Weed Management Update for 2022

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.


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Update on the 2022 Peanut Season

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.



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They Are Peanuts. It’s that Simple – Birdsong Peanuts Shelling Plant

After leaving the peanut field, tour attendees traveled to Sylvester, Georgia, to visit the Birdsong Peanuts shelling facility. For five generations, Birdsong Peanuts has delivered naturally nutritious peanuts to manufacturers around the corner and around the world. Birdsong buys carefully selected peanuts directly from the farmers’ fields. The peanuts are then cleaned, shelled, sized and shipped in truckload lots to manufacturers who turn them into many popular food items sold across the globe, from peanut butter to peanut candies.

Birdsong serves its customers from five shelling plants. The plants are supported by many buying points and warehouses to store 2.4 billion pounds of Farmers Stock peanuts. Their cold storage facilities keep 250 million pounds of shelled peanuts in a controlled environment for their customers.

Video and photography is not allowed inside the plant; however, here is a short video showing a glimpse inside Birdsong’s Suffolk, Virginia, location.

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Precision Ag in Peanut Production

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.

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Equipment That Stands the Test of Time – Hays LTI

Located in Camilla, Georgia, Hays LTI has been providing agricultural equipment for more than 50 years. A family-owned and operated business, Hays is best known for its dry fertilizer tenders and liquid tankers. Their equipment can be purchased, rented or both.

Every Hays-LTI product is hand-crafted on site in their state-of-the-art facility located in Camilla, Georgia. Their user-friendly design and attention to detail is what makes their equipment stand the test of time. From fertilizer plants to fields, their equipment moves liquid and dry fertilizer in over 42 states.

The company’s rental fleet includes more than 900 trailers that make up 40% of the company’s income. This option allows customers to have a known cost with no upkeep or repair.

The Hays Tender for dry fertilizer was developed in 2010 and has changed the market. This particular piece of equipment offers a lower trailer weight, equating to extra payload; greater slope on the hoppers for easier unload; covered hydraulic lines and hoses for protection from fertilizer; and all stainless steel augers, bearings, nuts and bolts. Hays employees can produce roughly seven tenders per week.

Hays’ current location was constructed in 2016 and contains all company operations on 60 acres. The location employs 65 people and generates better lead times, as well as the ability to grow the company’s product line and include other fertilizer hauling equipment.

Founder of Hays LTI, Mr. Ray Hays, started a sweet tradition after his retirement. When he called on customers, he wanted to take them something homemade, so Hays began baking homemade pecan pies for Mr. Hays to share. His daughter, Donna, said he never left town without an ice chest full of pecan pies. When he stopped to visit customers, he enjoyed giving out a homemade pecan pie, piece of literature, a business card and good handshake. Today in the Hays kitchen, they make about 600 pies a month to share with friends, vendors and customers. Tour attendees were able to have a slice on their visit, as well.

Donna Hays Stewart, co-owner of Hays LTI, attributes the following life lessons to what she feels help make their family business successful:

  • Be on time
  • Work hard
  • Do things right the first time
  • Take pride in what you do
  • Protect your name
  • Learn from your mistakes, try not to make them again
  • Show appreciation and stay humble
  • Believe that you can and never give up – don’t quit
  • Value people, all people
  • Build strong relationships
  • Treat people right
  • Give 110%
  • Love what you do and trust God

Check out this video showcasing their products from the ground up!

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Learning about Peanut Maturity

While at the Sunbelt Ag Expo, local county Extension agents, Sydni Ingram and Kale Cloud, presented a Harvest Maturity Clinic for tour attendees. Farmers utilize the hull scrape method or pod blasting and the Peanut Profile Board to determine if peanuts have reached optimum maturity for harvest. Digging peanuts is one of the biggest decisions farmers make each year. The maturity of a peanut affects the yield, flavor, grade and shelf life. Farmers can lose as much as 500 to 700 pounds per acre in fields if peanuts are harvested too early or too late. During the tour several county agents set up stations to show attendees how to use the Peanut Profile Board.


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Maule Air S.T.O.L.

Maule Air S.T.O.L. is an aircraft manufacturer located in Moultrie, Georgia. Maule Air Inc. is owned and operated by the Maule family. Some of the Maule family, Brent Maule and his nephew Tyler Wilkes, presented their purpose and two of their planes to 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour attendees. Brent and Tyler are fourth and fifth generation aircraft manufacturers for Maule Air Inc. Maule Air Inc. take pride in the fact that their planes are take off and land within 100 feet.  Their short take off and landing make them popular within the farming community. Maule also provide room in their planes to resemble the same effect of a trunk or truck bed. Along with many other implements, Maule provides tools for landing in most locations of the world. For example, they have floats for landing in water, sleds for snow, and wheels for dry land.

Attendees were able to observe the planes Brent and Tyler brought to exhibit. Brent and Tyler, also, answered questions any of the attendees had.

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Sunbelt Ag Expo – Moultrie, Georgia

Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Georgia

Chip Blalock, Executive Director of the Sunbelt Ag Expo, shared the purpose of the facility with 2022 Georgia Peanut Tour attendees. The Sunbelt Ag Expo is a trade show that focuses on agriculture at Spence Field in Moultrie, Georgia. Also known as “North America’s Premier Farm Show,” Sunbelt Ag Expo has more than 1,200 vendors and exhibitors each year. All industry members and farmers are welcomed and encouraged to attend.

The Expo sits on a 100-acre exhibit site, also neighboring a 530-acre working research farm. On this farm, Sunbelt does agronomic research on cotton, peanuts, corn, sorghum and Bermuda grass. The exhibit area includes indoor and outdoor facilities. In these facilities, visitors can observe educational, entertaining seminars and demonstrations presented by the vendors. Representatives of various companies are always available to answer questions about the equipment, supplies or chemicals they sell.

The 2022 Sunbelt Ag Expo will be on October 18-20.  This year’s theme is “The New Era of Agriculture.”


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Dependable Equipment for Progressive Farming – Kelley Manufacturing Co.

Upon leaving the Georgia Department of Ag Seed Lab, the Peanut Tour caravan headed over to Kelley Manufacturing Co. in Tifton. Kelley Manufacturing Co. has been building dependable equipment for progressive farming for more than 45 years. Their Tifton site occupies 28 acres, with 193,000 square feet under roof and more than 210 employees year round.

Since 1966, Kelley Manufacturing Co. has been committed to their original philosophy of maintaining integrity, quality and craftsmanship. Their engineers are continually researching and developing fresh and innovative products to help increase the farmer’s profits and productivity.

Kelley Manufacturing’s product line is complete in that they build equipment for every phase of the farming process – from initial ground preparation through the field cleanup after harvest. Few manufacturers offer such a wide range of products to their customers. KMC employs some of the top engineers and specialists in the manufacturing process and hand-builds every component and machine sold.

During the KMC stop, peanut tour attendees were able to hear more about the history of KMC, participate in a tour of the plant showcasing how the equipment is manufactured, as well as  a hands-on tour of peanut equipment! 


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Tifton Peanut Company – Seed Processing & Grading

After seeing how peanuts are harvested from the field, the Georgia Peanut Tour attendees stopped at Tifton Peanut Company to see what happens once the peanuts leave the farm. Tifton Peanut Company has six locations in Tifton and offers multiple services for the peanut farmer. They are a shelling plant, seed treatment facility, buying point and warehousing facility.

Tour attendees arrive at Tifton Peanut Company.

Peanut arrive to Tifton Peanut Company on wagons or semi-trailers.

Peanuts arrive from the farm to Tifton Peanut Company via wagons or semi-trailers. If needed, the peanuts will go through a cleaner where dirt, rocks, sticks, etc. are removed. The moisture of the peanuts is then read and if needed, the peanuts may go into a dryer if moisture is above 10.5 percent. This threshold is determined by USDA; however, Tifton Peanut Company prefers to dry their peanuts to nine percent to prevent any storage issues throughout the year. A flexible duct extending from a fan is attached to the front or back of a semi-trailer or wagon, where air that is no more than 15 degrees Fahrenheit above ambient temperature and no higher than 95 degrees Fahrenheit is pushed through the peanuts to dry them.

Peanuts are dried if needed.

The trailers the peanuts arrive on are sent to a mechanical sampler, where wagons are probed eight times and a semi-trailer is probed 15 times. In semi trailers, this equates to roughly a 150-200 lb. peanut sample. From there, a 3,600 gram sample goes into a riffle divider that divides the sample in half. One half is an official grade sample that goes into the grading room and the other as a “just in case sample” to double-check accuracies of the grading or to use in case something happens with the initial grade sample.

Peanuts are sampled for grading under this shed.

Tifton Peanut Company offers green grading, also known as high moisture grading. This allows peanuts to be graded up to 18 percent moisture, which results in a deduction in grade and value and requires the load to go back on a dryer; however, the peanuts are not required to be re-graded. Check out the video below to see how the grading process works.

For seed treatment, peanut seed is shelled and stored in 2,200 lb. totes. A 5 lb. sample is retained out of that and sent off for germination where it has to germ to at least 75 before it can be put on the market. Tifton Peanut Company does not save anything unless it’s 85 or above. Once it has a germination, they will work through Georgia Crop Improvement to get tags for that lot. Each lot is 45,000 lbs. From there, the peanut seed goes through a shaker to eliminate any splits. It then receives a fungicide treatment. There are several different types of treatment available. Tifton Peanut Company uses a polymer treatment they feel better protects the peanut and allows them to color it for identification. After being treated, the peanuts go back in the 2,000 lb. tote bags or 50 lb. bags and return to storage until farmers are ready to purchase for planting season. Planting season for peanuts begins in the April/May timeframe each year. Good quality seed is critical for peanut farmers. And a 4 oz. seed treatment can be the determining factor on whether a crop is successful.

Peanut seed is treated at Tifton Peanut Company.

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