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.
At this stop, Georgia Peanut Tour attendees were able to see firsthand the ongoing research programs at the USDA/ARS National Peanut Research Lab and hear from some of the researchers themselves. NPRL conducts a variety of projects to assist the peanut industry focusing on environmental research, systems research, flavor/quality research, peanut grading research, storage research and mycotoxin research with particular emphasis on the aflatoxins. The Laboratory conducts research toward improving quality, cleaning, storing and marketing of peanuts. Research is oriented toward solving the major problems confronting the peanut producer, handler, manufacturer, and the consumer. NPRL is also intricately involved in studies toward developing new and improved production marketing systems to reduce unit cost, enhance domestic and foreign use of peanuts and provide a safe, high quality product to the consumer. To learn more about the National Peanut Research Laboratory visit them on their website.
To continue a day full of rich South Georgia history tour attendees ended the day at the Thronateeska Heritage Center. Thronateeska Heritage Center is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization incorporated in 1974 for the purpose of historic preservation and science education in Albany and Southwest Georgia.
Thronateeska’s campus includes a history museum, science museum, rail car display, a 40′ full dome HD planetarium, the Georgia Museum of Surveying & Mapping, and the South Georgia Archives. The museum facilities are housed in historic structures and new construction designed to reflect and retain the railroad heritage of the area. In 1974, concerned and community-spirited citizens championed the cause for revitalization of the historic downtown railroad depot area. Thronateeska Heritage Foundation, Inc. resulted from the merger of the Southwest Georgia Historical Society, organized in 1969, and the Albany Junior Museum, Inc., founded in 1959 by the Junior League of Albany.
Through Thronateeska’s efforts, the 1913 Union Station depot, located in what is now known as Heritage Plaza, was preserved as a legendary landmark, converted into a museum, and listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1975.
The Wetherbee Planetarium was open during the event and attendees were able to watch several showings as well as tour the science museum.
Attendees had the choice of Snickers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cup or Peanut Butter Chocolate Ice Cream.
At the end of the evening, tour attendees were able to enjoy the annual low country boil and supper was finished up with a variety of peanut butter flavored ice creams. As always, the Georgia Peanut Tour appreciates the support from Dow AgroSciences and look forward to this event each year., So, a special thanks to all who have a hand in making this dinner such a successful night! This low country boil tradition has been sponsored by Dow AgroSciences for all 31 Georgia Peanut Tours.
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.
After leaving the Georgia Seed Development Facility, tour attendees traveled south to McCleskey Mills’ peanut buying point in Smithville. Here, tour attendees learned all about the process growers go through when they bring their peanuts to a buying point. Buying points can be owned by farmers, co-ops or agribusinesses. This particular buying point is owned by McCleskey Mills/Olam Edible Nuts. Joe West, senior vice president of U.S. shelling for Olam Edible Nuts, and his staff welcomed tour attendees and gave them an overview of peanut buying point process, which is outlined below.
Joe West, senior vice president of U.S. Shelling for Olam Edible Nuts, explains buying point operations to attendees.
When peanuts arrive to the buying point, moisture levels are checked.
If the moisture level is not 10.49 percent or less, the peanuts are placed in semis with dryers attached. The dryers blow air 15 degrees above ambient temperature to allow the peanuts to reach the appropriate moisture level. This process could take up to 15 hours.
After the peanuts are dried, they are cleaned if needed. The peanuts must have 6.49 percent or less of foreign material to be considered cleaned. Foreign material includes items such as sticks, glass, rocks, etc.
Finally, the peanuts are either shipped to a sheller or transported to a warehouse for storage until they are needed.
Attendees look at a peanut cleaner at McCleskey Mills.
This Smithville buying point location handles approximately 35,000 farmer stock tons of peanuts each year. During harvest season, they will handle 1,200-1,500 tons per day.
McCleskey Mills, Inc. was founded McCleskey Cotton Company in Americus, Georgia, in 1929. The company’s structure was created in June of 1974, when Thomas J. Chandler acquired McCleskey Mills and operated in Americus until 1983 when the shelling operation was moved to a new facility 12 miles south to Smithville. Upon moving to Smithville, McCleskey Mills tripled its capacity to produce a high quality product for an ever-changing buyer demand. In 2014, Olam International announced the purchase of McCleskey Mills and the two companies joined forces to better serve growers and manufacturers. McCleskey Mills/Olam provides quality raw, shelled peanuts to peanut butter manufacturers, candy and confectionery plants and salted nut roasters throughout the United States and the world. Today, McCleskey Mills/Olam offers Georgia, Florida and Alabama a competitive market with support services and its manufacturer customers with the industry’s highest quality shelled peanuts in the either bags, boxes, totes or bulk containers. To learn more, visit www.mccleskeymills.com.
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.
Albert Culbreath, a 28 plus year professor of Plant Pathology at the University of Georgia Tifton campus, works primarily with foliar fungal diseases of peanut and tomato spotted wilt virus of peanut. Culbreath arrived at UGA shortly after tomato spotted wilt showed up, so needless to say they have a long history. “We’ve made tremendous progress dealing with that disease but it’s still around and still causes problems. Leaf spot has been a problem with peanuts as long as we’ve been growing peanuts in Georgia. We’re working on resistance and integrated management for both of those diseases, but with the leaf spot we’re still very heavily dependent upon fungicides for control of those,” says Culbreath. An awful lot of his work is geared toward looking with the different breeding programs, trying to help develop and utilize better resistance to spotted wilt and the leaf spot diseases.
The spotted wilt part of peanut RX is a tremendous decision tool for growers so the biggest factor with that is the ranking of variety for resistance to tomato spotted wilt. “We spend a lot of time trying to rank the cultivars depending on how susceptible or resistant they are. That’s the primary thing after planning date choice and typically with tomato spotted wilt, the earlier you plant, the greater the risk of damage from spotted wilt so if you’re planting a more moderately resistant variety or more susceptible variety, you would want to dodge an early planting,” the UGA researcher continued. The peanut RX would help with decisions like that. We only have one insecticide that provides suppression of spotted wilt. Thimet. There’s currently a few insecticides that work well on thrips or control the vector of spotted wilt, but Thimet is the only one that helps suppress the disease itself so those all come into play. Those are incorporated into the index and the index also helps you look at the additive effects of the different factors We will use the RX for the other diseases too and things like planting dates are just the opposite for tomato spotted wilt and leaf spot. “The earlier you plant, the higher the risk for tomato spotted wilt but the lower the risk for leaf spot”, says Culbreath. “If you have a low risk variety for tomato spotted wilt, we’re using that to let growers know that you can plant and dodge some of the leaf spot pressure. We have severe problems with fungicide resistance to some of the fungicide classes,” he adds. Some fungicides don’t work alone in Culbreath’s fields now so he’s looking at different combinations, different alternations that will prolong the utility of those fungicides so that’s the main focus of what he has going on in Plains at the University of Georgia’s Southwest Georgia Research & Education Center.
At the center, Dr. Abney discussed Southern Corn Rootworm, one of the most common pests peanut farmers face in the field. The Southern Corn Rootworm is a pest that harms the peanut plant underground, where it feeds on the actual peanut pod itself. Because it is underground, it is difficult for peanut farmers to monitor and manage the pest to prevent damage and loss of the peanut plant. Currently, there are not a lot of insecticides available to manage Southern Corn Rootworm, so Dr. Abney is researching the use of alternative insecticides. He said his current research trial looks promising.
Corn rootworm larva and damaged peanut pod – Photo courtesy of UGA peanut entomology.
Dr. Abney says UGA’s peanut entomology department is diverse. The department is doing a lot of work pertaining to efficacy and thresholds of specific pests like thrips and others. They are also looking into the use of alternative insecticides for products that are being phased out or taken off the market and made unavailable to growers. Lastly, work is being done to understand the biology of the peanut burrower bug in a way that will help growers manage the pest better and reduce damage to their peanut crop.
Peanut burrower bug – photo courtesy of UGA.
For more information the UGA entomology department, click here.
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.