Recent weather conditions discussed at annual Peanut Field Day

Two weathers woes are straining Wiregrass peanut producers.
Published: Aug. 10, 2023 at 9:30 PM CDT
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MARIANNA, Fla. (WTVY) - The University of Florida’s Institute of Food and Agriculture Science hosted its annual Peanut Field Day on Thursday to help farmers develop the most profitable means of peanut production.

Farmers who attended the field day got to speak with researchers specializing in peanuts to ask questions involving disease, new plant varieties and plant nutrition.

One of the issues farmers brought up is how heat and lack of rain are causing potential problems for wiregrass peanut farmers. Recent heat waves combined with a lack of rain can cost farmers their crops and therefore, their livelihoods.

Dr. Barry Tillman is a professor at the UF Institute who studies peanut breading. Tillman and his colleagues who study the crop closely know firsthand how drought conditions impact crops.

“It can be a significant problem for growers when it doesn’t rain,” Tillman said, which is why he says it is always great to have enough rainfall. However, the first sign of drought problems is no reason for farmers to panic. Tillman says different types of tillage systems or land preparation can retain moisture for the peanuts during dry seasons.

Another problem encouraged by dry conditions is the heightened risk for disease. Nicholas Dufault, an extension plant pathologist with the University of Florida, said his research shows that two things can happen with drought conditions in peanuts.

One thing is that the conditions change the kinds of diseases that affect the crop. The other is a kind of fungal pathogen called Aspergillus, which creates a toxin in the plant that makes it hard to process. This particular pathogen shows up more with dry conditions.

To combat this, Dufault encourages farmers to adjust their management plans and to reach out to local extension centers for help.

Tillman and his team discussed multiple ways to get a good peanut harvest, with one of those ways being the use of pesticides. However, with recent high temperatures, that poses its own set of risks. Labels on pesticides require that farmers wear certain thick protective gear. Wearing the gear in hot environments can make it hard for farmers to decipher the difference between heat exposure versus pesticide exposure because both have the same symptoms.

The University of Florida's Institute of Food and Agriculture is helping peanut farmers combat issues that could be detrimental to their crops.

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