Here is an update on peanuts from Clemson Peanut Specialists Jay Chapin and Dan Anco.
Only about 10-15% of the peanut crop was picked before the storm hit. Yield and quality was highly variable due to previous drought stress. We had instances of 5000 lb+ high quality irrigated Virginias directly across the road from 1500 lb Seg. 3 drought stress. We also had some very good dryland yields.
None of the following harvest comments refer to fields that are under water or washed away. Obviously we are going to have some 100% losses in entire fields and field areas. There has been some concern about harvesting these drown, rotted areas and mixing them with better higher ground peanuts. But this should be limited just by the fact that we are not going to be able to go through the bottoms for a good while anyway and growers won’t wait around to get the ones they can get to.
Out of the unpicked peanuts, about half, maybe a bit less were dug. The peanuts that had already weathered above ground for two weeks or more in the showers, mist and temperatures in the 80s are at high risk of pod loss at the combine header. Most of these won’t stand lifting; it will be tough enough to pick them up one time with the combine without losing some of the best pods. They also have greater risk of Seg. 2 from potential mold.
In contrast, peanuts dug the week before the storm should retain their quality and the vines will stand lifting. These are a higher priority to lift and pick as soon as we can stand up.
Roughly 45% -50% of the crop was still in the ground, but growers were back digging by Wednesday (6 Sept.) in areas like Marion and eastern Orangeburg Cos. – above and below the worst of the storm. Most of the crop that is still in the ground is already mature or over-mature. Over-maturity digging losses will be severe where we can’t get to them for another week, or much longer in some areas. Over-mature peanuts and wet soils are a bad combination.
Finally, we have some later planted or previously drought stressed runners that will mature late enough to not be affected by the storm. We can wait for more ideal soil moisture for digging.
The harvest priorities are pretty clear-cut in non-flooded areas where growers can operate. Focus on picking the higher quality fresh vines and digging mature fields whenever soil conditions allow. A lot of the deteriorated vines will have to dry without lifting. We can’t worry about the digger getting even further ahead of the combine where we already have mature peanuts in the ground. We have about a three week window left of normally good – excellent harvest conditions.
All this is easy to talk about; very tough to get done. Growers in flooded areas have concerns other than getting the peanut crop out; transportation is a big problem with loss of roads and bridges. It has been a very difficult year, but the peanut industry in South Carolina has a good future. All of the investment in buying points, production equipment, irrigation, and management capability is still intact. Peanuts have had a more positive impact on row crop farm profitability over the past decade than any other crop in our state and can continue to do so over the long haul.