VALDOSTA — According to the National Peanut Board, peanuts are the 12th most valuable cash crop in the nation. In Georgia alone, peanuts account for more than 20 percent of the state’s agricultural income and the peanut industry provides more than 50,000 jobs statewide. Last year, Georgia was said to produce approximately 50 percent of the nation’s peanut supply.
Over the next several months, Dr. Emily Cantonwine, associate professor of biology at Valdosta State University, will join colleagues from the University of Georgia, University of Florida and Auburn University to explore multiple strategies for disease management and cost reduction of growing peanuts. This project is sponsored by the National Peanut Board.
“One of the goals of my research is to evaluate ways to help reduce the costs of growing peanuts in Georgia by limiting fungicide inputs,” said Cantonwine.
Disease management accounts for at least 12 percent of annual peanut production costs, Cantonwine explained. Some farmers treat peanut crops with a fungicide early in the season to prevent soil-borne diseases such as white mold disease and cylindrocladium black rot (CBR). Another application of fungicide is applied to crops 10-12 days later to protect against foliar diseases like early or late leaf spot disease.
“Because the fungicide that is applied is systemic, there is a possibility that the early application use for soil-borne protection could also provide foliar disease protection,” said Cantonwine. “If it does, this could mean fewer fungicide inputs.”
Reduction in fungicide use could save farmers up to $15 per acre.
Cantonwine will use a bioassay, which determines the strength and biological activity of substances, to test the effectiveness of the early season fungicide application. This process takes 30 days to complete and then has to be repeated.
Cantonwine’s research is funded by an $8,000 subaward from the University of Georgia. The funds also cover a research technician position.