Alternatives to Chemicals in the Peanut Cotton Rotation

1996 Annual Report for FS96-044

Project Type: Farmer/Rancher
Funds awarded in 1996: $9,366.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/1998
Matching Non-Federal Funds: $9,450.00
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:

Alternatives to Chemicals in the Peanut Cotton Rotation


The peanut-cotton rotation is the major production system for many farmers in eastern North Carolina. Cotton production alone increased 40% from 1994 to 1995 up to nearly 800,000 acres in North Carolina. One hundred and fifty thousand acres of peanuts are grown in North Carolina, primarily in 13 counties in the coastal plain.

The production of both peanuts and cotton are chemical intensive and costly. Thirty-three percent of the operating inputs in peanut production go to pesticides. Both peanut and cotton production depend on the use of chemicals which are known or suspected carcinogens.

As growers have looked for ways to improve their cultural techniques, become more efficient, and stay competitive, many have adopted no-till methods of production. Peanut growers did receive some benefits from the switch to no-till production but they had to increase their use of chemicals.

This project investigated the use of beneficial insects, cover crops, and the use of chemical alternatives which are less toxic—and less expensive— than those currently used. For cotton, the grower investigated the use of alternatives to Pix, a growth regulator which encourages the initiation of reproductive growth, and Def, a defoliant used just before harvest. The farmer tried the use of sugar (in the form of corn syrup) to replace Pix, citric acid to replace Def, and beneficial mites and soaps to control thrips. For peanuts, the grower investigated alternatives to the use of aldicarb (Temik), e.g. orthene, which is used for early-season Thrips control.

Beneficial mites (to control thrips in peanuts) were released in one-third of the experimental areas on the growers farm and the farms of four project cooperators. Soap sprays (to control thrips in peanuts) were used on another third and orthene was used on the remaining third of the experimental areas on those farms. The fields receiving these treatments were monitored for amount of thrips damage and peanut yields.

The corn syrup solution (as a growth regulator) was applied to cotton in the pinhead square stage in experimental areas on the growers farm and the farms of two cooperators. The corn syrup solution was reapplied as necessary. At forty percent open bolls, citric acid solution was applied as a defoliant to cotton in the experimental areas on the project farms. Citric acid was reapplied as necessary.

Due to hot dry weather, the release of mites was not a rousing success; the growers never did come up with an efficient way of applying the mites. The soap spray also had its share of problems. When the pressure was put up high enough to get the soap solution into the bud, it was high enough to frequently blow the bud off the plant. The orthene, however, was a big success. By discontinuing the use of aldicarb, and using orthene instead, they saved an average of seventeen dollars an acre.

In the cotton, both the use of the corn syrup solution and citric acid solution gave encouraging results. Some of the cooperating growers had better success than others. As a result, Hubert Morris has received another Producer Grant to continue his work with the corn syrup solution as a way of shortening the internodes on the cotton and having more energy available for the boles.

The Cooperative Extension Service and the NRCS will publish the results of the project in agency newsletters as well as in local newspapers. In addition, they will hold field trips so that interested individuals can view the project. A series of farmer meetings organized by RAFI-USA has included farmers from around the region and were used to disseminate the results of the project.

December 1998.