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Farmers start harvest of near-perfect peanut crop

By Brad Haire
University of Georgia

Georgia's peanut harvest has started. And farmers hope to get a break from the rains that have been welcome so far this year.

"This growing season was, with the rainfall we received, ideal for peanut growing," said John Beasley, an Extension Service peanut agronomist with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Old-timers say . . .

"I'm not aware of anybody that didn't get enough rain," he said. "Some got too much. Some of the old-timers said this was the best growing weather they'd ever seen."

Georgia farmers expect to get about 3,200 pounds of peanuts per acre in this year's harvest, which started in early September and will wind down in mid-November. The state record yield is 3,375 pounds per acre set in 1984.

Peanut farmers like sunny, low-humidity days for harvest.

(To harvest peanuts, farmers first dig them out of the ground and leave them in the fields to dry on the ground for a few days. They then mechanically pick the peanuts from the plants and take them to be sold.)

It's time for the rains to stop, Beasley said. Too much rain, usually brought by tropical weather systems this time of year, has dampened many good peanut harvests in the past.

About 85 percent of Georgia's crop will be harvested within the next month. Other peanut-producing states, such as Alabama and Florida, are harvesting a good crop now, too, Beasley said.

Options

Because of the wet growing season, farmers continue to fight peanut diseases, said Bob Kemerait, a UGA Extension plant pathologist. Farmers are weighing two options: spend the extra money to treat late-season diseases or harvest their crop a little early.

"The growers will always rather have a wet year," Kemerait said. "But diseases this year will take a chunk out of yields and cut back on what could have been."

Strong demand

Demand for U.S.-grown peanuts is as strong as ever, said Nathan Smith, a UGA Extension peanut economist. U.S. farmers will grow about 2 million tons of peanuts this year. Of this, Georgia will produce 850,000 tons.

The U.S. peanut industry uses about 1.2 million tons of U.S.- grown peanuts each year to make peanut butter, candy and snacks. About 800,000 tons are exported to other countries or crushed into oil.

This year, Smith said, the supply and demand of the peanut industry should work out for stable prices for U.S. growers. Working within the federal peanut program, farmers should get about $380 per ton.

(Brad Haire is the former news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.)

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