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Peanuts weather the storm
Heavy rains endanger local crops, but farmers optimistic about yield
W 080913 PEANUTS 01
Efrain Villegas shakes the dirt loose while harvesting peanuts for Strickland Farms. Some farmers in the area are expecting a decent crop of peanuts despite recent heavy rains. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/staff

Recent torrential rains have put southeast Georgia’s peanut crop in jeopardy, especially in Bulloch County.

Necessary rain, a tremendous blessing to farmers in the past, has become a potential curse this year. Fields, soaked with standing water for several weeks, have threatened peanut production.

With the 24th Annual Brooklet Peanut Festival set for Saturday, peanuts are on a lot of people’s minds. And peanuts are one Bulloch County’s key crops, a major part of the local and regional economy.

Adam Sanders, of Sunrise Produce on U.S. Highway 80, said his family’s row crop of peanuts has suffered a good bit.

“Our peanut growth has slowed down a bit from all the rain we’ve had, but we’re almost back on schedule to have a decent crop,” he said. “Peanuts love dry, hot nights for high growth, so we’re a little behind schedule at this point. Hopefully, things are now looking brighter.”

Sanders said this year’s peanut contracts will barely be enough to cover expenses.

“Some spots in our fields were drowned out, and some around the edges were soggy,” he said. “But overall we should at least break even.”

David Rushing, of Birdsong’s Ogeechee Buying Point in Brooklet, also had an optimistic view.

“Peanuts are looking better now, so we feel that area crops will recover with the better weather we’re having,” he said.

Wes Harris, the extension coordinator for the Bulloch County Cooperative Extension Service, said the smaller peanut crop this year has weathered the heavy rains fairly well.

“Peanut acreage was reduced this year due to low contract prices reflecting last year’s record harvest and increased plantings,” he said. “The impact for this year was significant due to most peanuts being planted in highly productive zones. This has precluded major damage from the excessive precipitation that we have received.”

Harris added that, surprisingly, area crops of peanuts have not experienced the disease pressure that would “normally be associated with weather extremes. Insects are also at nominal levels and do not appear to be a factor. We would expect, with good harvest weather, a better-than-average peanut yield for this year.”

This is great news for those preparing for the Brooklet Peanut Festival, to be held Saturday. The event kicks off with a 5K Peanut Run at 7 a.m., followed by a parade through the center of town at 10 a.m. Other festivities will be held at the festival site on Railroad Street in Brooklet, including live entertainment throughout the afternoon and a dance at night. For further information on the festival, go to www.brookletpeanutfestival.com.

One of the dangers at this stage in the production of peanuts is the threat of several diseases, including leaf spot, limb rot and white mold. Thankfully, most farmers interviewed felt that they are now able to get into their fields to apply the much needed fungicides to help with the control of said diseases.”

“We’ve been fortunate so far,” said Lloyd Stickland, a Brooklet peanut grower. “Some of our bottom land was severely affected by the rains, but I think we’ll be alright now. We’ve been harvesting green peanuts for the past three weeks and have kept up with the supply requests from our area wholesalers. During the severe rains, we were not able to get into the fields to apply calcium at the right time, but we are now able to get that done.”

Chap Cromley, a large peanut grower in Brooklet, added: “Looks like we’ll have a decent crop this year. We were able to get back into the fields this past week and apply our much-needed fungicides, so I feel like we’ll be OK at harvest time.”

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