We hope you are all well in spite of the challenges we all are facing. It has been a difficult year in many regards. This includes trying to plan a tour for a large group of people to travel together, eat together, visit numerous facilities, etc., all while maintaining strict social distancing and safety precautions. We love hosting the Georgia Peanut Tour, and were determined to try and make it happen. However, as planning progressed, it became apparent that the prudent option would be to cancel the 2020 Georgia Peanut Tour. This was not an easy decision, but I am confident it was the right decision. At this point we will table our plans to go to Southwest Georgia, and hopefully will be there in September of 2021. In the meantime, we will work hard to still produce a great crop of high-quality Georgia peanuts, and we look forward to you joining us next year!
Be safe, and eat more peanuts!
Georgia Peanut Tour Committee Chairman
The final stop on the 2019 Georgia Peanut Tour brought attendees to the peanut boiling operation of Hardy Farms Peanuts in Hawkinsville, Ga. Boiled peanuts are affectionately known by many as “The Country Caviar.”
The Hardy family has been growing peanuts in the heartland of Georgia for over 70 years. Our growers are part of a multi-generational legacy with experience being handed down from one generation to the next.
Peanut farming began in the mid 1900s for the Hardy family when patriarch, Norman Hardy began farming after returning from the war. He ran a multi-crop farm and livestock operation in the heart of Dodge County. When Mr. Norman unexpectedly passed in 1977 at the age of 57, his sons, Alex, Kenneth and Randy, along with their cousin Terry partnered up to transform the family operation. At the time, the Hardy clan faced agricultural industry hardships during a decade of droughts and low commodity prices.
With innovative thinking and minds focused on mitigating crop losses, the Hardy relatives formed a production business for green peanut sales in 1991, well-known today as Hardy Farms Peanuts. The company focused on selling and marketing green peanuts exclusively until the addition of cousins Brad and Ken Hardy, sons of brothers Alex and Kenneth Hardy to the family business in the late 1990s. Brad and Ken focused their efforts on the production and growth of the boiled peanut market for the family business. The Hardy Farms Peanuts brand recognition grew significantly throughout Middle Georgia with the growth of its road-side retail stands in the late 1990s and early 2000s. Today, six members of the Hardy clan manage Hardy Farms Peanuts. That includes Alex Hardy, his son Brad, brother Kenneth Hardy, his son Ken, brother Randy Hardy and cousin Terry Shadix.
Hardy Farms is a leading producer of fresh green and boiled peanuts. They produce over 5 million pounds of green and boiled peanuts annually, that are sold all over the United States. Now with over 25 roadside retail locations throughout Middle Georgia and supermarket presence throughout the southeastern U.S., Hardy Farms peanuts are readily available to anyone craving the true country caviar.
Also, the market for oil and dry roasted peanuts is global. In 2014, cousins Brad Hardy and Ken Hardy, elevated the family business to include the production of oil and dry roasted peanuts with the opening of their roasting plant. Hardy Farms Roasting can produce up to 3,000 pounds of oil and dry roasted peanuts an hour. The company does private label packaging and bulk packaging for commercial companies who use it in their products. It also launched its own retail brand – Party Peanuts by Hardy’s Peanuts Inc. – in four flavors: Simply Salted, Sweet Southern Sriracha, Delicious Dill Pickle and Crushed Black Pepper.
The Georgia Peanut Tour introduced an on-farm precision agriculture stop at Dawson Brothers Farms in Hawkinsville, Georgia. During the visit Jason Thomas with John Deere and Dusty Engel with Lasseter Equipment Group LLC showcased several pieces of equipment used on the farm and explained their precision ag components.
This stop included most of the day to day precision ag equipment that is used on farms across the state of Georgia. While Dawson Brothers farms has a much larger fleet of equipment to display at this stop (including their own crop duster plane) this stop shows the level of integrated equipment used for the production of peanuts.
The first station on the stop included two John Deere eight thousand series tractors equipped with the newest John Deere 6000 GPS receivers. This receiver has only been available for two years, but it has been upgraded from the Star Fire 3000 receiver. The new Star Fire 6000 offers an increase in accuracy, a faster processor and a software update time to just three minutes compared to thirty minutes with the Star Fire 3000.
How it works: The Star Fire 6000 acquires RTK signal to keep the tractor on line and driving straight. RTK signal is the most accurate option offering sub inch accuracy from pass to pass. RTK accuracy is vital for our peanut farmers as they must use absolute precision when planting and digging peanuts to minimize damage to the crop. In a general sense, RTK signal is acquired from towers placed strategically around the state to get full coverage for farmers receivers to send and receive the signal. Another great thing about RTK is it offers the same accuracy year after year. This option gives farmers the capability to use the same lines after rotating a crop for a year or two and being able to return to the same line for that specific crop.
Another new product that was featured at this stop will be in the cab of the tractor. John Deere has released its new Generation 4 integrated display. This display is upgraded from the 2630 display that was released in 2010. The new generation 4 display moves away from the typical GS3 technology that most farmers have used or are still using today and it has made a lot of improvements for farmers in this region. While the 2630 gave the farmers an option to record and document their work it, it wasn’t as user friendly as the Generation 4. One major change for peanut farmers in the Generation 4 display is they now have the option to document peanut acres as “Peanuts”. The 2630 only offered a documentation tab as “edible beans” and not peanuts. With the new Generation 4 display peanut farmers have the option to properly document planted acres while using the “Peanuts” tab.
Another major change to discuss is the display in its self. John Deere did a very good job of upgrading this display to look similar to a cell phone or tablet. Cellular devices have a tablet style format to access your applications and the new Generation 4 display by John Deere offers this same layout. This makes ease of operation and navigation through the display incredibly easier for farmers and operators. To put this in perspective. With one tap of the screen farmers can now access all of their programmed implements to quickly switch their choice of operation (planting, Spraying, tillage or harvest) and then one tap of a button to return to their home screen. The 2630 display did not offer this as farmers had to navigate through pages of documentation set-up just to make a minor change. This display saves time for farmers and improves documentation data for the farmers.
The Second station displayed a new John Deere 4030 self-propelled sprayer also equipped with the new Generation 4 display. This sprayer is equipped with a lot of new features in the cab that have eased the operation of applying herbicides, pesticides and fungicides to the peanut crop. A main high point to talk about is the new hydro handle that has been upgraded inside the cab. The idea of the new hydro handle is to give the farmer the capability to control everything on the sprayer without having to touch the display or the console keys. The new handle offers options to move left or right as the sprayer drives autonomously down the row, turning sections on and off with a click of a button, and navigating through the display.
One of the main things on display at this stop was seeing the section control technology. Section control technology is programmed on the sprayer and its main purpose is to eliminate over spraying or over applying a product. The spectators got to see the sprayer spray a full broad cast spray up the row and then as it came back down the row the sprayer would cut off in sections to prevent overlap. While that’s going on outside the cab, inside the cab is another story. The operator can also see where he applied via the display in the cab. As the operator drives the sprayer, the screen is painting the field blue where he has already applied. This lets the operator know that he has already applied there, but if he misses a spot the screen will not turn blue. This lets the operator know to go back over that spot and apply again. This technology is a major game changer in our industry. It lowers cost and risk to damage the crop by not over applying, but it also lowers the risk of missing spots in the field.
Following the precision ag demo, attendees were able to see a crop dusting demonstration and visit a peanut field where Dawson Brothers were harvesting peanuts.
Georgia Peanut Tour attendees were able to learn more about peanut harvest at Chase Farms in Ogelthorpe, Georgia. Attendees were greeted by father and son duo, Glen Lee and Donald. Together, they grow peanuts, field corn, sweet corn and raise poultry. Donald currently represents farmers in his area by serving as the District Five Georgia Peanut Commission Board member.
During the tour stop, attendees were also able to learn more about an on-farm research trial by the University of Georgia Peanut Team at Chase Farms. The research is focusing on the use of Apogee, a plant growth regulator. Apogee is applied twice per year to peanuts to help with excessive vine growth. The product works on peanuts by reducing vegative vine growth and increasing yields when used properly.
“We usually have bigger vines and this product is used to hold the vine growth down so that more energy goes into producing nuts rather than just producing vines,” Donald Chase says. “It is something that is promising.”
In addition to the digging demonstration, local county Extension agents presented a Harvest Maturity Clinic for tour attendees. Farmers utilize the hull scrape method or pod blasting and the Peanut Profile Board to determine if peanuts have reached optimum maturity for harvest. Digging peanuts is one of the biggest decisions farmers make each year. The maturity of a peanut affects the yield, flavor, grade and shelf life. Farmers can lose as much as 500 to 700 pounds per acre in fields if peanuts are harvested too early or too late. During the tour several county agents set up stations to show attendees how to use the Peanut Profile Board. To learn more about using the profile board, watch this video from an earlier tour.
The Georgia Peanut Tour visited Sasser 520 Peanut Buying Point so attendees could learn more about the first point of delivery for peanuts after harvest. Farmers haul their peanuts in wagons or semi trailers to the buying point. Prior to delivery the farmer tags the load in the field. The tag contains the producer’s name, farm and variety information.
Once at the buying point the peanuts are dryed in the wagons and then a sample is removed from the wagon for grading. The grading is handled by the Georgia Federal State Inspection Service. The peanuts are stored in warehouses and then hauled to shellers for additional processing.
The Georgia Peanut Tour visited the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. This lab was established in 1965 for the purpose of improving farming practices. Since that time, scientists have studied a variety of factors involved in peanut production from better planting practices to better irrigation practices. Scientists have also researched ways to improve harvesting methods, storage methods, and the better use of environmental and financial resources.
Dr. Marshall Lamb, research leader and location coordinator at the National Peanut Research Laboratory, says, “We are one of the only USDA ARS labs that is solely dedicated to peanut research. Here at the lab we are developing technology for the end users.”
The NPRL has four different main projects that they work under. One of those is a cropping systems unit where we look at crop rotations and irrigation. Secondly, NPRL has an engineering unit that Dr. Chris Butts is the lead on where researchers look at ways to improve efficiency and quality in the post harvest sector. NPRL also focuses efforts on chemistry, genetics, and molecular biology where researchers are looking at natural defense mechanisms for peanuts but also ways to improve drought tolerance, and to come out with improved varieties for the industry.
NPRL will be celebrating their 50th anniversary this November. Through 50 years of research, scientists at the lab have created a tremendous amount of technology that is being used in the industry today. Originally, the focus at NPRL was on engineering and aflatoxins. However, over the years scientists have migrated to look at cropping systems type work and irrigation scheduling. Researchers at NPRL actually developed the Irrigator Pro scheduling system for managing the timing and amount of irrigation in peanuts. Researchers also developed Whole Farm which is a planning system that incorporates rotation data to help growers make better decisions on what to plant in the field for profit maximization.
Within the engineering unit at NPRL, Dr. Butts has done a lot of storage work both farmer stock storage and shelf stock storage. The research has actually changed the way the industry is looking at storing peanuts to maintain quality throughout storage. NPRL scientists are also looking at drought resistance projects with our cooperative breeding program with Auburn University. The program is showing a lot of promise with some of the cultivar lines that are showing drought resistance and will be available soon for farmers.
Dr. Renee Arias is working on ways to break the aflatoxin synthesis pathway and she has done an amazing amount of work on that area so that one day, we can hopefully eliminate aflatoxin contamination in peanuts. Her success has actually led to her receiving the Presidential Early Career Scientist of the Year Award a few years ago. Dr. Sobolev and Dr. Massa are working on looking at ways to increase phytoalexin production in peanuts which is a natural defense mechanism such that when a pathogen invades a peanut, it will be stronger and able to resist it better.
The Georgia Peanut Tour attendees learned about the research conducted by University of Georgia Peanut Team members while touring the Southwest Georgia Research and Education Center in Plains, Georgia. Albert Culbreath, research plant pathologist at the University of Georgia Tifton campus, focuses his research on leaf spot diseases caused by a couple different fungi and tomato spotted wilt virus on peanuts. According to Culbreath, his research includes a variety of integrated management principles to try to take care of all those diseases as efficiently and economically as possible.
Culbreath coordinates research on resistant varieties and works with multiple breeding programs trying to develop better resistance to the tomato spotted wilt virus and leaf spot diseases. His research focuses on cultural practices and timing of planting that would affect both the leaf spot and the spotted wilt virus.
One of the things he spends a lot of time on especially with control of leaf spot diseases are fungicides. He says farmers are heavily dependent on fungicides for leaf spot control in peanuts. There are severe problems with resistance to about three classes of available fungicides. Through Culbreath’s research, he looks at different mixtures, timing, alterations and such that will give farmers the best performance of the fungicides that they have to use. That’s one of Culbreath’s main objectives for his work at the Southwest Georgia Research and Education Center in Plains, Georgia. He found a couple years ago that adding sulfur to several of the triazole fungicides that we depended upon and then last year adding sulfur to the Strobilurins fungicides greatly improves the efficiency with them even though we have resistance to those classes of fungicides.
Sulfur is a relatively safe and inexpensive addition and he has seen dramatic improvements in leaf spot control with that. So, in his tests in Plains this year, he is looking at different formulations of sulfur in combination with different fungicides that alone we don’t expect them to do that well. Through his research, he will see if adding sulfur to the fungicides helps to improve the control that we get from those fungicides.
The Georgia Peanut Tour attendees learned about the research conducted by University of Georgia Peanut Team members while touring the Southwest Georgia Research and Education Center in Plains, Georgia. Scott Tubbs, UGA cropping systems agronomist, discussed some of his research projects focusing on seeding rates when planting. Most of his work focuses on peanut agronomic research, but he also does additional work in cropping systems related to rotations that are built around peanuts and other major crops that are grown in our systems.
He conducts research at multiple locations throughout the state so that the research is representative of all growing areas across the state. Research is conducted at the University of Georgia Southwest Research and Education Center in Plains, the Southeast Research and Education Center in Midville, the Attapulgus Research and Education Center in the Southwest corner of Georgia and the UGA Tifton Campus. So his research covers the entire state, lots of different soil and climate types to test our trials in multiple different soils and different weather pattern conditions.
The research trial he is conducting at the Plains Research and Education Center is a grow pattern and seeding rate treatment effect on six different cultivars of peanuts. He is testing six different varieties that were bred in four different programs from our public breeding institutions which include: University of Georgia, Auburn University, University of Florida, and the USDA ARS Breeding Programs. This trial is looking at twin row versus single row peanut using three different seeding rates of 5, 6 and 7 seed per foot for each one of those varieties.
In years past, he has conducted some similar research and noticed that the twin row row pattern will support a slightly higher seeding rate than the single row row pattern for maximizing yield potential. Results have shown that farmers can sometimes actually reduce their seeding rate a little bit lower in single row without losing yield potential. However, farmers may run into potentially some tomato spotted wilt virus interactions by reducing seeding rate at certain times of the year with certain varieties that are more susceptible to that virus.
Tour attendees visited the farm of Sedrick Rowe in Americus, Georgia, to learn more about organic peanut production. Rowe is a first-generation farmer who started growing organic peanuts two years ago. He is currently growing 12 acres of organic peanuts in Americus and 12 acres of organic peanuts in Dougherty County, Georgia. He grows corn for his rotation crop and grows rye and wheat for a cover crop. Rowe planted the peanut variety Georgia-12Y this year. He currently markets his peanuts through a combined effort with other organic growers through the Georgia Organic Peanut Association. Some of the organic peanuts are sold to Georgia Grinders Peanut Butter.
Rowe says the main issues he has faced with growing organic peanuts is weed control with the limited amount of chemicals he can use. Attendees on the tour were able to view Rowe’s field and see some of the morningglory weed that Rowe had issues with this year. Rowe uses a Kubota M7060 tractor, a rolling cultivator to loosen the soil and help control weeds and weed wiper. He also hand pulls some of the weeds in the field. He also uses a two-row peanut digger at harvest. This year he is purchasing a peanut combine from Ag Pro in Blakely to harvest his peanuts.
Founded in 2019, the Georgia Organic Peanut Association (GOPA) is a farmer-owned cooperative incorporated in the state of Georgia to market USDA Certified Organic peanuts and other agricultural products. The cooperative’s small farmers come from across the state and have almost 50 years of combined experience growing organic crops. The organization is committed to bringing added value to established farming operations and to creating new opportunities for small and beginning producers in the region.
In 2018, with financial support from the USDA Office of Partnerships and Public Engagement and the Bradley-Turner Foundation, Georgia Organics led a one-year project to develop a supply chain and marketplace around Certified Organic peanuts that could support small farmers.