Cold temperatures, winter mix could hurt Arkansas peanut harvest

by George Jared ([email protected]) 1,768 views 

The peanut harvest is underway, but rain and freezing temperatures may have an impact on the crop. There was a nearly 100% chance of rain, sleet and snow in the upper Arkansas Delta on Monday (Nov. 11), according to the National Weather Service. A majority of the state’s 32,000 peanut acres are in this area, according to the United States Department of Agriculture.

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, said Andy Vangilder, extension peanut agronomist for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Across the state, more than 91% 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%, only 55% had been harvested off the ground, according to a USDA report issued Monday. Vangilder said growers had perhaps reached the two-thirds harvested mark as of Nov 6.

The same wet spring that led to widespread delay and prevented planting in most Arkansas row crops also set peanuts back in the calendar, Vangilder said. And while the digging and harvesting stages are ahead of numbers for this time last year, the expected rainfall and freezing temperatures 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 NWS is predicting several days of freezing temperatures in northern Arkansas during the week, with lows dipping into the teens on Tuesday (Nov. 12).

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% 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. But there’s just going to be some growing pains.”