Virginia Peanuts: When Should You Start Digging?

Photo: Andrew Sawyer, University of Georgia

According to the Peanut – Cotton Infonet online report system, peanut planted on May 1 in Suffolk, Capron, Greensville, and Waverley, VA, accumulated to the date around 2100 °F in all these locations.  It is good to remember that the Virginia-type cultivars grown in Virginia requires around 2600 °F to reach harvest maturity.

With sustained daily temperatures at around 90 °F, physiological maturity could be reached in a week or two, then? It is incredible early for a “normal” year but nothing impossible, as the last year taught us.

Choosing when to dig is a big decision and no one should rush to it without checking the maturity first. If dug too early, yields will be significantly reduced from immature seeds (small sound mature kernel and extra-large kernel content on a farmer stock grading rating); this will substantially reduce the price per ton.

Immature peanuts of the “high oleic” cultivars like Sullivan, Wynne, Emery, Bailey II, and Walton may not reach the threshold 75% oleic fatty acid content required for the high oleic seed to pass the high oleic standard; this may downgrade the certified seed to commercial status and, again, reduce the farmers pay per ton.

If waiting too long, over-mature kernels will drop off the vines before being picked by the combine, and yield and pay will be substantially reduced in this way. For example, if only one pod per square foot is shed from over-maturation, the loss per acre could be 100 pounds per acre for Bailey and Sullivan, and even more for Wynne and Emery.  Usually, pod shedding can easily cause 25% yield reduction.

When to dig is, therefore, better to be a knowledge-based decision. This is now possible by the availability of peanut “maturity charts” and pod-blasting “clinics” organized by the Extension Agents and Specialists of the Virginia Coop. Ext. program; clinics will start by end of Aug and continue through end Sep in several counties in SE Virginia.

For example, Indika Farms will host one on Aug 26 starting at 8:00 AM in Windsor, VA.

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To provide some guidance for when to start maturity evaluations, pod-blasting of three major cultivars was performed on Aug 13 and images are presented below. Pod samples are from one single field at the Tidewater AREC planted on May 15.

As pictures show, the majority of the pods are yellow with less than 20% immature (white or green) and very few orange. Kernels are well developed inside the yellow pods and the orange pods have thin and darkened hulls inside, which is a clear indication that maturity has begun.

I will continue to update on the peanut maturity progress in Virginia in the coming weeks.

Maturity of ‘Emery’ peanut planted on May 15 and dug on Aug 13. Click Image to Enlarge

Maturity of ‘Sullivan’ peanut planted May 15 and dug Aug 13. Click Image to Enlarge

Maturity of ‘Wynne’ peanut planted May 15 and dug Aug 13. Click Image to Enlarge


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