Ag News

Farm bill, crop review and awards highlight Georgia Peanut Show

A farm bill update, crop production tips, awards recognizing peanut community contributors and new equipment displays highlighted the 43rd Annual Georgia Peanut Farm Show & Conference. About 1,200 people attended the Jan. 17 event hosted by the Georgia Peanut Commission (GPC) at the UGA Tifton Campus Conference Center.

Peanut political consultant Bob Redding provided a Washington Update at the show’s lunch. Of the 2018 farm bill, Redding said, “In my opinion this is a better farm bill than we had in 2014. If you take generic acres out of the mix, it’s a good bill and we’re proud of it.”

Redding praised the Southern Peanut Farmers Federation, Georgia Farm Bureau, other southeastern Farm Bureaus, and even Michigan Farm Bureau, for their work to get the farm bill passed with strong provisions for peanut growers.

“Folks in Congress from Georgia and the Southeast generally work together on the farm bill and we need to hold them to that,” Redding said.

Frank McGill, affectionately known as “Mr. Peanut” for the many contributions he made to Georgia’s peanut industry during his storied career as a county agent and later a UGA Extension agronomist, was recognized for receiving the 2018 Valor Award from Valent. The award is named for Valent’s popular peanut herbicide.

While accepting the award, McGill reminisced about the peanut industry’s history and research achievements made to get growers to the yield levels they enjoy today. At 93 years young, McGill called himself “an old war horse,” as he outlined the progress the peanut industry has made in how it grows and harvests the crop.

“All I ever did was what I was hired to do,” McGill said of the peanut research and advocacy work he did for peanut growers throughout his career.

McGill praised the UGA Extension Peanut Team, Georgia Peanut Commission and USDA-Agricultural Research Service for working together through the years to conduct and fund research that improved peanut production on farms across the Southeast.

During seminars presented by members of the UGA Extension Peanut Team, peanut growers heard how Hurricane Michael affected the 2018 crop, what to expect for 2019 and about plant diseases that impact peanuts.

UGA Peanut Agronomist Dr. Scott Monfort said last year’s crop was better than expected. Georgia’s peanut crop lost an average of 800 pounds/acre in yield due to disease, although, the average yield per acre was 4,382 pounds/acre, which Monfort called “phenomenal.”

“Most of the yield and grade losses in last year’s crop were due to weather we experienced before Hurricane Michael that caused disease,” Monfort said. “We had Michael stuck in our head as the main weather event, but even without Michael we had weather issues that impacted our peanut crop. We were about 60 accumulated heat units behind normal for June and July.”

Monfort said 60 to 65 percent of Georgia’s peanut crop was harvested when Hurricane Michael blew in. He blamed the wet spring and cloudy weather during the bloom period of the 2018 crop for diseases that decreased crop yields.

While Hurricane Michael did damage peanut infrastructure across the peanut belt that delayed harvest, the storm helped dryland peanut growers.

“Hurricane Michael helped us get the dryland crop out because we were pretty dry before it hit,” Monfort said. “The non-irrigated yields saved the state average. Dryland peanuts gave more yields than irrigated due to all the rain they received.”

 Regarding the 2019 peanut crop, Monfort advised growers to stick with 2018 acreage to prevent an oversupply and lower prices.

“We need to stay at acres we are now or drop them down a little,” Monfort said. “Will this happen? It will depend on what cotton prices do.”

At the end of November, UGA Extension reported that Georgia farmers produced 628,000 acres in 2018, down from 714,168 in 2017.

UGA Plant Pathologist Dr. Bob Kemerait stressed the importance of peanut growers using fungicides to protect their crop against diseases. He said this year growers will be able to request whether their seeds are treated with Rancona or Dynasty PD depending on what seed dealers have available. Kemerait said both fungicides are very effective.

During the Seed Seminar part of the show, growers heard how the quality of peanut seeds is being protected by the Georgia Crop Improvement Association in partnership with the Georgia Department of Agriculture Seed Laboratory Council.

“Overall seed quality looks good,” Billy Skaggs with the Georgia Crop Improvement Association said. “Our folks certainly don’t want to sell seed that’s not of good quality and they’re going to do everything they can to sell a good seed.”

Skaggs said peanuts grown for seed were harvested prior to Hurricane Michael as they are typically planted earlier than peanuts grown to eat.

The GPC presented awards to individuals and businesses for their service to the peanut industry. Recipients were: Distinguished Service Award – Marcus Evans, recently retired GPC director of field services/industry information for 31 years; Research & Education Award – Dr. Corley Holbrook, research leader for the USDA-ARS Crop Genetics/Breeding Tifton Research Unit; Media Award – Brad Haire, editor of Southeast Farm Press; Outstanding Georgia Young Peanut Farmer Award – Ryne Powers, Appling County; Special Awards – Georgia Commissioner of Agriculture Gary Black; American Peanut Shellers Association (APSA); and the UGA Tifton Campus. The APSA and UGA Tifton Campus were both recognized for the 100 years of service each has provided Georgia peanut farmers. BASF cosponsored the Young Peanut Farmer Award.

The GPC also presented an Outstanding Ga. Peanut Farmer of the Year from each of its five districts during a breakfast before the show began. District winners were: GPC Dist. 1 - Joe Heard of Newton, Ga.; GPC Dist. 2 – the late Ray Peele of Lenox, Ga.; GPC Dist. 3 - Bobby C, Smith Jr. of Rocky Ford, Ga.; GPC Dist. 4 - Windell Gardner of Cordele, Ga.; and GPC Dist. 5 - James Gaston of Americus. Agri Supply partnered with GPC to sponsor the contest.

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