Peanut production checklist

Harvesting peanuts

Harvest peanuts at the right time to maximise profits

High input production offers the peanut industry long-term production stability. Growers want more information about high input peanut production to improve farm profitability and the sustainability of other crops grown in rotation with peanuts, such as sugarcane.

Planning for peanuts

Like all other crops, peanuts require significant planning before the crop is planted. Some peanut machinery is somewhat specialised so it is important to know that you will be able to find the necessary equipment or contractors when you need them.

Before planting peanuts you must check that your soil is clear of contaminants. Peanuts are a food crop, so growers need to check that pesticide contaminants, such as DDT and dieldrin, are not present at dangerous levels in the soil. Peanut plants can absorb these products either through the roots or pods. Previous fertiliser applications can sometimes lead to high levels of the heavy metal cadmium, particularly in sandy soils.

Peanuts are best grown in rotation with other crops, so your planning needs to include the full crop rotation, not just the immediate crop. Your rotation will influence decisions such as:

  • which herbicide you use in your peanut crop
  • how you will manage the volunteer peanuts in the next crop
  • nutrition aspects for each crop, and many others.

Production checklist

There are 14 production phases for growing high input peanuts. Each phase requires specific actions. Getting the timing right is the key to successful production.

Planning

  • Decide if peanuts, and which variety, fit in with your whole farming system.
  • Check if the chemicals used in peanut production fit in with your farming system.
  • Check if there is sufficient irrigation water and infrastructure available to grow peanuts. Peanuts require 55-60 mm per week in peak times.
  • Check for chemical residues that could affect the peanut crop.
  • Set up a record keeping system to track costs, inputs, yields and returns.

Pre-season

  • Test at-risk soil for organochlorine insecticide residues and cadmium.
  • Test for soil nutrients. Seek advice on nutrient requirements.
  • Decide on a planting date. Seek advice if necessary.
  • Work out an irrigation schedule. Investigate using an irrigation-scheduling computer program.
  • Prepare and calibrate equipment e.g. planter, boomspray.
  • Obtain a contract for marketing the crop.
  • Choose varieties suited to your location and soils. Source the planting seed and market.
  • If contracting, get in touch with contractors; tell them your planting date and expected harvest time.
  • Purchase suitable pre-emergent herbicide.
  • Check if knockdown herbicide is available, in case of rain soon after planting.

Ground preparation

  • Apply lime and/or dolomite, if necessary.
  • Incorporate previous crop residues.
  • Form beds, if necessary, before planting.
  • Prepare the seed bed.
  • Check if there is sufficient moisture to plant; pre-irrigate if necessary.

Planting

  • Check the seed and peanut-specific Rhizobium inoculum are ready.
  • Prepare the seed and inoculum for planting. Use an esky to protect the inoculum from high temperatures.
  • Calibrate the planter and monitor to ensure seed is being planted at the correct rate.
  • Apply pre-emergent herbicide after planting, if necessary.

Planting to cracking

  • Check for soil surface crusting. Apply a light irrigation to assist emergence, if necessary.
  • Check for weeds germinating before the peanuts apply a knockdown herbicide, if necessary.

Early post-crop emergence (1-2 weeks after emergence)

  • Check soil for foliar insects; heliothis (Helicoverpa) and/or cutworms.
  • Check for weed seedlings; apply herbicide as early as possible if weeds are a problem.
  • Decide if a light irrigation is required.

Early crop growth (3-4 weeks after emergence)

  • Apply the first fungicide protectant spray. If the field had peanuts last season, apply the fungicide three weeks after emergence. If not, apply four weeks after emergence.
  • Varieties that have resistance to leaf diseases must be treated differently - seek advice.
  • Check for weeds; hand chip or apply herbicide if weeds are getting out of control.
  • Follow your irrigation schedule as planned.
  • Check nutrient status of the crop. Apply foliar fertilisers as needed. Apply gypsum over the podding zone.
  • Check again for insects and diseases.

Flowering to pegging (4-7 weeks after emergence)

  • Check for weeds; hand chip or apply herbicide if weeds are getting out of control.
  • Monitor fungal diseases. If your farm is in a high disease area, apply fungicides according to recommended schedule.
  • Follow your irrigation schedule as planned. Moisture deficiency at this stage will reduce crop yield, so try to maintain a full profile. This may require irrigation applications in quick succession.
  • Check if zinc sprays are needed for cadmium management.

Pegging (8-9 weeks after emergence)

  • Follow your irrigation schedule as planned. Moisture deficiency at this stage will reduce crop yield.
  • Pull up some plants to see if pegging is occurring normally. To assist the pegs entering the ground, irrigation may be needed on crusting soils.
  • Monitor fungal diseases. Maintain fungicide application according to your schedule.
  • Check for other diseases, particularly white mould.
  • Check the nutrient status of the crop. Apply foliar fertilisers as needed.

Pegging to podfill (9-16 weeks after emergence)

  • Follow your planned irrigation schedule. Moisture deficiency at this stage will reduce crop yield. Crop water use is similar to pan evaporation at weather stations.
  • Monitor fungal diseases; maintain fungicide application according to your schedule.
  • Check for insect damage and diseases, particularly white mould.
  • Check the crop's nutrient status; apply foliar fertilisers as needed.
  • Pull up some plants and check for normal development; check for pod maturity.
  • Check if zinc sprays are needed for cadmium management.

Podfill to maturity (16-22 weeks after emergence)

  • Follow your planned irrigation schedule. Water use will drop off slightly from the previous growth stage. Keep the crop moist to prevent the development of aflatoxin in the kernels.
  • Check for diseases and insect damage; maintain your fungicide schedule during the early stages of this period.
  • Check if zinc sprays are needed for cadmium management.
  • Check for pod maturity. Check for maturity using the hull scrape method or hand shell a sample to see inner shell wall colour (see harvesting).
  • Prepare digger or contact contractor before expected digging date.

Digging

  • Check for maturity using the hull-scrape method.
  • Dig some test strips with the digger and look under the windrow to check for losses.
  • Check the operation and loss from the digger regularly; keep digging speeds slow to ensure that inversion of the plants is as good as possible.
  • If digging under wet conditions, check losses and consider waiting for drier digging conditions. Digging under wet conditions results in the largest harvesting losses.
  • Consider digging an area that matches what the thresher can harvest in a day. With large contracting harvesters this is not a problem, but it can be with smaller ones. Aflatoxin  can develop if peanuts lie in windrows for several days.

Harvest

  • Moisture test samples from the windrows. Harvest when moisture is about 18%. Higher moisture content can lead to additional drying charges.
  • Check that the pickup head of the thresher matches the ground speed of the machine, to minimise losses.
  • Check harvester losses regularly, as conditions in the windrow can change during the day.
  • Pre-clean as the crop comes off the harvester.
  • Deliver your crop to the receival depot.

Post-harvest

  • Leave peanut residue in the field to maintain the nutrient status and organic matter content of the field.
  • Compare weighbridge dockets from this year and from previous years to identify problems.
  • After receiving pay weights, work out the gross margins for the crop to compare the costs and returns from different paddocks.
  • Work out the profitability of your whole farm enterprise, taking into account your overheads, machinery ownership costs and your time.
  • Plan for next season based on the profitability of your whole farm enterprise.

Further information

Last updated 14 October 2010