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.
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.
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.
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.
Some 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 www.mananutrition.org.
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.
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.
After 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.
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:
- 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
- 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”
- Gravity: used to separate any foreign material left after the peanuts have been shelled
- Sorters: “electronic eyes” used to pick out dark spots and blemishes unwanted in product
- Sizers: includes jumbo, medium and number one sizes; splits are also included; Carter Day machines are then used for additional sizing
- 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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
- 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.
Wednesday morning kicked off with the first stop of the 2015 Georgia Peanut Tour at Bell Farms in Climax, Georgia. Andy Bell and his brother Buster have been farming together for more than 30 years. Bell and his brother raise cattle and grow approximately 900 acres of peanuts, 1,100-1,200 acres of cotton and 200 acres of corn and silage in Decatur County. Of their peanuts, approximately 800 acres are GA-06G, 60 acres are Tiff Guard and 45 acres are Florida 107, a high oleic variety.
During the morning visit, Bell showed attendees a field of GA-06Gs and discussed how he manages the field. “These particular peanuts have been sprayed three times with Provost and one time with Headline,” Bell said. “They are about 125 days old; not quite ready to dig.” The maturity range for GA-06G is approximately 135-145 days after planting, depending on the weather. He also mentioned how there is no hand-weeding in the field. Even though Bell and his family spray their field throughout the growing season, a lot of their herbicides are put into place at the time of planting.
Bell went on to discuss his family’s use of GPS technology on their equipment. “All of our crops are managed with GPS and we really feel like that saves us money on gathering, planting and spraying; it just makes everything work a lot better when you have a straight row…It’s a really good system and it works well.” The GPS technology steers the tractor down to within a couple of inches accuracy. This type of tool can cost growers approximately $30,000, depending on the model. Bell and his family run two, six-row diggers. During harvest, they normally start early in the morning with digging and pick all afternoon. They have family members hauling peanuts and drying them, as well.
According to Bell, the field size varies across the county. “Typically, on this side of the county, the field size is smaller. This particular field is a 30 acre, irrigated field. Our largest irrigated peanut field is about 115 acres. The land on this side of the river just doesn’t lay well enough to have larger fields.”
Dr. Bob Kemerait, UGA plant pathologist, pointed out how well Bell Farms’ looked and commended him for his practices. He discussed how a field that looks as good as Bell Farms’ is not easy to achieve; it is difficult. Education and innovation of Georgia’s peanut growers, as well as cooperation with UGA Extension is also important in helping Georgia farmers grow the highest quality peanuts.
Dr. Scott Monfort, UGA peanut agronomist, pointed out how expensive it is for Georgia peanut farmers. “We’re getting to bigger and bigger equipment, more technology; and that’s more expense. This is probably a couple hundred thousand dollars’ worth of equipment sitting right here, and that’s not to mention he’s probably got several of these that he runs on 800 acres.” He commented on how the industry is appreciative of Georgia growers and the long hours and money they invest to grow a quality crop.
When asked questions from tour attendees, Bell said he and his brother do not typically plant cover crops; however, on dry years, they will bale peanut hay and feed it to their cattle. When selecting varieties to plant, nematodes are the key influencer. “If it’s dryland, we plant Tiff Guard, which has resistance to nematodes.” For a variety like GA-06G, Bell says approximately four gallons of Telone, used for nematode control, is put out in the row and peanuts are planted right behind it. The selection of Florida 107 for planting was market driven because of the high oleic trait. For those who are unfamiliar, high oleic is related to the ratio of linoleic acid in the peanut. It allows the peanut to have a longer shelf-life, making it more desirable to food manufacturers. When asked about rotation, Bell mentioned cotton and corn as rotational crops. “Typically our rotation is two years of cotton and/or corn, or corn silage and one year of peanuts. Sometimes it can be more or less depending on the situation.”
To conclude the tour stop, Dr. Monfort, Dr. Kemerait and Bell discussed the expected yield of the presented field. “They [peanuts] could be between two and three tons per acre, it just depends on how mature they are,” Monfort said. Kemerait added, “If he makes three tons out here and right now the price is about $400/ton, he makes $1,200.” When asked about how much he spends per acre, Bell replied “roughly $900-$1,000 an acre…it’s our highest dollar crop and irrigated peanuts would be hard to grow for less than $900 per acre…if we make two tons out here, we will break even.” Kemerait pointed out how it is not easy or always profitable to be a peanut farmer.
According to Brian Hayes, UGA extension agent, Decatur County has a farm gate value of $200+ million annually and farms between 25,000-28,000 acres of peanuts historically; however, in 2015, there have been approximately 35,000 acres of peanuts planted throughout the county.
To view a digging demonstration at Bell Farms, view the video below.
After finishing up lunch at UGA’s Southeast Research and Education Center, tour participants continued their trek to the land of onions. Wait a minute. This is supposed to be the Peanut Tour. What are we doing visiting an onion area? Well, since Georgia is known for its sweet onion, the Vidalia Onion, it is only fitting to learn a little about Georgia’s famous tear-jerker while in this part of the state.
Tour attendees arrived at Vidalia Valley in Lyons, Georgia. Vidalia Valley is owned by the Stanley family, which is a 6th generation family of Georgia farmers. Brian, R.T. Jr., Tracy and Vince are the current generation to grow the business from a local, seasonal farm to a year-round, multi-location and multi-functional group of integrated businesses. They not only grow the country’s famous Vidalia Onions, they farm over 4,000 acres of other vegetables and row crops. Vidalia Valley, the processing facility, bottles thousands of cases and millions of pounds of peeled and diced onions including reds, whites and yellows, each year. Vidalia Onion Farms, IQF facility, freezes millions of pounds of diced onions, carrots and sweet potatoes each year. Vidalia’s Best, the fresh produce facility, grows and distributes fresh cucumbers, melons and sweet potatoes. When it comes to fresh and processed produce, the Stanley’s and their integrated business are your East coast source for ‘Farm Direct Made Easy.’
During the tour of Vidalia Valley, tour participants were given a tour of the facility. At this particular facility, onions grown by Stanley Farms, as well as outsourced onions are shipped in, peeled and sent into manufacturing or further processing. During Vidalia Onion season, which runs from April to August, representatives from Vidalia Valley said they ship out 40,000 pounds a day of whole, peeled onions. Through Vidalia Valley’s processing facility, products such as relishes, salsas, dressings, vinaigrettes, jams, jellies, specialty items, barbeque and hot sauce, as well as organic products are created. Many of the products can be found on Vidalia Valley’s website, vidaliavalley.com, and some are created for other restaurants and retailers. Vidalia Valley even develops peanut related products for consumers, such as a Thai peanut sauce and a peanut butter barbecue sauce for Paula Dean. Click here for one of Paula’s recipes using the peanut butter barbecue sauce!