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A closer look at how top-yielding peanut farmers manage weeds

The 14 members of the 2016 GPAC collectively produced a whole-farm average peanut yield of 6,266 pounds per acre when Georgia's average yield was 3,900 pounds per acre.

As a former D3 college football player, I spent most of my time trying to get bigger and better because there was always someone bigger and better than me with bad intentions. 

Although some athletes are blessed with an abundance of natural talent, the truly elite ones work harder than everyone else to improve their game. Much can be learned from them. Maybe the same can be said about elite peanut growers?

One of the highlights of my year occurs when the University of Georgia Peanut Team and various industry sponsors (Thanks!) get together to recognize some of the high-yielding peanut growers in Georgia with an annual event now known as the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club (GPAC). 

Georgia peanut growers have been recognized in a similar fashion since the early 1950s. From my point of view, GPAC is a great way for me to learn more about peanut weed management on a larger scale.  Are the ideas and concepts that have been investigated on UGA research farms actually working on commercial farms?

As I mentioned in my intro, there is much to be learned from those that might be doing something better. Keep in mind that the 14 members of the 2016 GPAC collectively produced a whole-farm average peanut yield of 6,266 pounds per acre when the state average was only 3,900 pounds per acre!! That does not happen by accident. Thus, I thought you might be interested in how these growers manage their weed problems.

One of the biggest advantages that members of the GPAC have is that they are 100 percent irrigated. There are numerous advantages to irrigation, but for a weed scientist like me it is all about herbicide activation.  At any time of the day or night, peanut growers with irrigation systems can activate residual herbicides with the push of a button. Dryland growers have to rely on Mother Nature who is frequently stingy with her distribution of timely rainfalls.

As for tillage practices, most GPAC members (71 percent) use a bottom plow. Hopefully, you have seen or heard me and others talk about the positive effects of burying weed seed, particularly Palmer amaranth.  Unfortunately, deep tillage does not fit into some peanut grower’s management style for many reasons.

Although yield benefits with newer peanut cultivars may not be as great as was observed a few years ago, 85 percent of GPAC growers continue to sow peanuts with a twin-row planter.  From a weed management perspective, research has shown that weed control, on average, may be improved 5 percent to 10 percent when planting in twin-rows.  This is most likely due to the more even distribution of peanut plants (competition) and subsequent faster canopy closure (shade) that occurs in twin-rows.

Last but not least is herbicide use. I have listed in Figure 1 the herbicides most frequently used by GPAC growers. It is obvious that Valor, Cadre, 2,4-DB, and Sonalan are among the most popular.  That’s great to see since these same herbicides are also a big part of my recommended peanut weed control programs.

Eric Prostko/UGA Extension

Any peanut grower that can consistently produce in excess of 6,000 pounds per acre on their whole farm is working as hard as an elite athlete to stay on top of their game. Perhaps they might also be able to teach you and me a thing or two about peanut weed control. 

As always, good weed hunting!

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