The thirty-fifth annual Georgia Peanut Tour will be held September 12-14, 2023, in Bainbridge, Georgia, and the surrounding area. The tour brings the latest information on peanuts while giving a first-hand view of industry infrastructure from production and handling to processing and utilization. Tour stops will be made in several peanut producing counties in Southwest Georgia.
Attendees can expect to see first-hand nearly every aspect of peanut production in the state. This year’s tour hosts many exciting stops including on-farm harvest demonstrations and clinics, as well as, research at the University of Georgia Attapulgus Research and Education Center.
Lodging for the tour will be housed at the Hampton Inn in Bainbridge, Ga. Please call 229-246-1341 and ask for the Georgia Peanut Tour room block when reserving rooms. A standard room is $125 plus taxes and breakfast is included. The deadline to reserve rooms is Aug. 20, 2023. Additional lodging is available at the Holiday Inn Express in Bainbridge, Ga. The room rate is $130.99 plus tax (breakfast included). The deadline to reserve rooms is Aug. 7, 2023.
Tim Brenneman is a plant pathologist at the University of Georgia and the 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour Chairman. On the tour, he discussed some of the research he does for the National Peanut board and this work is based on helping breeders develop the best varieties for disease resistance. They are looking for an input that will take fewer applications of fungicide and be more economical to produce. Most of the lines that they grow are developed by the USDA, University of Georgia, or University of Florida as well as have some private breeders like ACI Seeds. Brenneman does a screening project each year where he accepts entries from any of the breeders and he puts them together in a nursery field where they particularly cultivate diseases and can evaluate the relative susceptibility of all the different lines. It is a chance for all the breeding programs to have things together in one comparative screen. He then uses that data to advise growers on the relative susceptibility of the lines once they’re released and growers start growing them in the field.
He showed the tour attendees some of the work that has been done in that department since they have some good disease starting to develop. The participants on the tour were also able to see some of the big differences in some of the cultivars that they are growing. There is a wide variety that he has in terms of cultivar selection and that’s very important as it is one of the foundations for our industry.
Albert Culbreath is a research plant pathologist for the University of Georgia at the Tifton campus. He has worked for the university for thirty years and works largely on leaf spot diseases caused by a couple of fungal pathogens and tomato spotted wilt virus. He feels that a lot of progress has been made in terms of managing tomato spotted wilt virus. A lot of the success has come from breeding programs. The resistance in the varieties available has improved dramatically over the last thirty years.
He feels as if it is a bit of a mystery but for whatever reason tomato spotted wilt virus has been on the increase in recent years. In fact, the pressure that farmers are seeing in 2022 is the heaviest the industry has seen in roughly 20 years despite the better resistance and integrated management that farmers are practicing. The issue does present an opportunity for Culbreath’s research standpoint to evaluate more varieties and more breeding lines and see how they stack up and how farmers can best use them. In addition to that, what we can combine with those varieties to improve disease control. There is not any immunity in any of the cultivar lines. However, the variety Georgia-12Y has remarkably better resistance than Georgia-06, which is still our predominant variety. Even with the best resistance we have in a year like 2022, especially with early planted and such, that’s just not enough.
One of the factors researchers have worked with for years is Phorate and Thimet insecticide. The tomato spotted wilt virus is spread by thrips and they have not seen many insecticides at all that provides a consistent suppression of tomato spotted wilt virus. Despite the thrips control, Phorate or Thimet is the exception to that for whatever reason in the 2022 year. Researchers have seen a larger response to Thimet than what has been seen in quite some time. There is still extremely heavier pressure, but for whatever reason, a large response to the Thimet insecticide is being seen.
Bob Kemerait, an extension plant pathologist works hard to take the information that is developed by the researchers at the University of Georgia and put it into a form that growers can use to make a difference in their profitability. That’s the whole key for growers in Georgia, how can we become more profitable.
There were three takeaways Kemerait spoke about on the 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour. The first was stressing important diseases can be in terms of the profitability and yields. One of the most important diseases he talks about was tomato spotted wilt virus. It is spread by a small insect called thrips. It has been especially bad in the 2022 season and anything and everything growers could do to manage that disease ends when they closed the furrow. Currently, at approximately 125-130 days, you may see tomato spotted wilt virus apparent in some fields but there’s nothing growers could have done other than the decisions they made at planting time. Some of those decisions are what variety to plant, what to put in the furrow, and what time to begin planting. You’re also likely to see leaf spot diseases and white mold disease. All these diseases are especially devastating if they’re not controlled.
The second topic Kemerait spoke on was the effort by not only by the University of Georgia, but by neighboring states as well, to try and develop strategies for managing diseases. This work is also in conjunction with peanut breeders who look to find varieties that have greater resistance to diseases like leaf spot and tomato spotted wilt virus. This work is done to ensure we become more profitable and remain profitable. The industry also has help from agrochemical industries. Agrochemical companies safely, efficiently, and effectively produce products that we can put out to protect yields for our growers. Growers in Georgia, except for a very few organic growers, cannot grow their crop successfully if they don’t fight diseases like tomato spider wilt virus, leaf spot, and white mold. All the production practices are integrated into an extension tool called Peanut RX. Peanut RX is a tool that our growers can use to find ways to better manage their crop based upon the risks because if diseases are not managed, the yield could be off by thousands of pounds.
Lastly, Kemerait stressed the importance of recognizing the investment that goes into protecting these farmers and their fields. The investment comes from the farmers as they invest the Georgia Peanut Commission. It comes from the growers themselves because diseases are a significant problem for profitability in Georgia peanut production and only by managing them are we effective and remain some of the best peanuts.
Eric Prostko is an extension weed specialist at the University of Georgia and a speaker at the 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour. Prostko spends roughly half of his time working with peanuts and the other fifty percent working on the other crops. Prostko spent his time talking about the importance of weed control and peanut production systems.
He stated that if growers don’t control weeds, it’s very likely that harvesting peanuts will not be an option. That is because it’s a two-step process that requires the inversion process and then the combining process. If weeds are present then it can be very detrimental to that process. Additionally, weeds compete with peanuts for resources like sunlight, nutrients, and water. Weeds will prevent those resources from being allocated to the peanuts and that will affect the yield of the peanuts. The presence of weeds also influences yields by inhibiting the deposition of fungicides. If growers have a lot of weeds in the field, it is harder for fungicide sprays to reach the target, which is the canopy of the of the peanut plant. It is very critical that farmers manage their weeds both from a yield, harvesting, and fungicide standpoint. If growers were to allow weeds to produce seeds in different areas of the crop, then those seeds will be there in subsequent rotations which could then cause a problem.
Prostko conducted his own research where he had two plots, one to highlight peanuts that went untreated and another to highlight peanuts that were treated. The plot that went untreated eventually was so overtaken by pigweed that Prostko had to mow the entire plot due to not being able to get equipment through the plot. He felt that his research was a great example of the results of not treating your crops. His treated plot was on a standard program that is recommended for most growers. The program consists of three herbicides that are applied at planting the around the thirty-day mark, an additional three herbicides are applied.
Prostko feels that farmers in Georgia have not suffered as much as others have in other states such as Tennessee and Arkansas. That is due to taking actions for weed control that growers can’t do in other states. One of the most troublesome weeds growers face is called palmer amaranth and as most people in Georgia would consider it “Public Enemy Number One.” When talking about weeds, it is extremely interesting plant. It can grow up to six or seven feet tall. The female plants can produce up anywhere from 500 000 seed per plant or more. So, it’s extremely competitive and it’s hard to control. Researchers have developed some herbicides, but the species has evolved some resistances to some of the herbicides that growers use so it is very challenging. The plant itself is kind of woody, so it is tough on equipment if it’s left uncontrolled. When it is going through an inverter or going through the combine it can cause some problems. There are many other weeds that are present in the peanut industry. Over the last several years, palmer amaranth has really growers a lot of heartache. Fortunately, for peanuts there are some great programs to manage the weed. If growers implement those programs and with some timely moisture, they can keep it under control.
Prostko has been in Georgia for 23 years and when he first came, this plant was not a problem. Then over time, for various reasons, it has become the number one weed that growers have in not only peanuts but most of our economic crops. Having clean peanut fields is critical to the success of Georgia’s peanut production and a lot of time is spent trying to help the county agents and growers figure out the best ways to manage weeds.
Scott Monfort is a peanut agronomist with the University of Georgia. Monfort explains how Georgia is the number one peanut producer in the United States and what producers go through to make that possible. Georgia produces roughly fifty percent of the peanuts in the United States, which is equivalent to 670,000 to 700,000 acres annually. It is not an easy process that growers go through to produce this crop. Growers take on a lot of debt and stress so the university and USDA work hard to minimize that stress. They try to do all the research that is necessary to enhance the productivity of this crop and try to minimize the pests.
Monfort focused his attention the very common issue this year in peanut production, tomato spotted wilt virus. If tomato spotted wilt virus is present, you will see a lot of yellowing and stunted growth. Even though newer varieties have good resistance, it’s not immune. Monfort stated that growers must use pesticides, or in this case insecticides, for the vector. In this case, it is a small pest called thrips. He also states that even though there is a lot of tomato spotted wilt virus in the current season, farmers are still predicted to have a good crop.
Monfort informs visitors of the work that goes into producing such a valuable crop to every person in the United States. Peanuts are very important for people and people in the peanut industry want consumers to know that pride is taken in the work they do. He assured visitors of how much effort goes into producing a crop and left visitors with an understanding as to why there is a fluctuation in price and availability.
Simer Virk is an extension precision ag specialist at the University of Georgia Tifton campus and is a part of the UGA peanut team. He works a lot in the precision ag side where they look at a lot of different technologies in peanut production. Some of the research he conducts is looking into how growers can better utilize some of these precision ag technologies, whether it’s an auto steering GPS, which has become standard these days, but also some of the new technologies like variable rate or lime application.
Some of the newer spray technologies are making it to where farmers can apply more efficiently and effectively to increase crop productivity or field efficiency. A lot of these technologies originated out of the Midwest and a lot of times they are not tested in the peanut production side, so they look for opportunities to better fit these technologies into peanut production. They investigate how those technologies can be better utilized, whether it be droplet size control in real time or controlling the application volume better. Some additional research they do is on the emerging technologies that can help benefit peanut production. An example of that is agricultural drones used for spraying. Although there are some regulations, they can now detect variability across the field whether it is a disease or pest management. When working with new technologies, they are practicing seeing how those tools can be better utilized.
They are looking for ways to better treat the fields but also paying more attention to the areas that need more intensive management. They start early in the season are looking for ways on how to be more precise and do a better job of making applications more effective while still precisely controlling the volume or droplet size all while being timely. One example would be when it’s too wet in the field and farmers can’t go out with the ground sprayer, you can use newer technologies, like the drone sprayer which eliminates the need to be on the ground. Then you can still go out and make the application.
They are taking a deeper look at some of these newer, emerging technologies so growers can effectively integrate and adopt them. They are looking to not only make the peanut production better, but even take it to the next level.
Juliet Chu works with Dr.Peggy Ozias-Akins and Dr. Corley Holbrook on peanut genetic breeding. The research they are currently conducting is on the host resistance for white mold. White mold is a fungal pathogen that has a large economic impact on peanut production. White mold attacks the stem and laterals of the peanut plant in the area where this fungal pathogen exists. So, when the fungus attacks the plant, it causes the stem to turn brown and eventually leads to plant death. If the plant the fungal pathogen attacks in a later stage of the plant’s life, then it can also attack the pods.
So, if this fungal pathogen exists and impacts the field, it could either kill the plant or make the seeds in the pods disappear because of the fungus. It will use up all the seed and will leave growers with no yield. To solve this problem, growers can use chemical treatment, but to treat the field with chemicals, you need to do fumigation. It is very costly to do. Another way to convey this particular pathogen is to develop resistant cultivar.
So how they are doing that is by first planting Georgia-12Y, which is a resistant cultivar. Then they interspersed their breeding lines into the Georgia-12Y, and then the canopy provides moisture and humidity for the fungal development. The lines then will be inoculated with the white mold culture by Dr. Tim Brenneman and then you will see that about 40 to 50 days or 30 to 50 days after inoculation we which line is resistant and which line is not. The reason lines could be either released or used for breeding program.
Scott Tubbs is the cropping systems agronomist at the University of Georgia, located in Tifton, Georgia. He spoke to the tourists about a variety trial he is conducting at the Ponder farm, located in Tifton. The Ponder Farm trial has 10 different cultivars, nine of which are releases that have come out since Georgia-06G and Georgia-06G was set as the commercial standard for this trial. In combination with the variety trial, they also have inoculated and non-inoculated peanuts out there with Bradyrhizobia inoculant to try and help with nitrogen fixation. Each one of the varieties is represented with four replications, either inoculated or non-inoculated. Five of the varieties have come out of the University of Georgia breeding program and three of the varieties came out of the University of Florida breeding program. They also had one variety out of the USDA breeding program in Tifton, Georgia and one variety out of the USDA breeding program that is a cooperation between Auburn University and the National Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, Georgia.
In these varieties, what they often see is based on the primary breeding location. Since these breeding programs are scattered throughout the Southeastern United States and even in different states in the peanut producing areas, often they see different pest pressures. Sometimes the breeding that is done for these peanuts is surrounded by keeping different pest pressures at bay. So, tomato spotted wilt virus is a primary threat that they have been focused on in variety breeding over the last 30 years or so and many of these varieties have better tomato spotted wilt virus resistance than Georgia-06G, our current industry standard cultivar.
However, some of the varieties that have come out of the University of Florida breeding program often don’t hold up as well in this environment here in Tifton, Georgia, as they do down in the southwest corner of the state, closer to where the peanuts are bred. So, they were able to show you some varietal differences out in the field for tomato spotted wilt virus resistance and that different varieties have a different vegetative growth habit. Some have a more prominent main stem while some have more of a prostate growth habit and grow closer to the ground with a more prostrate vine habit. Some of these varieties are his agronomic research program for the first time this year. The yield on some of these varieties have performed just as well and held up just as well as Georgia-06G. He feels that they are at a point where Georgia-06G, even though it has dominated acreage for the last 12 to 15 years in the state of Georgia and in the entire southeast runner-producing area, some of these other varieties have the potential to take over some acreage from Georgia-06g because of their yield potential being just as good and having even better pest resistance to certain diseases such as the case of TifNV- High O/L, it is a root knot nematode resistant variety. They have some up and coming varieties that have very strong yield potential and may be able to take over some of the acreage.
From a buying point standpoint however, many of the buying points don’t like to handle too many varieties. It makes for a difficulty in separating, segregating and storing those peanuts when there’s too many varieties that are commercially available. So, they really try to pinpoint down to three to five cultivars that have the strongest yield potential, the strongest disease packages, and meet the needs of what growers might be facing in the majority of the fields.
Nino Brown works with the University of Georgia as an assistant research scientist with the department of crop and soil science as a peanut breeder. He works closely with Dr. Bill Branch who has been the peanut breeder for over 40 years now. Some of the things that they focus on is increasing yield, increasing dollar value, improving disease resistance, shelling quality, flavor, drought resistance, and a lot of various agronomic traits that are important to growers.
When Brown first started, Dr. Branch and Brown started a trial to look at the genetic gain which is the progress that’s been made over the course of the UGA peanut breeding program. To do that they looked at all the Georgia runner varieties that have been released from the program, starting with Southeastern Runner 5615, which was released in 1947. Then, continuing to look at Dr. Branches runner varieties that he has released since coming here, starting with Georgia Runner on up to Georgia-18RU. This also included the Georgia-06G and Georgia-12Y. One of the things that they learned from the three-year study was that peanut yields have increased over 3,500 pounds per acre since the inception of the peanut breeding program at UGA.
Since Dr. Branch has been breeding peanuts in Georgia, yields have increased almost 2,000 pounds per acre. When they looked at dollar value, dollar values have increased by a little less than 650 dollars per acre and Dr.Branch has been responsible for over 350 dollars per acre increase in dollar value. It was really underscoring the importance and the value of having a public peanut breeding program at the University of Georgia. It is important that they try to maintain that consistent rate of genetic gain that that Dr.Branch has been able to achieve.
To do that, Brown has been looking at ways that we can increase the throughput within the breeding program. They have a lot of really interesting tools at their disposal as plant breeders. Today, they have a lot of high throughput phenotyping devices so there are things, such as drones, that can fly through the field and take really detailed measurements, high speed seed sorting machines, and they are using all these technologies to try to apply them within the peanut breeding program so that they can maintain that high rate of genetic gain.
They have had several years of using drones in their replicated yield trials and they are starting to use them for selection purposes in their nurseries. They are also developing a ground-based phenotyping robot called Watson with collaborators in Athens, Dr. Changying “Charlie” Li and Dr. Rui Xu. They are working with JLA to apply high throughput seed sorting system to the breeding program to sort high oleic exceeds from normal oleic seeds so they can use them in breeding nurseries to sort the high oleic plants more effectively from the normal plants in the nurseries.
Several years ago, the peanut industry had the foresight to sequence the cultivated peanut genome which has made it a lot easier to do things like genetic diversity studies so they can better understand the genetic relatedness of our peanut cultivars. They also had a study a few years ago which looked at all of the peanut varieties that have been released by the university over the course of its 90-year history to better understand how they can make crosses among related or unrelated lines so that they can maintain that constant rate of genetic gain to help improve grower’s bottom line.
They are trying to incorporate high throughput methods and new breeding technologies and new genetic technologies to maintain a high rate of genetic gain for growers in Georgia and beyond.