With exceptionally heavy weather late last week disrupting peanut harvest in parts of Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma, some producers are dealing with problems in the aftermath of heavy rain high winds and even a few reports of hail.
The greatest wide-scale problem has been too much rain. In some areas, as much as 6 to 12 inches of water fell on peanut fields, not only causing access problems but leaving many farmers with additional problems associated with too much rain on their crop in too short of time, especially those caught with peanuts that were dug but not yet dry when the rains came.
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Concerns of a wet crop are at the forefront for many, so Southwest Farm Press turned to peanut specialists Jason Woodward at Texas A&M and Todd Baughman at Oklahoma State University to provide sound advice on how to best address problems associated with a wet crop.
For most growers, last week's heavy weather came during a peak time for harvest, leaving many concerned about the best way to preserve quality and yield.
"There is the potential for pegs to lose their integrity and increase harvest losses if they are too wet. Producers are encouraged to inspect the aggressiveness of pick up attachments and try to limit pegs being knocked off the vine, before making their way into the thrashing cylinder of a combine," warns Jason Woodward, plant pathologist at the Texas A&M Research and Extension Center in Lubbock.
"Another major concern is the impact wet weather might have on the quality of in-shell market-types such as Virginias. Extended periods of high moisture facilitate growth and development of some microbes that may negatively affect the brightness of the hull."
Todd Baughman, program support leader for Oklahoma State University’s Institute for Agricultural Biosciences in Ardmore, says hopefully farmers weren't caught digging peanuts that were then rained on.
"Peanuts that have been rained on in the windrow never seem to combine as well as those dug after a rain. However, you must put that in perspective with the chance for freeze. We are getting late in the season so the risk for freezing weather increases the later we wait to dig and harvest peanuts," he noted.
Baughman said with the potential of more wet weather this week, other considerations apply.
"Regarding in-shell market types like Virginia and Valencia, from a hull brightness standpoint the peanuts are again better off in the ground than on top, especially if rainfall is prolonged. You will get better yields with both market types when leaving them in the ground rather than digging and getting them rained on."
Many producers were caught with peanuts already dug, leaving them with, in some cases, an exceptionally wet crop, creating quality issues.
"Peanuts vines need to be dry to thrash the best. Vines that are wet will not let go of the pods as well during harvesting and either can result in harvest loss or the vines have to harvested more aggressively, which can lead to other quality issues such as splits and damaged kernels. Regarding kernel moisture, if the peanuts are too high in moisture,
they should be dried to prevent quality loss, especially if additional moisture is expected or worse, freezing temperatures, which can quickly develop in early November. But he says if a producer still has some peanuts to harvest and sunny, dry days are in the forecast, they may dry well in the field.
Woodward agrees, but says for some farmers, they may be able to speed the drying cycle after heavy rain events like those experienced last week.
"Growers may need to run an implement under the windrows to help aerate the vines below to help facilitate drying. This may be impractical under some circumstances. If the moisture levels in kernels are too high after being harvested, they may need to be mechanically dried to get to acceptable levels," he advises.
Both Woodward and Baughman report sustained wet conditions are growers’ biggest concern this late in the harvest season.
"Greater rainfall totals will lead to longer delays. The longer the peanuts sit in windrows and remain wet, the more severe problems may persist. Much of that has to do with how well the soil drains," Woodward said.
"The longer the peanuts sit in the field the increased potential for degradation of the peanut vines will increase," Baughman added, "especially if there is the chance for a freeze."
Fortunately, he says, there is no immediate freeze danger, but that could change rapidly.
They say it's too early to know whether last week's weather caused significant or widespread damages or losses in their respective areas, but expressed concern that the later it gets in the harvest season and additional rain could be problematic and delay getting the crop out of the ground and stored or shipped properly.
"The race is on" to beat changing weather conditions in the days and weeks ahead.