The indeterminate nature of a peanut plant – and the fact that it puts on its fruit underground – add to the complexities of determining when to dig a crop. But a lot can be won and a lot can be lost based on your decision, says Wilson Faircloth, research agronomist with the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga.
“You can get a lot of gain in yield sometimes in the final 20 days of a peanut’s production cycle,” says Faircloth. “Some peanuts put on 30 percent of their growth in the last two to three weeks of the season – that’s huge. When it comes to economics, we’ve got to make the best decision possible when it comes to digging peanuts.”
According to the hull-scrape method, approximately 140 days can be an optimal peanut digging time. “But on some of these varieties, there might be a little bit left on the table yet that we didn’t account for. That’s why we’re looking at new methods and ideas to make sure we’re at the top of the curve and not at the bottom end of it,” says Faircloth.
A few late-maturity cultivars never quit gaining in value when researchers stopped sampling at 154 days, he says. When those peanuts were dug at about the 145-day mark, money was left in the field, says Faircloth, because the maturity prediction date was not accurate.