Time to Shell Out

Now that tour attendees have seen how peanuts are taken to a buying point, the next step in the process is moving them to a shelling plant. In Georgia, farmers grow primarily runner peanuts. Runners are used in predominately peanut butter and peanut candy; therefore, they are almost always shelled before moving on to further processing. To show tour attendees what that process is like, a visit to Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts in Ashburn is on the agenda.


Golden Peanut and Tree Nuts, a wholly owned subsidiary of Archer Daniels Midland, is a leading sheller in the peanut industry. Dating back to the 1950s, Golden has consistently remained committed to the industry – to growers, manufacturers and the global market. In the United States alone, Golden has peanut shelling and specialty product facilities in Georgia (Ashburn, Blakely and Dawson), Alabama and Texas. Internationally, they have peanut shelling facilities in Argentina and South Africa. Their specialty products include peanut flours, oil and extract, as well as hull and fiber options.


The Ashburn facility, which has been in operation since 1967, operates as a sheller of runner peanuts only and provides cold storage. The Ashburn facility receives peanuts to shell from Alabama, Georgia and South Carolina.

To view the shelling process, check out this video from minute 6:22 to minute 8:44.


View the 2019 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Low Country Near the Low Country

IMG_2946 (002)The 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour concluded with dinner hosted at the Coastal Georgia Botanical Gardens at the Historic Bamboo Farm in Savannah. The botanical gardens are part of the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences and offer year-round education classes and workshops for all ages and abilities, as well as special events and opportunities for visitors to connect with nature and be inspired through beautiful gardens and collections. The garden is a popular Savannah attraction featuring a museum of plants, a tranquil escape, a living classroom and a historic venue for special events. The botanical gardens host more than 100,000 visitors each year.

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Corteva Agriscience representatives


This year’s closing dinner featured the famous low country boil and peanut-inspired ice cream sponsored by Corteva Agriscience. Corteva, formerly Dow AgroSciences, has sponsored the low country boil for many years, making it a tradition most all tour attendees look forward to. The boil includes shrimp, sausage, potatoes and corn.


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This year, the tour featured nearly 200 attendees representing 19 states, as well as international guests from four different countries (Malawi, Zambia, Bangladesh and India). Participants ranged from industry personnel, to government agencies, to manufacturers. All had the opportunity to learn more about Georgia peanuts and production. Thank you to all who have made the tour possible, attended or followed along via the blog. We look forward to seeing you in 2019!

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GPT Chairman Dr. Bob Kemerait accepts a gift from tour attendees visiting from Malawi.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Peanut Entomology Update from Dr. Mark Abney

Dr. Mark Abney, research and Extension peanut entomologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus gave an entomology update at the UGA Southeast Research and Education Center. At this location, Dr. Abney said they have a research trial looking at different materials for managing thrips. Thrips are an early season seedling pest, but they remain a concern throughout the growing season. They cause damage to the plant by feeding on it and by spreading Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus. The research he is conducting in Midville will allow him to make recommendations to growers for how to best manage thrips on their farm.

For the 2018 crop year, thrip pressure has varied across the state. Some areas have seen very little pressure, while others have had moderate to heavy pressure, as well as higher levels of TSWV. Overall, Dr. Abney thinks virus levels are lower than they were in 2017; however, it is still there and needs to be managed.


Another major insect affecting peanuts that Dr. Abney studies is the burrow bug. The burrow bug is a stink bug that lives in the ground. It feeds on the developing peanut pod inside the shell and causes grade loss for farmers when they sell their peanuts at a buying point. This grade loss equates to financial loss for the farmer. The insect is difficult to manage; however, Dr. Abney has a few ways to monitor and control them. He is working to understand the biology of the insect better, as well as looking at potential products to use to control it. Currently, there is only one insecticide available to control the burrower bug and it is slated for cancellation by the Environmental Protection Agency, so research is being done to find another alternative product. Another soil insect pest Dr. Abney studies is the southern corn root worm. It’s not a big problem for most growers in Georgia; however, it’s an insect that likes wet weather, so during raining growing seasons, it can be seen. It is also managed with the same product used on burrower bugs, so an alternative management product is needed for it as well.

Dr. Abney said insect management is really important for peanut growers even though it’s not typically something they think about when managing their production practices. He and his colleagues continue to work to find more tools for Georgia peanut farmers’ tool belts so they can better manage insect pressure on their farms and continue to grow quality Georgia peanuts.

To follow entomology updates, visit the UGA Peanut Entomology Blog.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Peanut Disease Update from Dr. Bob Kemerait

While at the University of Georgia’s Southeast Georgia Research & Education Center, tour attendees were given a disease update from Dr. Bob Kemerait, Extension plant pathologist at the University of Georgia Tifton Campus. Kemerait said diseases are one of the biggest problems for peanut production in Georgia and many are caused by viruses, fungi and nematodes. At the research and education center in Midville, Dr. Kemerait and others are working to learn more about managing diseases in peanuts and giving that information to the farmer to help him grow a better crop. He said the research he is doing is two-fold; one to find an integrated management system for how to manage a virus and two, to do trials and experiments to evaluate what is available in terms of varieties and fungicides that can help growers better manage diseases.

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Dr. Bob Kemerait showing tour attendees what TSWV looks like on peanuts.

One disease Dr. Kemerait and his colleagues focus on frequently is Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus (TSWV). According to Kemerait, TSWV is one of the most devasting diseases affecting peanuts. With his research, he is working to understand the relationship between the disease and the vector that spreads the disease, which is a small pest called a thrip. By understanding the relationship, he can create models to predict how many thrips would be in the field and how to best manage the spread of the disease. Dr. Kemerait also studies how other factors affect TSWV such as variety, use of in-furrow insecticide and planting date.

Another aspect of his research is the use of fungicides for disease control. Diseases such as leaf spot and white mold can take millions of dollars to control; however, Kemerait says if they are not managed properly, they could cost tens of millions of dollars in yield reduction from the peanut crop. Kemerait says if growers want to remain profitable, they know they have to fight diseases by taking the research produced at the University of Georgia and integrating it into their production practice, as well as being “upfront” about prevention.

Peanuts are a Passion for Cromley Brothers

The final day of the Georgia Peanut Tour began at one of Bulloch County’s largest farming operations, the farm of Charley and Lee Cromley. The Cromley brothers are fifth generation farmers who grow approximately 2,600 acres of row crops. This year, 1,800 acres were planted in cotton and 800 acres were planted in peanuts. When discussing the current crop, Lee said their biggest challenges this year have been weed and disease control. The large amount of rainfall during the growing season has made it difficult to get tractors in the field to manage these two pests.

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The Cromley brothers’ production practices include a good rotation of cotton and peanuts, application of Elatus for leaf spot control, Valor and Cadre for weed control, and practicing strip tillage. Strip tillage allows them to turn the dirt less, which keeps necessary nutrients and moisture in the soil for the crop. They also plant a cover crop and leave the previous year’s cotton stubble in the ground prior to planting peanuts each year.

Harvest season has commenced, so while at their farm, tour attendees got to see peanuts being dug. Here, the tractor pulls an implement called a peanut digger. This machine digs the peanuts, shakes the dirt off and inverts them upside down so the peanuts are exposed to the sun and the vines are on the ground. Lee said they can dig approximately 60 acres per day with two machines going. After they are dug, the peanuts are left on the ground to dry for approximately three days and then later harvested with a combine, which is a machine that “picks” the peanuts off the vine. Last year, the Cromley brothers harvested approximately 5,000 lbs/acre on their peanut crop. This year, they are expecting to harvest around 4,000 lbs/acre.

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During the visit, Lee also pointed all the importance of peanuts to the economy; especially rural South Georgia. Agriculture makes up 10 percent of Bulloch County’s budget according to Bill Tyson, Bulloch County Extension agent. Peanuts are Georgia’s official state crop and generate approximately $2.2 billion annually to the state’s economy. They are grown in nearly half of Georgia’s counties where they account for nearly 50 percent of the peanuts grown in the United States.

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According to Tyson, the 2018 peanut crop is looking good in his area of the state. The Bulloch County area started off the season wet, with a slow start, followed by cooler temperatures in May. Due to the changes in the weather pattern, much of the crop is spread out in regard to planting dates. Like many other areas, the abundant rainfall has created more disease issues than normal, as well. The farmers in the county grow approximately 75,000 acres of peanuts and cotton; however, they also grow corn, soybeans and small grain. Most of the land in Bulloch County is dryland with approximately 25 percent irrigated.

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Port of Savannah: The Southeast Gateway for the U.S.

After seeing peanuts harvested on the farm, tour attendees traveled to Savannah to tour the Georgia Ports Authority’s Garden City Terminal. The Garden City Terminal is the largest single-terminal in North America and serves 20 percent of the United States population and industry. The facility is 1,200 acres and offers nine container berths comprised of nearly 10,000 ft of contiguous space. The terminal is also home to 30 container cranes; the largest on the East Coast.

According to the American Peanut Council (APC), the U.S. is the third largest peanut producer after China and India, and is the leading peanut exporter with an average annual export of 200,000 to 250,000 metric tons. Canada, Mexico, Europe and Japan account for more than 80 percent of U.S. exports. The largest export markets within Europe are the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany and Spain.

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Lee Beckmann, manager for government affairs for GPA, visited with the tour attendees during Hot Topics on Tuesday and gave an overview of current port projects. One key project is the Savannah Harbor Expansion Project. Here, the harbor is being dredged to 47 feet to better accommodate vessels. The vessels being used now are 14,000 TEUs – the largest on the East Coast. Currently the channel depth is 42 ft and the project is 50 percent complete. Another major project in the works is the Mason Mega Rail Project. This will end up being the largest intermodal yard for a terminal in the U.S. Currently, phase one is expected to be completed by September 2019 with the first bundle of tracks operational. Phase two is expected to be completed by September 2020.

The Garden City Terminal sees an average of 10,000 truck transactions per day. For single moves, trucks average 33 minutes and for doubles they average 53 minutes. When it comes to the containers they are transporting, the terminal houses 25,000 loaded containers and 35,000 empty containers. Nearly 55 percent of the containers are for imports and 45 percent of exports.

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According to GPA, it received its second busiest month on record for containerized trade in July 2018. This was a 12.7 percent increase compared to July 2017. GPA also said rail cargo at the Garden City Terminal increased by 16 percent (60,000 containers) for a total of 435,000 rail lifts between July 2017 and June 2018. This increase in capacity is a driving force behind making Savannah an even more competitive port option on the East Coast.

When looking at Georgia’s economy, GPA says the logistics industry, including the port, provide a boost to Georgia’s economy. For GPA alone, the following statistics relate to the state of Georgia:

  • 440,000 full and part time jobs
  • $106 billion in sales (11 percent of total sales)
  • $44 billion in state GDP (8 percent of total GDP)
  • $25 billion in income (6 percent of total personal income)
  • $5.9 billion in federal taxes
  • $1.4 billion in state taxes
  • $1.5 billion in local taxes

View the 2018 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

McCleskey Mills/Olam talks buying point operations

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.

Joe West, senior vice president of U.S. Shelling for Olam Edible Nuts, explains buying point operations to attendees.

  1. When peanuts arrive to the buying point, moisture levels are checked.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Once the peanuts are cleaned, they are inspected by Georgia Federal State Inspection Service.
  5. 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.

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.

Peanut Dryers

Peanut Dryers

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.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album

Georgia peanut entomology update

While at the University of Georgia’s Southwest Georgia Research & Education Center, tour attendees received a peanut entomology update from Dr. Mark Abney. Dr. Abney is a research and Extension entomologist at the University of Georgia located on the 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.

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.

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.

Peanut burrower bug – photo courtesy of UGA.

For more information the UGA entomology department, click here.

View the 2017 Georgia Peanut Tour Photo Album 

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