Published on 05/07/99

Rain 'Perfect, Perfect, Perfect' for Georgia Peanut Crop

Rain across the southern part of the state May 6 and 7 was "perfect, perfect, perfect" for the $400 million Georgia peanut crop, said a University of Georgia peanut scientist.

Good reasons to stay out of the field

"We saw a good, general, soaking rain across the peanut belt," said John Beasley, an extension agronomist with the UGA College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. "I don't think any of our farmers mind being kept out of the fields for a few days because it's too wet for equipment."

Dry fields kept most farmers from planting earlier. They were also waiting on what research shows is the ideal planting time to minimize risk of tomato spotted wilt virus infection.

"Several years of research shows that plants seeded in the first two weeks of May with good moisture, like we'll have now with this rain, had less spotted wilt infection and therefore less yield loss to the disease," Beasley said. "So the timing is great in that sense, too."

Good start for peanuts

In many areas, the rain came down long enough to soak into fields after the first downpour ran off. So seed planted now will have ample moisture to germinate and grow a strong root system.

Beasley said once the plant grows a good root system, it can survive without further rain until 30 or 40 days after planting.

"At that point, the plant will bloom and form pegs," he said. Those pegs will extend into the soil and, if they get enough water, will swell into peanut pods.

Rain affects insurance decisions, too

This rain will also affect how farmers insure their crops. Georgia farmers insure almost 90 percent of their peanuts C about 475,000 acres. To qualify for full coverage on insured peanuts, the crop must be planted by May 25.

Don Shurley, a UGA Extension Service economist, said farmers face several possible insurance scenarios, too. In addition to coverage for yield loss, most policies also contain provisions for replanting, delayed planting and prevented planting. Let your agent know if you get in a situation where any of the planting provisions may apply, he said.

Crowding cotton

With the rain, farmers will be getting into the fields as quickly as they can to plant their 1999 peanut crop. But the window of opportunity is smaller this year. Shurley said the delayed peanut crop is pushing cotton planting back, too.

Many growers plant both cotton and peanuts to diversify their farms, Shurley said. To spread out their costs, they use the same planting equipment on both crops. But that means if they're using equipment to plant peanuts, they can't also be planting cotton.

"They're going to have to sit down and do some good figuring to decide which crop will be most profitable for them to plant first," he said. "Then they'll have to get right into the field and start planting before this moisture evaporates."

Drought not over, though

Welcome though it is, the rain won't break the drought in Georgia, said UGA state climatologist David Stooksbury. "You can have floods, particularly flash floods, in the middle of a drought," he said.

This rain has bought us a week or 10 days. "But if we don't get more rain soon after, we'll be right back where we were," Stooksbury said.

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