Peanut Problems: Leaf Spot Causing Mass Damage to NW FL Crops

By: Bergen Baucom Email
By: Bergen Baucom Email

Marianna- "Looks can be deceiving," Barry Tillman, University of Florida Associate Professor told us, pointing to a lush green plot of planted peanuts..

"The peanuts do look really nice here" he said, moving top leaves out of the way to show the bottom damaged part of the plant, "but underneath there's a storm brewing. We've had so much wet weather we've been unable to protect the plants like we'd like to from the fungus, leaf spot."

Tillman said this season was the worst he'd ever seen. But, at the University of Florida Extension office in Marianna, the grass- or in this case peanuts- were greener on the other side.

"We're testing different varieties for the resistance of the disease and we're also testing the efficacy of different fungicides. So, we do see varieties with better resistance to leaf spot than others, and those would be better in years like this year when it's been difficult to spray."

But for farmers who were knee deep in fields of fungus, the hope of future help was little consolation.

"Growers are faced with deciding to dig the peanuts if they're starting to defoliate from leaf spot, or spraying one more time. It really is a dilemma and there's no easy answer to that."

Tillman said one last desperation spray may not even be beneficial to farmers who planted late.

"Usually rescue sprays of fungicides at this late of a date don't do much good" he said. "It may not be cost effective especially if you don't have much canopy to protect. A rescue spray would need to be something a little stronger than the standard herbicide so that would be more expensive."

Because weather delayed planting, the harvest will be spread-out throughout the season. That's has made it nearly impossible to estimate yields for the peanut crop.

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