19, 2018.

Visit georgiapeanuttour.com to register and view tour schedule. The early bird registration rate is $75 prior to Aug. 10, 2018. For more information, contact Hannah Jones at hannah@gapeanuts.com or call at 229-386-3470.

Register Online
Download Registration Form
Tour Schedule
Wednesday, Sept. 19 – Map & Driving Directions
Thursday, Sept. 20 – Map & Driving Directions
Reserve Hotel Room Online
Download Sponsorship Info

Who are the Bloggers?

Whitney Yarbrough, Joy Crosby and Jessie Bland with the Georgia Peanut Commission. Thanks to Grant Tuttle for the photo.

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!

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Quality Control at JLA

2017_gpt_albany_0456sOn 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.

View the JLA, USA presentation.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Quality Peanuts at Lee Farms

Neil and Ronnie Lee of Bronwood, Georgia.

Neil and Ronnie Lee of Bronwood, Georgia.

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.

Click here to learn more about Lee Farms.

Georgia Seed Development Enhances Seed Production

IMG_1047_seedlabGeorgia 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.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.

Kemerait Provides Update on Peanut Disease Research at UGA

kemeraitBob 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.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album.