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A dramatic increase in technological opportunities and changes in production practices across a broad range of crops has stretched the ability of land-grant researchers to keep pace in the past few years.
Spread too thin
He notes the number of people working on peanuts has diminished in the past few years and despite the hard work of those who remain, they are simply spread too thin to keep up with all the potential production problems.
University of Georgia Peanut Agronomist John Beasley, also speaking at the peanut meeting in Panama City Beach, had the courage to stand up before his dean and deans of other land-grant colleges and tell it like it really is for peanut researchers and Extension specialists.
Beasley, to paraphrase, said peanut researchers are spread too thin to work within state lines. He noted a definite allegiance to the University of Georgia for his professional livelihood, but stressed a willingness to work with peanut growers, regardless of their geographic location, when they need help growing peanuts.
Peanuts, in the overall scope of things, is a secondary crop in the Southeast, but an economic giant in pockets of Alabama, Georgia, Florida, the Carolinas and Virginia. Without the kind of non-traditional help that Beasley offered, even the smaller crops can’t keep pace with the burgeoning demand for information.
New varieties of peanuts have come to the market place in recent years, but research-proven production information is often based on how Florunner and other older varieties responded to various treatments. How these new varieties perform under specific circumstances — well who knows?
Peanuts are a microcosm of the overall lack of research-proven information available for growers. Even King Cotton, with the potential for a record crop this year, has some very prominent holes in modern production information.
For example, a decade or so ago planting cotton much into May was a well-documented recipe for yield and quality loss. Modern varieties don’t react the same to stress, these varieties are improved — that’s why they are on the market and replacing older, less production ones.
With these new varieties, late planting dates may be good or may be bad. It’s hard to tell because there isn’t any modern data, based on years of scientific research, to back up these guesses.
Cotton growers in South Carolina and parts of southeast North Carolina have seen a relatively new occurrence this year. Bolls are splitting, most contend, from prolonged early season heat and drought. Once these stressed plants get water, they simply try to grow too fast, splitting the boll.
“I’m sure the problem has been around, but I’ve been growing cotton all my adult life, and I’ve never seen it,” says St. Mathews, S.C. grower Kent Wannamaker.
He says boll split hasn’t been a widespread problem in his cotton this year, but is concerned boll split may be another environment/variety-related problem about which growers don’t have much information to use.
Fortunately for the South Carolina grower, Clemson University cotton specialist Mike Jones likely knows more about boll split problems than anyone in the Cotton Belt. Unfortunately, Jones, like most land-grant researchers covers a wide gamut of production issues and finding resources to cover them all is getting tougher each year.