Israel farm takes pride in growing quality peanuts in Sumter County

The Georgia Peanut Tour kicked off day two in Sumter County at the farm of Hal Israel. Israel has been farming for 40+ years and manages an operation of 1,500 acres. Along with 530 acres of peanuts, Israel also grows cotton, corn, soybeans and wheat. When asked about his peanut crop, Israel said most of the crop is grown for seed and 90 percent of the crop is irrigated. His peanuts are planted on a two to three year rotation to assist in disease management and he said most of his challenges are weather and pigweed. During the field stop, Israel showed tour attendees a new variety he is growing called GA-16HO. This variety is high-oleic and yields similar to the popular variety, GA-06G. This particular field, right at 145 days old, is estimated to yield an average of 5,800 pounds per acre.

Hal Israel visiting with tour attendees about his farming operation in Sumter County.

Hal Israel visiting with tour attendees about his farming operation in Sumter County.

GA-16HO, the new variety Israel has planted.

GA-16HO, the new variety Israel has planted.











Tour attendees watching peanuts being dug at the Israel farm.

Dr. Bob Kemerait, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Georgia located on the Tifton Campus, showed tour attendees examples of mild late leaf spot in the field and talked about how Israel incorporates an excellent management approach in his farming operation.

Dr. Bob Kemerait, UGA Extension plant pathologist, showing tour attendees examples of late leaf spot.

Dr. Bob Kemerait, UGA Extension plant pathologist, showing tour attendees examples of late leaf spot.

According to Bill Starr, Sumter County Extension agent, the county averages around 15,000 acres of peanuts each year. Yields average 4,800 pounds per acre and 80 percent of the county’s peanuts are irrigated. Starr also mentioned a large portion of the county’s peanuts are grown for seed. He rates the current peanut crop as good to excellent in most fields. Other major crops grown in Sumter County include: cotton, corn, pecans and vegetables (primarily snap beans). When asked about the most troublesome production issues this year, Starr said whiteflies in cotton and vegetables, difficult weather and disease problems have all presented challenges for growers in his area.

Bill Starr, Sumter County Extension agent, visits with tour attendees about Sumter County ag production.

Bill Starr, Sumter County Extension agent, visits with tour attendees about Sumter County ag production.

To view a video clip of the GA-16HOs being dug, click below.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

That’s a Wrap!

During the final stop of the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour, attendees enjoyed lunch at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus Conference Center. During lunch, they received an overview of the Georgia Peanut Commission from GPC staff member, Don Koehler and Jessie Bland, executive director and project coordinator, respectively.  They also heard from representatives with Kelley Manufacturing Co. and Lasseter Equipment Group about some of the primary types of equipment peanut growers use on the farm.


The KMC Model 3386 Six-RowCombine includes a vine spreader and unload on the go system. This combine provides continuous harvesting by off-loading peanuts into a dump cart without stopping. Generally speaking, this option improves harvesting efficiency by approximately 20 percent. The list this price for this piece of equipment is $179,557. To learn more about the KMC combines, click HERE.


The KMC Model 4815 Dump Cart is tractor drawn and used for the purpose of shuttling peanuts from the combine to the transport trailer. The dump cart improves the harvesting efficiency by eliminating the necessity for the combine to interrupt harvesting to carry to the transport trailer for off-loading. This particular model has a 750 cubic feet capacity and is equipped with extra cleaning screens on the dump side and bottom of the cart. KMC also provides 950 cubic feet models.  All models can be used with numerous other commodities with the addition of optional panels. The list price for this piece of equipment is $46,672. To learn more about the KMC dump cart, click HERE.


The John Deere 4730 is a popular sprayer in the farming community. Because of its design, farmers are able to spray crops at an appropriate speed, while maintaining comfort and ease of use. The sprayer’s boom is configured to 80 foot, 90 foot and 100 foot adjustments to allow the farmer to choose the best option that matches their field. Most farmers purchase this type of equipment in used condition. The average price for this specific type of equipment (used) is $195,000 for a 2013 model. To learn more the John Deere 4730, click HERE.


The John Deere 8310R tractor is one designed specifically for row crops and offers performance and reliability. Its design allows farmers to operate in the field more comfortably and efficiently thanks to the advanced technology and controls offered. Some of the more advance features of the tractor allow for more precise work in the field and improved uptime. The average price for this specific type of equipment (used) is $197,500 for a 2013 model. To learn more about the John Deere 8310R, click HERE.

To conclude the tour, attendees were shown a brief slideshow highlighting the 30 years of the Georgia Peanut Tour. Thank you to all of the 2016 sponsors and attendees – we look forward to seeing you in 2017!

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Plant Pathology Update – Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus

Dr. Albert Culbreath is a research plant pathologist and professor at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. His work focuses primarily on leaf spot diseases and tomato spotted wilt virus. Culbreath said he has seen more tomato spotted wilt virus during the 2016 growing season than he has in previous years. One thing he is looking into is field resistance with new varieties coming out of the breeding program at UGA, as well as incorporation of thrips management and planting dates. When offering suggestions for growers battling tomato spotted wilt virus, Culbreath suggests planting later in the season and planting in a twin-row pattern to decrease the odds of feeling the effects of the virus. Also, he mentioned plant population and how making sure you have a good, evenly-emerged population (regardless of variety) will help. When looking at varieties, Georgia 06G has an excellent level of resistance to tomato spotted wilt; however, it is not completely resistance and can be overwhelmed. Georgia 12Y is the next best option for someone who has a heavy presence of tomato spotted wilt.  Georgia 13M does not have quite the resistance that Georgia 12Y does, but it seems to have more than Georgia 06G. Overall, if the optimum planting date is selected, the best resistance insecticide option is chosen and seeding rate is taken into consideration, the chance of keeping tomato spotted wilt out of fields is higher.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Plant Pathology Update – White Mold Disease

Dr. Tim Brenneman is a research plant pathologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. For the 2016 growing season, Brenneman said disease pressure has been relatively “light” until recently. In August, the presence of white mold, a soil-borne disease, erupted in peanut fields across the state. White mold is one of the primary diseases Brenneman works with in his research program. He said he and his team are looking at different cultivars – both those that are resistant and susceptible to the disease – and searching for best practices for managing white mold amongst them. He and his team are looking at new fungicide products on the market, as well as how to get the best activity out of current fungicide products. One method he and his team are looking at is chemigation. This process involves applying the chemical through the irrigation water. It allows the fungicide to seep down into the soil and combat the disease right where it begins. Brenneman is also looking at a new sprayer this year that will open the peanut canopy by spreading the vines back and allow the chemical to reach the soil better. This method is one he hopes will be especially beneficial for dryland peanut growers since that is where he sees most problems with white mold – in fields where farmers are unable to irrigate their peanuts.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Cropping Systems Update

Dr. Scott Tubbs is the cropping systems agronomist and research peanut agronomist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. Most of his research is related to issues the grower can manage in his field directly. A lot of his research focuses on variety testing in different scenarios that affect disease patterns, yield and grade. These scenarios would be things such as, row pattern (twin row vs. single row), tillage patterns (conservation vs. strip-till) and re-plant decisions. For example, if a grower were to have a poor plant stand at the beginning of the season, Tubbs and his team are working to obtain information that will help the grower decide whether he or she should re-plant. Some of the re-plant decisions can cause the maturity profile of the peanuts to shift – having multiple maturities growing in the same field at the same time. In turn, this makes it difficult for the grower to determine the best time to harvest to maximize yield and grade. Because of that, Tubbs’ research at the Lang Farm is focusing on assessing the re-plant decisions in specific plant populations and determining the best timing for digging those peanuts.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Album

Entomology Update

Dr. Mark Abney is a research and Extension entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. The primary focus of his research and Extension program is the development and implementation of economically and environmentally sustainable insect management strategies for pests of peanut.

Abney says 2016 has been an interesting year for insect pressure in peanuts. Thrips, which transmit tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV), have had a heavier presence throughout the 2016 growing season. In turn, UGA specialists are seeing more cases of TSWV across the peanut belt. Other issues have varied across the state depending on location and whether farmers are growing irrigated or dryland peanuts.

On dryland peanuts, he is seeing spider mites, lesser cornstalk borers and foliage caterpillars. He has also seen more redneck peanut worms this year than in previous years. He said these are not a real serious issue economically, but they are being seen and reported by growers. Like in previous years, he is seeing the usual three cornered alfalfa hoppers and potato leaf hoppers occasionally; however, they have not become a serious problem. He said he feels the most serious pests he’s seen are the lesser cornstalk borers (mid-season) and two spotted spider mites (late season). Those are starting to really show up in dryland peanuts, and in turn, the fields are not looking good. He believes the yield potential is not looking too good. “It’s tough, because nematicides that we need to use to control those populations are really expensive and it’s hard to make the call to put that money into a crop when your yield potential is low.” He said he is trying to work with growers to make the best decision when it comes to insect pressure.

Dr. Rajagopalbabu Srinivasan is an entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. His research focuses on studying thrips, whitefly and aphid-transmitted plant viruses affecting several crops in Georgia, as well as across the Southeast. Specifically in peanuts, he has been studying tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) due to the increased presence over the last two years. His current research is looking at the causes of the flair up of TSWV in recent years. Some of the potential causes he and his team are looking at include plant resistance – resistance to the virus may have decreased in some varieties; changes in the virus – resistance breaking strains; and thrips developing a resistance to insecticides. Because thrips transmit TSWV, they have the potential to be the reason for the virus increase if insecticides are not working well enough to keep thrips at bay. Srinivasan thinks this could certainly be the reason why thrips pressure has increased, along with TSWV, over the past few years. This is one of the main issues he and his team are working to learn more about.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Nut’N Better than peanut butter from Golden Boy Foods

After leaving Irwin County, tour attendees traveled to Fitzgerald to tour American Blanching/Golden Boy Foods production plant. Here, attendees were able to see how peanut butter is manufactured from raw peanuts being delivered to the plant, to peanut butter leaving in jars or tankers! Tour attendees were also given samples of Golden Boy Foods’ brand of peanut butter, Nut’N Better to take home and try. Click HERE to see a slideshow of the tour.


American Blanching began operations in the early 1980s as Fitzgerald Blanching. Under this name, the company provided blanching and cleaning services for the peanut industry. The location of the facility was strategically placed in the heart of the peanut belt, where more than 75 percent of the U.S. peanut crop is within driving distance.

The facility has a blanching capacity of 25,000 pounds per hour. This efficiency is due to the company’s use of the latest technology in the industry – from custom designed and built blanchers, to state-of-the-art electronic sorters and X-ray machines. In 1995, American Blanching expanded its operations to include peanut butter.

The same Fitzgerald location now has two production plants, where more than 100 million pounds of peanut butter is produced each year. The product is shipped in sizes ranging from retail jars to 40,000 pound tanker trucks.

img_7552Some of the peanut butter produced at American Blanching/Golden Boy Foods is also used for therapeutic peanut product. MANA – “Mother Administered Aid” – is a ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) that is fortified peanut paste. The product has been formulated to provide all of a child’s basic nutritional needs. The product is served in an easy-open packet and can provide life-saving qualities to starving child when administered three times a day. The product is widely used underdeveloped countries where childhood malnutrition is common. To learn more about MANA, visit

In 2014, American Blanching joined with Golden Boy Foods to become the largest private label and contract manufacturing nut butter organization in North America. Golden Boy Foods was founded as a family-owned company in 1979 and sold primarily roasted and raw nuts, as well as dried fruit. Today, as a subsidiary of Post Holdings, the company supplies organic and conventional grown nut butters, baking nuts, raisins, dried fruit and trail mixes to leading grocery stores, food service distributors and industrial bakeries across North America.


American Blanching/Golden Boy Foods is located in the peanut-producing area of Ben Hill County. According to Holly Anderson, Ben Hill County ag and natural resource agent, Ben Hill County farmers planted approximately 7,000 acres in peanuts for 2016 and are estimated to produce between 3,500-3,750 pounds per acre. For 2016, Anderson said most farmers are struggling with the lack of rainfall, especially on dryland fields, and disease pressure – both tomato spotted wilt virus and white mold. Even so, she said the crop is looking fair/good depending on the amount of rain received and disease pressure in specific areas. The two major crops grown in Ben Hill County are cotton and peanuts. In regard to peanuts, approximately 60 percent of the crop is irrigated and 40 percent dryland.

The day concluded with dinner at Nabila’s Garden Restaurant in downtown Fitzgerald.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Album

A Premium Southern Lunch

After a great tour at Premium Peanut’s shelling facility, tour attendees traveled to downtown Douglas where lunch was hosted at the Central Square Complex and sponsored by Premium Peanut LLC. Attendees enjoyed a home-style meal and received a brief presentation from Premium Peanut, along with a raffle drawing with giveaways.

After hearing from Premium Peanut’s representatives, Dr. Sam Pardue, dean and director of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, addressed the group. Dean Pardue joined the college in March from North Carolina State University, where he served as associate dean for academics.

Today, the dean is celebrating his six month anniversary serving in his role at UGA. He expressed his gratitude to the agricultural community for welcoming him and allowing him to learn more about the Georgia agricultural industry. During his six month tenure, he said the same sentiment is echoed within all commodities across the state.

“Everyone is so grateful for what the University of Georgia and College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences does for them, and I think it’s a great partnership,” Pardue said.


Whether it’s research conducted, the services offered by Cooperative Extension or the privilege of educating young men and women across the state – Pardue sees the value in it all. He asked attendees to encourage young men and women in their lives to consider agriculture in their future.

Pardue went on to talk about the growing population and the need to feed and clothe the world in the coming years.

“I was born in 1955 and there were three billion people on the planet…If the good Lord keeps me around until I’m 95, there will be over nine billion people on the planet, so in my lifetime alone, we’ve seen an increase of the population that will have tripled,” Pardue said.


He said the need for additional land, less water use, etc. will grow in demand, yet we will have to feed and clothe more people than ever before. And this was something that could only be accomplished with a vision and forward thinking. He complimented the Georgia agricultural industry and its leaders who have had that vision and who have put Georgia in a position to be a leader in so many areas, such as peanuts.

View the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

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.

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