Transition strategies for an organic peanut-grain cropping system

Final Report for LS07-198

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2007: $220,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2010
Region: Southern
State: Georgia
Principal Investigator:
Dr. R. Scott Tubbs
University of Georgia
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Project Information

Abstract:

The transitional period to get land certified plays a critical role in minimizing the impact of pests (especially weeds) on organic peanut production. This research demonstrated that transitioning through row crop production (pearl millet and cowpea) provided more adequate weed control than bahiagrass or a cultivated fallow rotation. Cultivar selection also plays an important role in reducing incidence of late leaf spot and maximizing yield potential in peanut, with Tifguard and Georgia-06G as strong candidates for organic production. These two cultivars are also widely available commercially since they are two of the most prominent cultivars grown in conventional production as well. There is still work to be done to make an efficient, effective, and profitable transitional and organic crop production system more feasible on a larger scale. However, great strides are being made in progressing toward a regional supply of organic peanuts from the southeast, where much of the infrastructure of the peanut industry in the U.S. resides.

Project Objectives:
  1. Determine effectiveness of organic transition strategies to manage weeds and improve soil quality in three prior land-use types.
    Evaluate the impact of transition practices and weed management strategies on organic peanut production, pest management, and returns on investment.
    Determine how management characteristics (physical and human) of farms relate to crop yield and economic returns of organic transition strategies across the transition period.
Introduction:

Organic peanut (Arachis hypogaea) production has been centered in less-humid peanut producing areas where disease is less prevalent than in the Southeast. New disease resistant cultivars have opened new opportunities for organic markets in peanut production in the southeast. To become certified for organic production, land must go through a 3 year transitional period in which no inorganic inputs can be used, but growers will not receive price premiums since these are not certified crops during the transitional period. Developing cropping systems/rotations that will get growers through the transition period with some economical crops and minimal pest incidence heading into peanut production and land certification will be beneficial in opening up new acreage and market opportunities for peanuts and alternative grain crops such as pearl millet (Pennisetum glaucum) and cowpea (Vigna unguiculata).
Currently, demand for organic peanuts and feed grains greatly exceeds supply. In 2005, there was a shortage of nearly 5000 tons of organic peanuts in the United States (Culbreath, 2005), which equates to approximately 5000 acres of production. Similarly, domestic sales of organic poultry are increasing, resulting in an increasing demand for organic grain. In 2003, the Fieldale Farms Corporation, a southeastern poultry company, was short nearly 1,500 tons of organic feed grains and thus, was unable to market their drug free poultry as certified organic (Whittaker, 2003). In addition, alternative markets for peanut, such as boiled peanuts and hay, and grains, such as specialty bird seed and ethnic foods, show promise and may provide growers with additional market options.
Pearl millet is adapted to drought conditions and low fertility, and is an emerging crop in Georgia with potential in various production systems, including conventional row-crop agriculture and for biofuel production. It is a high quality grain that has excellent potential in poultry production and recreational industries, such as feed for wild game or pets. Reeves (SARE, 1993) reported that pearl millet provided similar energy and protein as tropical corn (Zea mays), and better levels of each as temperate corn. There is also potential for pearl millet to be sold into the ethnic food market, as it is a staple in India and many African countries. As a short season crop with a wide planting window, it is an excellent planting option as a double crop and between traditional crops where fields would normally be left fallow. A previous SARE project (SARE, 1993), Sustainable Whole Farm Grain/Silage Production Systems for the Southeast, reported that pearl millet was a viable silage and feed grain crop in the southern U.S., providing similar energy and protein as tropical corn. The SARE project (SARE, 1999), Disease and Insect Management Using New Crop Rotations for Sustainable Production of Row Crops in the Southeastern United States determined that pearl millet was a viable rotation alternative with soybean (Glycine max), wheat (Triticum aestivum), and canola (Brassica napus) in the southern U.S.A. Rotating pearl millet with peanut was found to reduce root knot nematode (Meloidogyne arenaria) infection and improves yield (Timper et al., 2007). Cowpea can also be a poor host to various races of root know nematode (Kirkpatrick and Morelock, 1987; Wang and McSorley, 2004) and could be used as a green manure, livestock feed, or human consumption (some varieties considered more suitable than others).
Increased organic peanut production in Georgia and most of the Southeast will depend on land that is not currently certified being brought into organic production. Most of the land that will be brought into organic peanut-grain production will be either 1) land currently in conventional production, 2) fallow or timber land that has not received synthetic inputs for at least three years and can be immediately certified as organic, and 3) pasture land that may or may not have received synthetic inputs in the prior three years. Each of these land use practices has different challenges, with differences in weed density and species competition and in soil quality. Most fields that have been in conventional production have high weed densities due to periodic fallowing and extended growing season that facilitates weed seed production. These fields typically have relatively low percentages of soil organic matter, soil microbial activities, endogenous minerals and nutrients, and relatively poor soil structure. Fallow fields can be expected to have higher percentages of soil organic matter, and other soil quality parameters compared to a conventionally managed field, but may have even more weed challenges since many of these fields are currently dominated by weedy species. Our preliminary on-farm study of peanut and pearl millet planted into a previously fallow field showed that frequent pre-planting cultivations significantly enhanced crop establishment, growth, and production, compared to no-till planting into heavy rye (Secale cereale) cover crop residue (E.G. Cantonwine, unpubl. data, 2006). Pasture land tends to have improved soil quality characteristics than a conventional field and fewer annual weeds contributing to the weed seed-bank than a fallow field, however, most perennial pastures are persistent grasses that resist management by cultivation due to their production of rhizomes and/or stolons.

Pest issues:

Weeds, diseases, and insects are all major production hurdles for organic peanut, as chemical controls are the standard method in conventional production. However, preliminary research has shown promise in reducing some of these problems without the use of synthetic pesticides. Weeds may be controlled through stale seedbed techniques (Johnson and Mullinix, 1995; Johnson and Mullinix, 2000) and harrowing (Wilson et al., 1993). Mechanical cultivation is one of the most important management decisions for organic producers (Ferrell et al., 2011; Hauser et al., 1973; Smith et al., 2000) with sweep and flex-tine cultivators (Reddiex et al., 2001) currently offering the most promise in organic peanut production according to our preliminary research (W.C. Johnson III, unpubl. data, 2008-2009; R.S. Tubbs, unpubl. data, 2009-2010). Likewise, crop rotation has proven an effective tool to suppress weeds (Hauser et al., 1974; Johnson and Mullinix, 1997; Menges, 1987). Yet, for disease control, genotype selection is the most viable option as bred resistance to some of the most damaging pathogens is what made organic production of peanut a possibility in the first place (Branch and Culbreath, 2008; Wynne et al., 1991). There are some approved fungicides for combating diseases, which have shown some promise as either seed treatments or foliar applications (Cantonwine et al., 2008; A.K. Culbreath, unpubl. data, 2008-2009; R.S. Tubbs, unpubl. data, 2009-2010). Although, rotation is again an important factor for disrupting insect and disease cycles (Kemerait et al., 2011; Porter et al., 1984). In addition, most insect pests of peanut, such as fall armyworm (Spodoptera frugiperda), velvetbean caterpillar (Anticarsia gemmatalis), corn earworm (Helicoverpa zea), southern corn rootworm (Diabrotica undecimpunctata), and cutworm (Agrotis subterranea), can largely be managed with irrigation in most years (Adams, 2009; Womack, 1981), while insecticide application is not a common practice even in conventional production since these pests rarely exceed economic thresholds.

Value of product:

Organic products are accompanied with a price premium, often making this production type economically competitive and sometimes superior to conventional production systems despite greater risk of lower yields. There is no exception for peanut, as a recent organic peanut crop in Georgia was contracted at two to three times the average contract price of conventional peanuts (N.B. Smith, pers. commun.). Coupled with low input costs since herbicide and fungicide programs are essentially eliminated (aside from the few acceptable inputs available), there is certainly an opportunity for growers to capitalize financially with organic management. Although, there are cautions to this, as there are usually increased fuel costs from regular cultivation, plus a necessity for some hand-weeding, which is a highly expensive input. Likewise, the transitional period requires the adherence to organic production guidelines, but does not qualify as a certified organic crop and thus cannot command the price premiums that accompany certification during the transitional period. Often, any potential profits/gains anticipated upon certification are needed to offset losses incurred during the transitional period. Thus, the entire system should be considered in advance before a producer makes a concerted effort toward organic production.
The importance of an organic production system for peanuts in the southeastern U.S. is paramount though. With the only currently available supply of products coming from the southwestern peanut producing region (primarily concentrated in New Mexico and Texas), this requires shipping of products to the east which likewise increases fuel expenditures and costs. As one of the primary goals of low input agricultural systems such as organic production is to minimize environmental pollution, the burning of additional fossil fuels to move products is contradictory to this principle, especially with many peanut processing facilities located in the southeastern region. Thus, creating a more regional, localized supply is critical to the long-term sustainability of meeting the demand for organic peanut products.

Cooperators

Click linked name(s) to expand
  • Albert Culbreath
  • W. C. Johnson
  • Craig Kvien
  • Nathan Smith
  • Jeff Wilson

Research

Materials and methods:

Research trials were implemented at four locations. Two of these locations were on land governed by the University of Georgia (UGA), and the other two locations were on-farm cooperators. These sites included:
• Horticulture Hill Farm, UGA – Tift County (supervision of R.S. Tubbs, UGA Dept. of Crop and Soil Sciences)
• Ponder Farm, UGA – Tift County (supervision of W.C. Johnson III, USDA-ARS)
• Center for Agricultural Study and Excellence (CASE) Farm – Irwin County (supervision of W. Paulk, director of CASE Farm)
• Chris Martin Farm – Dodge County (supervision of Ronnie Barentine, UGA County Extension Coordinator, Pulaski County and Chris Martin)

With the exception of the Ponder Farm location, the other trials were designed as Randomized Complete Blocks for the main plot treatment effects of crop rotation. Plot size varied by location, but was a minimum of 2160 ft2 per treatment per replication. Four replications were used at each of these three sites. Due to low availability of pigeon pea (Cajanus cajan) and velvetbean (Mucuna pruriens) seed, and an increase in interest for cowpea as a wildlife feed, an alteration of crop rotations was made from the original proposal. The four main plot treatment effects included (Fig. 1):
1. cultivated fallow (1st and 2nd summers) – peanut (3rd summer) – regular cultivation across entire plot to destroy emerging weeds, in order to deplete the weed seedbank
2. pearl millet (1st summer) – cowpea (2nd summer) – peanut (3rd summer) – the two targeted grain crops for this project are alternated, but concerns over following a legume with a legume could raise concern
3. cowpea (1st summer) – pearl millet (2nd summer) – peanut (3rd summer) – reversing the order of the first two grain crops may alleviate pest pressures from back-to-back legumes
4. bahiagrass (Paspalum notatum) (1st and 2nd summers) – peanut (3rd summer) – sod based rotations have proven to be effective in reducing pest pressures better than traditional row crop rotations; crude representation of growers interested in converting pasture directly to row crops to alleviate more intensive management during the transitional period

As a split-plot effect during the final year of the rotation, different peanut cultivars were used, including ‘Georgia-06G’ (Branch, 2007) at all locations, ‘Georganic’ (Holbrook and Culbreath, 2008) at the two on-farm locations, and ‘Tifguard’ (Holbrook et al., 2008) and ‘Georgia-04S’ (Branch, 2005) at the two UGA locations. The Horticulture Hill location also had an additional split treatment effect by including either one or two hand-weedings in each sub-plot during the season of peanut production.
Production practices included conventional tillage prior to planting peanut and irrigation as needed (except for the CASE Farm location), according to UGA recommendations for peanut (UGA, 1997). No herbicides, fungicides (including seed treatments), or insecticides were applied to the plots at any point during the season in order to follow approved USDA-certified organic production practices. OMRI-approved fertilizers (Nature Safe, Cold Spring, KY) were applied at each location to plots in the two rotation years prior to peanut based on soil test recommendations for each individual crop (Plank et al., 2001).

Research results and discussion:

Both cowpea and pearl millet performed well in the rotation, however each had some disadvantages as well. Cowpea did an excellent job of canopy closure and shading of weeds (Fig. 2a), keeping most weed problems minimal except for a few escapes (such as aggressive early season pigweed (Palmer amaranth [Amaranthus palmeri] + redroot pigweed [Amaranthus retroflexus]). Some limitations of cowpea were its viney growth habit, which made it hard to cultivate except for a short timeframe after planting before the vines started to overlap into row middles. The intertwined vines also made it very difficult to harvest. As for pearl millet, its upright/erect growth did not provide superior row coverage, thus weeds had a greater opportunity to grow since more light penetrated the canopy to the base of rows and row middles (Fig. 2b). However, this type of growth was more conducive to operating cultivation equipment to remove weeds fairly close to the base of the plants. But weeds directly within the drill, especially grasses were difficult to suppress. Pearl millet also was fed upon heavily by birds, which are hard to keep away, even with commercial deterrents.
The other rotation being evaluated in this project (aside from the fallow cultivation treatment) is two consecutive years of bahiagrass prior to peanuts. The first year of bahiagrass growth was minimal, as it had to compete with numerous weeds for establishment, with no means of controlling the weeds other than close mowing. Bahiagrass plots proved much more successful in the second year, after rhizomes had a chance to develop more robustly. This grass is aggressive and will often out-compete most weeds after the initial year of growth, which tended to be the case in this trial. However, killing a bahiagrass sod without use of herbicides is a mechanically intensive task requiring multiple passes with a harrow to kill and break up the rhizomatous mat.

At the Horticulture Hill Farm location, peanut production was more successful than the other locations, although yields were still lower than anticipated. Under intensive management, other peanut projects utilizing organic production methods have produced yields in excess of 4,000 lb/ac one year (R.S. Tubbs, unpubl. data, 2008; A.K. Culbreath, unpubl. data, 2008) and 3,000 lb/ac the following year (R.S. Tubbs, unpubl. data, 2009). However, it should be noted that only one of those trials actually took place on certified organic land, which had been culled for weeds for many years to deplete the weed seedbank down to extremely low levels. In the other fields, although organic management was used during the project, the trials were established following conventional agronomic crop production, where some residual weed control from herbicides may have been possible. Nonetheless, peanut yields ranged from 1,295-1,463 lb/ac in the various crop rotation treatments when averaged over cultivar and hand-weeding frequency, with no statistical difference among those rotations. The rotation treatments did have a slight effect on late leaf spot (LLS) (Cercosporidium personatum), a primary post-emergence foliar disease of concern for peanut, especially during the latter half of the season. There was evidence of higher LLS when peanut followed cowpea or bahiagrass, while peanut following pearl millet had the lowest LLS rating. Among the three cultivars grown at this location, Tifguard yielded over 15% higher than Georgia-04S, while Georgia-06G had intermediate results. This is partially attributed to lower LLS incidence in Tifguard compared to the other two cultivars (although LLS incidence was vastly lower among all cultivars than originally anticipated, meaning all of these cultivars exhibited excellent resistance to the pathogen). Georgia-04S did have a better plant stand and grade (total sound mature kernels) than the other cultivars. The greater plant stand may have caused overcrowding of plants, in turn reducing the number of pods per plant that each individual plant could sustain (reducing overall yield) and likewise allowing more resources per plant to be available to each individual pod that did survive, thereby increasing grade.

In Irwin County (CASE Farm), several factors contributed to less desirable outputs. This location was a non-irrigated site, and 2010 was the hottest and one of the driest years on record in south Georgia, creating poor growing conditions for peanuts. Stands were reduced across all treatment effects compared to the Horticulture Hill location. This reduction in stand allowed for greater weed emergence and competition with the crop, further reducing yields, which ranged from 264-643 lb/ac). However, treatment effects were detectable among rotations for several variables. Peanut yields were almost 60% lower following bahiagrass than where peanut followed cowpea, primarily because of the heavy infestation of southern crabgrass (Digitaria bicornis) in bahiagrass plots, which was less than 25% control (compared to nearly 75% control in the row crop rotations). Due to labor shortage during the summer months, the farm crew was unable to keep up with the intensity of hand-weeding needed to reduce weed pressure. It is also noted that LLS incidence was lowest in bahiagrass plots, which was primarily because of overgrowth of grass weeds preventing the spread of spores from rainfall. However, there was also less LLS following cultivated fallow plots than following cowpea, which again can partially be attributed to weed pressure. The cultivated fallow plots resulted in less than 50% control of both southern crabgrass and Florida pusley (Richardia scabra), which likely reduced LLS, but ultimately suppressed yield potential as well. Regarding cultivars, Georgia-06G was more susceptible to LLS than Georganic, but still exhibited an acceptable level of resistance for organic production. The strength of Georgia-06G lies in its uncanny yield potential, even under heavy stress situations. Thus, it still held a 50% yield advantage over Georganic. But, because of the severe weed pressure and heavy stress from lack of water, none of the yields at this location would be considered economically feasible for organic production.

The other on-farm location in Dodge County, GA ended with catastrophic results. Because of poor timing with cultivation during the transitional period and off-target hand-weeding during growth of peanut (weeds were pulled between peanut rows instead of within the drill row, where weed competition is most drastic), this led to a complete loss with respect to peanut yield. Infestations of crabgrass took over the entire experimental area, with less than 30% control in all plots. One point of interest from this site, though, is that pigweed control (Palmer amaranth + redroot pigweed) was by far the lowest in plots where peanut immediately followed millet (Fig. 3a). The inability to cultivate between the pearl millet in the year preceding peanut caused a flush of pigweed the next year, whereas the rhizomatous mat of bahiagrass (Fig. 3b), the dense canopy coverage of cowpea (Fig. 3c), or the complete cultivation in fallow plots (Fig. 3d) were much more effective in keeping pigweed at bay.

Participation Summary

Educational & Outreach Activities

Participation Summary

Education/outreach description:
Publications:

Cantonwine, E.G., C.C. Holbrook, A.K. Culbreath, R.S. Tubbs, and M.A. Boudreau. 2011. Genetic and seed treatment effects in organic peanut. Submitted to Peanut Sci.

Wann, D.Q., R.S. Tubbs, W.C. Johnson III, A.R. Smith, N.B. Smith, and A.K. Culbreath. 2011. Tine cultivation effects on productivity and economics of peanut in organic management. Submitted to Peanut Sci.

Wann, D.Q., R.S. Tubbs, and A.K. Culbreath. 2011. Cultivar and approved fungicide evaluation for leaf spot management in organic peanut production. Submitted to Plant Health Progress.

Minimum 2 others in preparation to be submitted to peer-reviewed journals.

Abstracts:

Johnson, W.C., III. 2010. The art and the science of cultivation for weed control in organic peanut. APRES Abstr. 42:33-34. Available at http://www.apresinc.com/pdf/Proceedings/Volume 42, Proceedings_2010.pdf (Verified 4 July 2011).

Johnson, W.C., III, N.B. Smith, D.A. Keiser, and M.A. Boudreau. 2008. Cultivation strategies for weed control in organic peanut production. APRES Abstr. 40:65-66. (Available at http://www.apresinc.com/pdf/Proceedings/Volume%2040,%20Proceedings.pdf) (Verified 4 July 2011).

Keiser, D.A., N.B. Smith, W.C. Johnson, and R.S. Tubbs. 2008a. Economic feasibility analysis of transitioning to organically grown peanuts. APRES Abstr. 40:25-26. (Available at http://www.apresinc.com/pdf/Proceedings/Volume%2040,%20Proceedings.pdf) (Verified 4 July 2011).

Keiser, D.A., N.B. Smith, W.C. Johnson, and R.S. Tubbs. 2008b. Economic feasibility analysis of organically grown peanuts. In D.M. Endale (ed.) Proc. 30th Southern Conserv. Agric. Systems Conf. and 8th Annu. Georgia Conserv. Production Systems Training Conf., Tifton, GA, 29-31 July 2008. Available at http://www.ag.auburn.edu/auxiliary/nsdl/scasc/Proceedings/2008/proc2008.html (Verified 4 July 2011).

Wann, D.Q., R.S. Tubbs, and A.K. Culbreath. 2010. Evaluation of runner-type peanut cultivars and approved fungicides for use in organic production. SBASA Abstr. Available at http://a-c-s.confex.com/crops/2010srb/webprogram/Paper57280.html (Verified 4 July 2011)

Wann, D.Q., R.S. Tubbs, W.C. Johnson III, and A.K. Culbreath. 2010. Cultivation and duration frequency effects on two peanut cultivars under organic management. APRES Abstr. 42:63. Available at http://www.apresinc.com/pdf/Proceedings/Volume 42, Proceedings_2010.pdf (Verified 4 July 2011).

Presentations:

Johnson, W.C., III*. 2011. Management of perennial weeds in organic transition. Oral presentation. SWSS 64th Annual Meeting, 24-26 January, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Johnson, W.C., III*. 2010. The art and the science of cultivation for weed control in organic peanut. Oral presentation. Am. Peanut Res. and Educ. Soc. 42nd Annu. Meeting, 13-15 July, Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort, Clearwater Beach, FL.

Johnson, W.C., III*, N.B. Smith, D.A. Keiser, and M.A. Boudreau. 2008. Cultivation strategies for weed control in organic peanut production. Oral presentation. Am. Peanut Res. and Educ. Soc. 40th Annu. Meeting, 15-18 July, Renaissance Hotel, Oklahoma City, OK.

Keiser, D.A.*, N.B. Smith, W.C. Johnson, and R.S. Tubbs. 2008. Economic feasibility analysis of transitioning to organically grown peanuts. Oral presentation. Am. Peanut Res. and Educ. Soc. 40th Annu. Meeting, 15-18 July, Renaissance Hotel, Oklahoma City, OK.

Keiser, D.A.*, N.B. Smith, W.C. Johnson, and R.S. Tubbs. 2008b. Economic feasibility analysis of organically grown peanuts. Poster presentation. Southern Conserv. Agric. Systems Conf. and 8th Annu. Georgia Conserv. Production Systems Training Conf., 29-31 July, Tifton, GA.

Tubbs, R.S.* 2008. Cropping systems, rotation & nutrient cycling. Oral presentation (sub-section entitled “Filling a void – is organic peanut production possible in the Southeast?”). Southern Peanut Growers Conf., Research Breakout Session, 14 July, Edgewater Beach Resort, Panama City Beach, FL.

Tubbs, R.S.* 2008. Organic Cropping Systems – Guest lecture, BIOL 4000/6000 – Organic Agriculture, May Term 2008, Instructor: E.G. Cantonwine.

Tubbs, R.S.*, W.C. Johnson III, and N.B. Smith. 2011. Integrated weed management strategies in transitional and organic peanut production. Oral presentation. SWSS 64th Annual Meeting, 24-26 January, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Tubbs, R.S.*, C.K. Kvien, W.C. Johnson III, J.P. Wilson, N.B. Smith. 2008. Transition strategies for an organic peanut-grain cropping system. Poster presentation. Georgia Sustainable Agriculture Summit, 12 June, Pettigrew Farm and Community Life Center, Fort Valley State Univ., Fort Valley, GA.

Wann, D.Q.*, R.S. Tubbs, W.C. Johnson III, A.R. Smith, N.B. Smith and A.K. Culbreath. 2011. Efficacy and economics of a cultivation-based weed control program for organic peanut. Oral presentation. SWSS 64th Annual Meeting, 24-26 January, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Wann, D.Q.*, R.S. Tubbs, and A.K. Culbreath. 2010. Evaluation of runner-type peanut cultivars and approved fungicides for use in organic production. Oral presentation. 2010 ASA Southern Branch Annu. Meeting, 7-9 February, Wyndham Orlando Resort, Orlando, FL.

Wann, D.Q.*, R.S. Tubbs, W.C. Johnson III, and A.K. Culbreath. 2010. Cultivation and duration frequency effects on two peanut cultivars under organic management. Oral presentation. Am. Peanut Res. and Educ. Soc. 42nd Annu. Meeting, 13-15 July, Hilton Clearwater Beach Resort, Clearwater Beach, FL.

Professional development:

SWSS 64th Annual Meeting, 24-26 January, Caribe Hilton, San Juan, Puerto Rico. R.S. Tubbs and W.C. Johnson III attended and presented in section XIV session “Weed Management in Organic Production Systems.”

ASA-CSSA-SSSA Annu. Meetings, 1-4 November 2010, Long Beach Convention Center, Long Beach, CA. R.S. Tubbs attended A12 Division “Organic Management Systems” Business meeting; Symposium – Organic Zero-till: Strategies for Removing Tillage from Organic Management Systems; Symposium – Organic Grain Production: Current Status and Future Opportunities; and Topical Session – Organic Management Systems: Long-Term Trends, Soil Nutrient Management, Crop-Livestock Integration, and Eorganic Information Delivery.

Thesis:

Wann, D.Q. 2011. Improving peanut (Arachis hypogaea L.) production strategies through use of cover crops and organic management. M.Sc. thesis, Univ. of Georgia.

Awards:

Wann, D.Q. 2011. Annie’s Homegrown Sustainable Agriculture Scholarship. Recognizing his work in organic and sustainable peanut production. ($10,000)

Wann, D.Q. 2011. Georgia Feed and Grain Association Fellowship. Recognizing his work in organic peanut as a nutritious alternative hay source for livestock. ($2000)

Wann, D.Q. 2011. Graduate Student Oral Competition (First Place) – “Efficacy and economics of a cultivation-based weed control program for organic peanut.” Southern Weed Science Society, 64th Annual Meeting. ($200)

Wann, D.Q. 2010. National Peanut Board George Washington Carver Award. Contributions to peanut production/product development for USA peanuts, including his work on organic and sustainable peanut production. ($1000 + $1000 to Department)

Wann, D.Q. 2010. Graduate Student Oral Competition (Second Place) – “Cultivation and duration frequency effects on two peanut cultivars under organic management.” Annual Meeting of American Peanut Research and Education Society. ($250)

Wann, D.Q. 2010. Graduate Student Oral Competition (First Place) – “Evaluation of runner-type peanut cultivars and approved fungicides for use in organic production.” Southern Branch American Society of Agronomy Annual Meeting. ($250)

Extension:

Workshop, extension training, and field plot exhibition – Principles of Integrated Weed Management in Organic Crop Production (SES-017254), 22 June 2011, Tift County Extension Office and UGA Ponder Farm. co-sponsored by Univ. of Georgia and USDA-ARS. Presentation/demonstration by W.C. Johnson III.

Field plot exhibition – Organic Peanut Field Day, 11 June 2010, UGA Tifton Campus Lang-Rigdon and Ponder Farms. co-sponsored by Univ. of Georgia, USDA-ARS, and Georgia Organics. Presentations/demonstrations by R.S. Tubbs, D.Q. Wann, and W.C. Johnson III.

Popular press contribution – television interview – “Georgia Farm Monitor – Organic Peanut Field Day” – 1 July 2010, Georgia Farm Bureau. Available at http://www.youtube.com/georgiafarmmonitor#p/search/0/WyhdftIoifw (Verified 4 July 2011)

Featured field stop – Transition Strategies for an Organic Peanut-Grain Cropping System – Dodge County, GA; Georgia Peanut Tour, 16-18 September 2008, Cordele, GA. Presentations/demonstrations by R.S. Tubbs and R.M. Barentine.

Project Outcomes

Project outcomes:

Some of the potential impacts of this research are addressed in the previous section (Results and Discussion) in order to accompany the data. One of the most noteworthy items is that the best results came from transitioning with row crops and not by transitioning established sod/pasture land nor leaving land fallow with regular cultivation. By including row crops in the rotation, weeds are able to be cultivated early in the season, plus there is the added benefit of the crops shading and outcompeting the weeds. With bahiagrass, there is competition with weeds, and with cultivated fallow, there is mechanical destruction of weeds but no shading or crop competition. Thus the row cropping scenario offers the combination of both methods of control and also offers a potentially sellable commodity as well.

Supplemental:

A survey on “Peanut Product Consumption” was conducted in spring 2011 in cooperation with students at Irwin County High School in Ocilla, GA. This five page survey was designed to gauge the public’s consumption of peanut products, perception of organic products, consumption of organic products, and interest in purchasing organic peanut products. Students went to public locations such as the local grocery store to find a random sampling of people willing to participate in the survey. Results from this survey are part of a M.Sc. thesis project for Mr. Ward Black in the Agricultural and Applied Economics Dept. at the Univ. of Georgia. The results are being tabulated and this report will be updated when those results are prepared. Likewise, data from the Ponder Farm location and economic data from all locations associated with this project were not available at the time of submission of this report and will be provided as an update in the near future.

Economic Analysis

Economic data associated with this project were not available at the time of submission of this report and will be provided as an update in the near future.

Farmer Adoption

The first certified organic peanut crop was harvested in Georgia from a 3 acre field in eastern Georgia in 2007. Several other farmers have attempted organic peanut management on non-certified land, just to gauge how practical it would be for their own operation, prior to going through the tranisitional process. One location attempted close to 75 acres of management, with varying levels of management and likewise success. Portions of that farm that had intensively managed weed control and had relatively decent yields (over 2,000 lb/ac reported), while other sections of that farm lagged behind with weed control and essentially had to be abandoned. To manage such large-scale acreage would require an extremely large operation and a sizeable labor force, thus a smaller scale operation is likely the preferred option for most farmers moving forward. A certified organic peanut crop of approximately 30 acres was harvested in 2009 by another eastern Georgia farmer. There appears to be growing interest in the potential of organic peanut production, however some additional limitations and hurdles need to be addressed before this production management system can become a greater success – with a broad overview being addressed in the “Areas Needing Additional Study” section below.

Recommendations:

Areas needing additional study

Organic peanut production is still slow to be adopted by growers in the southeastern U.S., but there is increasing interest each year. There seems to be some headway in developing the infrastructure to get organic peanuts from the farm to the processors and maintaining the organic certification, which is one of the biggest hurdles this system faces. Some growers with interest in trying organic production are hesitant because of the lack of a committed sheller, and shellers are leary of certifying their equipment without a dedicated supply from organic producers, so there’s a “Catch-22” situation that needs to be addressed.

From a production standpoint, additional research is needed to determine the most optimum combination of cultivation practices and hand weeding for most economical weed control. In addition, further transitional practices should be evaluated with varying weed densities from the outset to determine how intensive “stale seedbed” techniques need to be. Also, with successful adoption of organic production for some vegetable crops, rotation of peanut with vegetable crops may provide more potential for an economical transition period if weed and disease issues can be controlled, and timing of crop sequences can be well established.

References

Adams, D. 2009. Peanut insect control. p. 151-156. In P. Guillebeau (ed.) Georgia pest management handbook, commercial ed. Univ. of Georgia Coop. Ext. Serv., Athens, GA.

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Any opinions, findings, conclusions, or recommendations expressed in this publication are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the view of the U.S. Department of Agriculture or SARE.