Exploiting the organic peanut market: refining production systems for the Southeast

Project Overview

Project Type: Research and Education
Funds awarded in 2008: $175,000.00
Projected End Date: 12/31/2011
Region: Southern
State: North Carolina
Principal Investigator:
Mark Boudreau
Hebert Green Agroecology, Inc.
Dr. Mark Boudreau
Hebert Green Agroecology

Annual Reports


  • Agronomic: peanuts


  • Crop Production: greenhouses, no-till
  • Farm Business Management: marketing management
  • Production Systems: organic agriculture


    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 stand establishment and weed control. Some organic seed treatments may be effective at improving stands, but the key to success is proper timing of planting with dense seeding rates and readiness to replant. Frequent mechanical cultivation with a flex tine cultivator before is essential and hand weeding may still be required. However, these techniques coupled with disease-resistant cultivars and judicious irrigation, produce yields > 3,000 lbs/a.

    Project objectives:

    1. Improve stand establishment so that a dense, closed canopy is achieved as rapidly as possible under organic conditions. Plant pathologists and agronomists on the team will use replicated, controlled trials under growth chamber, greenhouse, and field conditions, factorial experiments will be conducted to determine ideal planting conditions and timing for cultivars used in organic production, efficacy of organic seed treatments and other methods to minimize seed rot and damping off, and conditions that ensure rapid early growth and canopy closure. Those treatments that are least effective will be discarded, and those most effective in the field will be integrated into on-farm trials. These trials will be highly informed by our previous experience with cooperating farmers. How these practices integrate with other operations such as tillage, irrigation, and weed management will be a priority of these studies. 2. Develop a successful organic weed management strategy for peanuts. Weed scientists and agronomists on the team will build on our earlier work to assess all acceptable organic techniques for weed management, emphasizing those that have been most successful and those that continue to show promise. These include proper seedbed preparation, optimal planting time and moisture conditions, frequent mechanical cultivation with adaptable equipment (e.g. flex-tine cultivator), and limited, but perhaps essential, use of organic herbicides and hand-weeding. Hydro-mulch technology will be refined and evaluated again. The most effective techniques will continue to be incorporated into on-farm trials with intensive participation of the research team. Again, our experience with on-farm trials until now will weigh heavily on specific treatments chosen. 3. Create an overall viable production system for organic peanuts by integrating earlier work with results of Objectives 1 & 2 in on-farm trials, this time including economic and marketing components. Involvement of team scientists during stand establishment and until canopy closure, when peanuts are most vulnerable, will be more intensive. In addition, we propose to: (a) work closely with new projects encouraging organic peanut production; (b) assess cost/revenue data and develop a decision-making tool for growers considering organic peanuts which integrates an economic model; and (c) interact with processors to address the current limitation of organic handling, and, if necessary, study the feasibility of a cooperative processing facility. An economist will be added to the team to address goals (b) and (c). 4. Make this system available to farmers not only by continuing our current outreach efforts through conventional channels, but also by finalizing an organic peanut production manual and a computer-based decision-making tool. The preliminary production guide which became available on line in early spring 2007 will be refined and published in print form. The decision tool for prospective organic peanut growers will be completed, and agents and growers will be instructed in its use, and in organic peanut production generally. We will continue to conduct field days at the research sites and the farms. A self-contained traveling exhibit will be made available for use by any of the collaborators and others.

    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.