County Agent Gives the Go-Ahead for Peanut Planting
Originally published in the Lake City Reporter. May 2, 2013.
Area farmers are saying that March came in like a lamb and went out like a lion, contrary to the old saying. So far, they have patiently awaited the beginning of their peanut season. Area farmers reported only one frost in the month of January 2013, but thirteen instances of frost in the month of March this year. UF/IFAS Columbia County Extension Agent Mace Bauer has recommended peanut farmers not to begin planting until soil temperatures average 70 degrees. This recommendation is based on recent research from University of Georgia, showing yields are increased by several hundred pounds per acre when planted into warm soil with a warming weather trend compared to planting into cooler soils. The magic number of 70 degrees average soil temperature and warm sunny days is used as the indicator for planting. As current daytime highs reach above 80 degrees the soil temperatures are finally at optimum levels for peanut planting. While some crops like corn are better adapted to cool climates, peanuts are very sensitive to cold weather.
In 2012 there were 8,600 acres of peanuts grown in Columbia County. With an average value of $750 per ton of peanuts, this was an economic boon to Columbia and surrounding counties. Unfortunately, high prices cure high prices and last year was a good example. Due to overplanting and excellent weather in Georgia, prices will be substantially lower this year with an almost a 50% decrease in price paid to farmers. A 30% reduction in planted acres compared to last year is expected to be seen due to the prediction of low prices. However peanut farmers will do what they do best; now that the soil temperatures are suitable, they will get started and hopefully have a very successful season.
County farmers are planting other crops this season as well including wheat, corn, cotton, soybeans and watermelons. Even a few acres of sesame will be planted for the food markets. Approximately 3,000 acres of cotton is expected to be grown in Columbia County this year which will take the place of much of the land not planted to peanuts. For additional information concerning Columbia County agriculture, please contact Mace Bauer at the Extension Office at 386 752-5384.