Exploiting the Organic Peanut Market: Design of Production Systems for the Southeast
The second year of controlled experiments and on-farm trials to develop a system for organic peanut production in the Southeast has corroborated 2005 results: insect and disease constraints can be dealt with through existing varieties, irrigation, and other available techniques, but weed control is the major limiting factor. The third season of the project (2007) will thus reduce efforts aimed at insect control and emphasize seed/seedling disease control, stand establishment, and weed management. This will occur through experiment station trials, and intensive involvement of project scientists in on-farm trials. In the latter case we will focus on small acreages on only two farms, and include grower training, equipment loan for seed bed preparation and cultivation, and assistance from Marshall Lamb and Judith Carter at the National Peanut Research Lab (NPRL) located near our Americus, GA grower. Publications have been submitted or are in preparation from our work thus far, presentations to growers has taken place, and a preliminary on-line organic peeanut production guide is available at the lead institution’s website (www.greenagroecology.com).
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 togrowers 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.
Objective 1. Research station trials in 2006 corroborated the results of the previous year for the most part. Spinosad and to a lesser extent neem oil provided significant reduction in direct thrips injury and tomato spotted wilt virus; copper sprays and to a lesser extent sulfur provided sufficient control of leaf spot in conjunction with resistance afforded by Georganic and GA-05E in Georgia and NC-343 in North Carolina. Frequent cultivation appears to be the best approach for weed control, which remains the biggest limiting factor in organic peanut production. Hydro-mulch, tried for the first time in 2006, was not effective.
Objective 2. The 2005 on-farm trial experience prompted us to arrange smaller acreages in 2006, lowering the farmers’ investment and risk. Thus, 1-5 acre peanut plantings were done at two sites in Georgia and two in Eastern North Carolina. In addition, we implemented a fallow summer with multiple cultivations at one site (Koinonia, Americus, GA) to lower the weed seed bank population for 2007. Walker Farms in Sylvania, GA was the only repeat grower in 2006, but here we were able to plant a rye winter cover and attempt a side-by-side comparison of conventional-till and no-till organic peanuts into the rye in 2006, primarily for weed control. Also new in 2006 were trials with Virginia-type peanuts (NC-343) at the North Carolina sites. Cooperation from Halifax County extension agent Jimmy Davis helped us work with African-American growers here struggling to survive by exploiting new crops and production methods, like organic.
Once again, weeds took over at all our farm sites early in the season. 2006 was a particularly troublesome year for nutsedge, even in the no-till trial. This, coupled with deer damage at one Eastern Noprth Carolina farm, forced the abandonment of the peanut trials by all growers. We became convinced of the primacy of quick seedling emergence, stand establishment, and early-season weed control for 2007 work, emphasizing late planting with irrigation and frequent mechanical cultivation.
Objective 3. The creation of a computer-based decision tool for growers contemplating organic peanut production continues to await the demonstration of a successful production system on which to base the model. We hope that 2007 will provide a starting point for this, coupled with work done by Marshall Lamb at the NPRL on a conventional economic peanut production decision tool.
Objective 4. At the 2006 American Peanut Research and Education Society (APRES) meetings in Savannah, GA, an organic peanut production symposium was held, and workers on this project shared their results and in fact made up the bulk of presenters. Carroll Johnson has submitted two papers to Peanut Science, one on organic weed control and another on phytotoxic effects of some organic oils. Emily Cantonwine (post-doctoral fellow working with Albert Culbreath in Tifton, GA) is writing a paper for submission to Plant Disease which will combine the disease trials in Georgia with those done by Barbara Shew in North Carolina under this project. Dr. Cantonwine also gave a talk at the Georgia Peanut Tour of 2006 on organic peanuts as a niche market commodity. Recently Dr. Cantonwine, Mark Boudreau, and grower Relinda Walker presented at an organic peanut production session of the Georgia Organics annual conference. A modified form of Dr. Boudreau’s talk is available on his company’s website. This serves as an interim organic peanut production guide until the third season is completed.
Impacts and Contributions/Outcomes
The demand for organic peanuts continues to be pronounced, but again production is not occurring in the Southeast to meet that demand. The creation of state Organic Peanut Working Groups (OPWG)at the meetings in 2006 reinforces and supports the effort to change this, and particularly the Georgia OPWG through cooperation with and funding from Georgia Organics has generated interest among farmers to try organic peanuts. However, we are in the awkward state of having no certified organic handler still; the companies express interest but need an adequate supply. Growers are reluctant to try this risky production if no buyer is guaranteed.
Therefore our goal continues to be to make production less risky and provide marketing and economic support for our cooperating growers while we do this. When we have a successful demonstration system the project impact will be manifest, and we can proceed to coordinate growers and processors to create the first substantial SE organic peanut crop.
Research Assistant Professor
North Carolina State University
Dept. of Plant Pathology
2518 Gardner Hall
Raleigh, NC 27695-7616
Office Phone: 9195152730
Edisto Research and Education Center
64 Research Station Rd.
Blackville, SC 28802
Office Phone: 8032843343
University of Georgia
Coastal Plain Experiment Station
P.O. Box 748
Tifton, GA 31793-0748
Office Phone: 2293863156
Research Agronomist, Weed Science
Coastal Plain Experiment Station
P.O. Box 748
Tifton, GA 31793
Office Phone: 2293863172