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.
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.
One of the most popular questions asked about peanut farming is, “How do farmers know when to dig their peanuts?” Farmers utilize the hull scrape method and peanut profile board to determine when to dig and the resulting yield and grade means cash to farmers.
Farmers pod-blast their peanuts before placing the sample on the maturity profile board. The pod-blasting process is a good method in mitigating peanut losses. The board is colored coded from lighter colors to darker so researchers and extension agents can separate them via color on the chart to determine the number of days until maturity.
Some peanut fields planted on the same date may mature at different times based on cultivar selection, soil type or weather patterns. Knowing when to dig peanuts can mean the difference between loosing and gaining 200 lbs. per acre.
During the visit at the Lang-Rigdon Farm in Tifton, tour participants were able to see this process firsthand, as well as load up on trams and travel through the farm to learn about some of the latest peanut research being conducted at the University of Georgia. They also got a chance to hear more about some of the issues Georgia peanut farmers have faced in the 2016 growing season.
The first stop on the Georgia Peanut Tour for Thursday morning featured the Grimes family farm in Tifton, Ga. Philip and Andrew Grimes visited with attendees about their family farm. Both Philip and Andrew have been honored with awards through the years for their efficient production of peanuts and farming in general.
A meticulous, high-yield crop farmer, Philip is admired as one of the best farmers in South Georgia. He has been recognized on the state level for producing high peanut yields for more than 20 consecutive years. A conservation farmer, he uses cover crops and has installed grassed waterways, terraces, and ponds on his land.
Grimes has farmed for 37 years. He grows peanuts, cotton, cantaloupes, broccoli, snap beans and corn on his 2,210-acre farm. As a result of his high peanut yields, he has been a longtime member of the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club. He also raises high-yield cotton, and his produce crops are consistently high in quality. He plants a portion of his land specifically to attract wildlife.
As a result of his success as crop farmer, Grimes was selected as the 2014 Georgia winner of the Swisher Sweets/Sunbelt Expo Southeastern Farmer of the Year award and named the overall winner during the 2014 Sunbelt Ag Expo. He was chosen Farmer of the Year over nine other state winners who were finalists for the award.
His irrigated per acre yields include 6,440 pounds of peanuts from 660 acres, 1,405 pounds of cotton from 890 acres, 6,500 cantaloupes from 360 acres, 600 boxes of broccoli from 90 acres, 8,500 pounds of snap beans from 105 acres and 265 bushels of corn from 100 acres.
Grimes keeps detailed farming records, and has since he began farming. “I have records on planting dates, yields, rotations, sprays, varieties, fertilizers, and I note what works and what doesn’t work,” Grimes says.
“I know the fields I farm well, for instance, which ones need more potassium fertilizer,” he adds. Splitting fertilizer applications is just one practice he uses that pays off, especially during years when heavy rains can leach fertility from the root zone.
His farm has 45 center pivots for irrigation, and he has ponds holding some 150 acres of water. He also uses global positioning guidance on his tractors. “This innovation has improved our planting and harvesting,” he adds.
His farm benefits from extensive cover crops. He especially likes rye as a cover. “Soil fertility is often higher after rye,” Grimes says. He also notes that following crops put out roots that follow the same channels in the soil established by the rye roots.
He has invested in a peanut shelling plant and buying point, along with cantaloupe packing facilities. The peanut facility shells 35,000 tons yearly for the edible market. His cantaloupe facility provides grading, cooling and shipping for his crop. “We also repack on a limited basis for other individuals and businesses in other times of the year,” Grimes adds.
Grimes didn’t grow up on a farm. “My father died at age 36 when I was five years old,” he recalls. “I had a garden in my back yard, and at an early age, I knew I wanted to farm.” While in school, he spent his summer months working for others on farms. He got married in 1975 and worked at his father-in-law’s farm. He started growing more crops on his own after his father-in-law retired from farming.
In 1990, he became a partner with a friend, H.C. Dodson, who was looking to retire from farming. Dodson ran Docia Farms, the business Grimes now operates. His association with Dodson allowed Grimes to increase his acreage.
“My operation has continued to grow over the years,” he says. Dodson died seven years ago. He and Grimes shared a similar farming philosophy. For instance, they fertilized for high yields. With irrigation, they made sure their crops never suffered from lack of water. They also were timely in applying products such as fumigants, insecticides, fungicides and herbicides that would help insure high yielding and high quality crops.
At the state level, he attends the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club seminars. He is also active in Georgia Farm Bureau and the Georgia Fruit & Vegetable Association. He is a past member of the Georgia Agribusiness Council. In addition to the Georgia Peanut Tour, he has also hosted visits by members of the U.S. Congress and many other tours at his farm.
Philip and his late wife, Jane, have three children, daughters Mandy and Brandi and son Andrew. Both Andrew and Mandy’s husband Gator Walker work full time on the farm. Philip says they are part of a very dependable work force.
Andrew received the Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer Award from the Georgia Peanut Commission and BASF in 2015 and has been nominated as one of the state finalists for the 2016 Georgia Young Farmer’s Association Farm Family Award.
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.
Irwin county is a diverse county. It is number one in the state in muscadine production and close to number one in blackberries, but row crops are also a predominant acreage in Irwin County. Farmers in Irwin County mainly plant cotton, peanuts, corn, tobacco, wheat and soybeans have been on the rise in the most recent years. For the last couple of years, Irwin County’s peanut acreage has been around twenty-two thousand acres, with some years having a little bit more.
“With the new Farm Bill, we’ve seen our acreage go up,” states Phillip Edwards, Coffee County extension agent. “This year has been a tough year. We’ve had a lot of disease issues that have come on.” Peanut farmers in this area have also faced issues with spider mites in some dry-land fields and on dry corners of irrigated fields. The problem with these issues are not everywhere, but they are hit or miss for the farmers in Irwin Co.
2016 has been a trying year for peanut farmers across the state. During the first stop of the day on the 2016 Georgia Peanut Tour, attendees were able to hear and see some of the hardships Georgia farmers are facing. Armond Morris, Georgia Peanut Commission chairman had his equipment hooked and up and ready to dig peanuts when the tour arrived at his farm in Irwin County, Ga. Morris’ farm stop sits on the boundary line of Irwin and Berrien counties off of Highway 158. Morris is a long-time farmer who plants a crop rotation of cotton, peanuts and wheat. He usually grows corn, too, but has elected to only grow cotton and peanuts this growing season.
All of Morris’ crops are strip-till. Peanuts grown on his farm are Georgia 06s, which is the primary peanut grown in Georgia. “It is a great peanut. I think it’s a great peanut for the industry as far as manufacturing is concerned. It’s a very tasty peanut and it makes good peanut butter and roasted nuts,” states Morris.
The peanut tour participants were able to see March 26 planted peanuts being picked that did not receive any rainfall from the end of June through the month of July. The peanuts on Morris’ farm have been sprayed with four applications of white mold treatment and then sprayed with 7-20 six times. It has been a hot summer in South Georgia and farmers faced the struggle of keeping enough water to keep their peanuts growing. Morris stated it was important they stayed with this application program due to the exceedingly dry weather conditions. He went on to state that there will be some dry land peanuts in this area that will have a lot of disease issues that could result in Seg. 2 or Seg. 3 peanuts.
The GPC chairman thanked participants for attending the tour. Morris stated he hopes after the tour is over, attendees will better understand what the Georgia Peanut Commission means to the whole peanut industry and the whole United States as far as production of peanuts.
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.