A team of researchers and farmers in Georgia and the Carolinas conducted three years of controlled experiments and on-farm trials to develop a system for organic peanut production in the Southeast, focusing on pest management. Insects could be controlled through irrigation, with thrips requiring foliar sprays of spinosad at times. Post-establishment disease could be managed via resistance and perhaps copper sprays for leaf spot. The overwhelming limitation was weed control, which depended on rapid establishment of a dense stand, itself a formidable problem. However, through careful timing and frequent cultivation with proper equipment, 3,000 lb/a organic peanuts can be produced.
1. Address specific problem areas of organic pest management in controlled, replicated trials. Specific techniques will be applied alone and in combination in multifactorial experiments the first year of study, and the best performing combinations evaluated over the two subsequent years. To efficiently assess controls for all pests, an Area of Concentration (AOC) will pertain to each of the three collaborating research locations reflecting the expertise at each location.
2. Implement and assess rational management plans for organic peanuts on farms in the region. Experience, prior information, and results from Objective 1 (after the first year) will contribute to a management plan to include organic peanut production at a number of certified organic farms throughout the Southeast. Pests will be repeatedly monitored at each site and the efficacy of control techniques re-evaluated and updated each season.
3. Develop a decision-making template as an aid to incorporating organic peanut production into particular farms. A computer- and paper-based tool which integrates extensive information on successful methods, and an algorithm to consider and compile them into a customized peanut management scheme, will be built, tested, and made available to growers and extension agents through a variety of entry points.
4. Disseminate findings to growers in the southern region, Both traditional and novel outreach strategies will be used, including a publication, an internet site for Objective 3, and a traveling exhibit targeted to large gatherings of growers.