Freezing temps threaten last leg of Arkansas peanut harvest
By Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Nov. 7, 2019
- Rainfall, freezing temps likely to slow peanut harvest over the coming week
- Peanut acreage jumped significantly in 2019 to an estimated 32,000 acres
- New buying points changing the pace of the crop’s journey to market in Arkansas
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LEACHVILLE, Ark. — When you’ve got a dry day in a harvest season like this, you go for it.
It was this common sense that kept Andy Vangilder, extension peanut agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, extension plant pathologist Travis Faske and Craighead County extension agent Chris Grimes working a field of research peanut plots — 48 in all — until past sundown Tuesday night.
“We finished after dark, and loaded the peanuts into a truck afterwards,” Vangilder said Wednesday. “And I’m glad we did. We wouldn’t have been able to come back to it today.”
Overnight rainfall or a wet day can impair the harvest of any row crop — but the same conditions can bring a peanut harvest to a dead stop, especially when freezing conditions are moving in.
Across the state, more than 91 percent of an estimated 32,000 acres of peanuts have been dug from the ground — the first step in the legume’s unusual harvest process. But of that 91 percent, only 55 percent had been harvested off the ground, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report issued Monday. Vangilder said growers had perhaps reached the two-thirds harvested mark as of Wednesday.
The same wet spring that led to widespread delayed and prevented planting in most Arkansas row crops set peanuts back in the calendar as well. And while both the digging and harvesting stages are ahead of numbers for this time last year, expected weekend rainfall and freezing temperatures expected early next week may make the final stretch especially difficult for peanut growers in the state.
“You can’t dig peanuts, when they’re still high-moisture, and then have a freeze within a day or two,” Vangilder said. “That damages the peanut, sometimes beyond use. Right now, we’re recommending that growers with peanuts left in the field just leave them there until after the freeze.”
The National Weather Service is predicting several days of freezing temperatures in northern Arkansas over the next week, with lows dipping into the teens on Tuesday.
Growers will also likely have to contend with a scarcity of harvesting resources. While producers are enjoying the availability of a new buying point in Lee County, peanut acreage is also about 23 percent greater than in 2018.
“With peanuts, you can get a real backlog,” Vangilder said. “They’re higher moisture right now. Growers load them on peanut trucks with specialized beds that allow the peanuts to dry down. When they get down to a certain moisture level, the peanuts can be stored in a warehouse. With a higher moisture, the whole process just takes longer.
“That whole process is going to get better in Arkansas, because there’s another buying point coming online in Jonesboro,” he said. “But there’s just going to be some growing pains.”
To learn about peanut production in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit the Arkansas Agricultural Experiment Station online at https://aaes.uark.edu/. Visit the Cooperative Extension Service online at https://www.uaex.uada.edu/. Follow the Cooperative Extension Service on Twitter at @UAEX_edu and on Instagram at @UAEX_edu. Follow the Agricultural Experiment Station on Twitter at @ArkAgResearch and Instagram at ArkAgResearch.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
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Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
U of A System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service