By Clint Thompson
Three separate weather events this season will likely impact the quality and yield of a substantial amount of Georgia’s peanut acreage, according to Scott Monfort, University of Georgia Cooperative Extension pecan agronomist.
Three weeks of steady rainfall in May delayed the planting of an estimated 45 percent of Georgia’s peanut crop until after May 25. Because of the later planting, more than 200,000 acres of Georgia peanuts were at risk when Hurricane Michael moved through the state on Oct. 10. A rainy November added to harvest problems for Georgia producers.
“When the hurricane came through, it did hurt the crop a little bit, but it’s main and immediate impact was to the industry’s infrastructure in southwest Georgia. It caused us to leave peanuts in the field longer than normal. We had to leave them in the field to get the infrastructure going again,” Monfort said.
Two to three weeks of rain in early November pushed peanut harvest out as much as four weeks, he said. Some peanuts have been sitting in the field and several growers have lost a significant amount in quality and yield.
After surveying 24 Agriculture and Natural Resources Extension agents in southeast and southwest Georgia, Monfort found that as of Nov. 19, approximately 10 percent of planted[SD1] peanut acres in this region have not been harvested due to the continued wet and cloudy weather.
Based on the survey, peanut losses are now close to 20 percent due to the impact of the hurricane and recent rainfall. In the southeast part of the state, this equates to an average loss of 716.6 pounds per acre. In southwest Georgia counties, the estimated average loss is 809 pounds per acre.
Monfort stresses that these losses are just averages. The losses skyrocket in the southwest Georgia counties along Hurricane Michael’s path.
“Just looking at this survey, those counties in the middle of the storm — Early, Terrell, Miller and Baker — you can tell that those were the hardest hit. There may have been 800 pounds on average, but the counties in the southwest corridor really got hit for 1,000 to 2000 pounds per acre,” Monfort said.
Some counties in east Georgia also lost more than a 1,000 pounds per acre. The true impact of the hurricane is determined on a farm-by-farm basis. Some growers had most of their crop at risk due to late planting and have lost much more than 20 percent of their peanut revenue.
The projected losses would likely be smaller if not for delayed planting. According to weather.uga.edu, Dawson, Georgia (in Terrell County) received 3.57 inches of rain and 11 rainy days between May 14 and May 28. During that same timeframe, Newton, Georgia (in Baker County) received 5.6 inches and 14 rainy days. Camilla, Georgia (in Mitchell County) received 4.88 inches and 12 rainy days during those two weeks in May. Because of the delayed plantings, more than 3,000 acres were at risk from the storm in Mitchell County. Baker County had more than 1,000 acres at risk and Terrell County had more than 1,700 acres at risk.
“Plantings that were delayed until after May 25 would have been part of the 65 or 70 percent that were already harvested before the hurricane,” Monfort said. “We probably could have had more like 80 to 85 percent that were harvested by the time Hurricane Michael had arrived, (if not for the delay).”
Monfort estimates that 10 percent of Georgia’s peanut crop still needs to be harvested. Georgia peanut producers are usually finished harvesting their crop by early November.