Looking back at the 2022 harvest season, many growers will remember the things that didn’t go well. During my visits to county agents and farmers, I am constantly reminded of the challenges faced in growing a crop.
“Johnny didn’t make it today and I need him here.”
“I was supposed to spray this field a week ago and I can’t get in there.”
“The price of diesel is going up and the price of cotton is going down. How come it never works the other way around?”
“The picker will be torn apart again.”
If you’re the disease and nematode type, it’s often difficult to break good news to a grower. Sometimes the best I can offer is, “Yeah, it’s not good, but it could have been a lot worse.” That kind of encouragement doesn’t do much to endear me to breeders.
Still, there were good things this year. There was reason for optimism, despite the fact that peanut yields were falling in some places and tomato spot wilt was increasing. Here’s some of the good stuff as I saw it from my wheelhouse.
In early 2022, I warned growers that the availability of key fungicides would be limited in the coming season and could hamper disease control efforts. It seems our corn, soybean, cotton and peanut farmers were able to get the fungicides they needed to protect their crops from disease. All products may not always be available, but growers have been able to ‘mix and match’ and employ effective management programs. Rain could have created situations where disease control was lost (perfect for spreading disease combined with delays in returning to the field). That this did not occur on a large scale is an indication that fungicide programs were effective and intact.
I’ve seen fewer leaf spot disease problems on peanuts in 2022 than in recent years. It was not uncommon to find leaf spot disease, particularly late leaf spot disease, in fields at the end of the season. Still, I haven’t had an unusually high number of calls to visit grower fields, even though our peanut fields got rain for most of the season. I feel like growers understand how best to use the tools available to control diseases like leaf spot. My advice for 2023 is that growers consult Peanut Rx to get an idea of how resilient a strain is to leaf spot, make sure you’re using a reasonable spraying interval, which isn’t always “14 days,” and harvest protect the season as a whole and choose the right products. The choice of products becomes more and more important as the risk of disease increases.
White mold (Southern stem rot) is a persistent threat to peanut production in the southeastern United States. However, this disease was not overly problematic in 2022. Reasons for this include copious amounts of rain during the season, which led to cooler temperatures, especially at night. In addition, growers have been successful in putting together effective fungicide programs.
In recent years, cotton foliar diseases have become increasingly important in the southeastern United States. Target and areolate milder can both result in significant yield losses if they occur early enough in the season and the crop is not protected. I observed less problematic fields for both areole powdery mildew and target spot in 2022, despite wet weather that could have increased infection and spread. Again, I believe much of this was the result of judicious use of fungicides by cotton growers.
Due to heat and drought during the 2019 peanut harvest, aflatoxin and seed quality issues were a huge concern during the 2020 peanut season. It was not uncommon for peanuts to be stored “looking good” only to come out of storage poor quality and high in aflatoxins. Perhaps the best news is that aflatoxin was generally low in the 2022 peanut crop. Hopefully this will help with the sale and trade of American grown peanuts.
Farming is never easy and there have been stumbling blocks throughout the 2022 season, not the least of which have been increased production costs, significant seed rot in early-planted cotton and lower-than-expected yields for peanut farmers. Despite all this, there was good news. Peanut, cotton, corn and soybean farmers have generally been able to effectively control disease despite the favorable weather for spread, and so far we have had low levels of aflatoxins in the peanut crop. The key points for 2023 are to stay the course and stay alert; Threats to the 2022 crop will return in 2023.