Peanuts Withstand SC Drought Well - So Far

Growers in Palmetto State pray for rain.

Published on: Jun 21, 2011

This month the story among South Carolina peanut growers is the same everywhere you go.

"I'm seeing dry weather," says Jay Chapin, Extension peanut specialist at Clemson University, South Carolina.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, virtually all of South Carolina is at least in the Abnormally Dry status at the time of this writing (June 16), with a band across the Southern tip covering about one third of the state vertically in the more severe Moderate Drought condition.

The Southernmost part of that tip is in the next degree of severity, aptly labeled Severe Drought. Beyond this there is also the Extreme Drought condition and the most severe condition of all, Exceptional Drought. So far, the state has evaded these two most severe conditions.

"We've got generally good stands," says Chapin. "Most of the state was lucky early, up until about June in terms of soil moisture, except for our Southern part of our peanut production area where it has been dry for a long time. But in most of the state we were pretty fortunate to get the crop up and get good stands."

Chapin says growers are now entering the next peanut management phase.

"This phase is initiating our fungicide program at 45 days," Chapin notes. "We need water, like everyone else, but peanuts can take a good bit of drought early. If things turn around we've still got a good crop in front of us."

Since it has been hot and dry weed control has been problematic.

"It is hard to kill pigweeds with paraquat and Storm (herbicides) when it is hot and dry but we are doing the best we can," Chapin notes. "We've got all kinds of resistance (weed resistance to herbicides). In our pigweed populations we've got dinitroaniline resistance and Cadre resistance and Roundup resistance. That makes it challenging and that is why we rely on Valor residual, Dual residual, and paraquat contact materials so heavily.

Resistant pigweed is tough anywhere but South Carolina has some of the worst in the country. When these pigweeds get out of control they can grow as large as Christmas trees. At that point there is little a grower can do.

 It is always best to get these difficult resistant weeds when they are as small as possible. Chapin recalls something one of  his peers, an Extension weed specialist at the University of Georgia, often says.

 "It is like my friend Eric Prostco tells me," Chapin quips. "'The way to kill a 12 inch pigweed is to spray it when it is two inches tall.'"

Growers upped the ante on peanut acres this year. Chapin says there are a little more than 70,000 acres of peanuts in the state this year. There were about 65,000 acres last year.

Asked if people are optimistic about the potential for peanut profits this year, Chapin says, "Well they would be a lot more optimistic if they got a rain. Right now I'd say people are rather pessimistic about the weather forecast but that could change in a hurry if we saw some rain. But the fact is, we are never more than 10 days away from a drought."

Chapin also draws attention to the fact that this year Clemson growers are fortunate to have an additional peanut specialist on board in 2011. His name is Scott Monfort.

You can follow drought conditions across the South using the U.S. Drought Monitor. The Southeast map is located on the Internet at http://www.drought.unl.edu/dm/DM_southeast.htm.