Anybody growing peanuts “needs to think seriously about investing in RTK” guidance systems, says Kris Balkcom, who discussed production practices at the annual meeting of the Mississippi Peanut Growers Association.

“You can certainly pay for this technology with more peanuts at digging time by reducing losses, particularly in rolling, curved, or terraced fields, where you’ll get more accuracy.”

Balkcom, who is Auburn University Extension agronomy and soils research associate at Headland, Ala., says cooperative research in Alabama and Georgia the pasts few years has compared accuracy of RTK-equipped tractors with that of tractors using the best drivers.

“We showed significant yield differences, when averaged across all the tests, with at least a $8 to $174 per acre benefit from RTK just on digging alone. With that kind of return, it won’t take many acres to pay for the RTK equipment — and you get to use it for other crops besides peanuts.”

RTK systems offer producers the highest level of accuracy, often at the sub-inch level, and auto-steer systems utilizing RTK can provide year-to-year repeatable accuracy in planting and harvesting operations, in addition to minimizing overlap and skips, providing more accurate placement of fertilizer, herbicides, and other inputs, offering the option of working accurately at night, and the ability to cover more acres with fewer hours of operation.

In discussing various production practices, Balkcom said the type of tillage used for peanuts isn’t a major consideration.

“Peanuts don’t really care how you till them. You can make a lot of peanuts with different tillage systems — it just depends on how much money you want to spend doing it.  Several tests over the years have shown all tillage systems about the same for peanut production.

“Your field topography may be a consideration. If you are in an area where you can rip and bed, it’s hard to beat, but it’s probably the second most expensive method next to moldboard plow, given today’s fuel prices and other costs. It’s three trips across the field, although with conservation tillage you may be able to cut that to one or two trips.”

A new implement, the KMC subsoil roller, is “a good tool, whether growing wheat, peanuts, or cotton,” Balkcom says. “There’s always a need to do some deep tillage when you’re growing peanuts, small grains, and cotton. Over the past three years, we’ve compared strip-till with the subsoil roller on both twin and single row peanuts, and they are equally effective.”

Twin row production does require more horsepower and a bit more cost, he says, “but there usually is a yield benefit to offset that.

“One of the challenges with twin row, as we move more to conservation tillage, is getting a good stand. When you have a lot of residue, it’s difficult to sweep that residue around to allow good soil contact and get a good stand. If you can’t get a stand, you’re just wasting time — you might as well plant single row.

“One way we found to deal with this is to put a coulter and a sweeper in front of the seed-opening disk to sweep the residue before the coulter goes through. If you’re running in a killed cover crop, a simple sweeper is fine to clean out a good bed. But if you’re double-cropping peanuts behind wheat, you really need the coulter to chop through the root mass and get the peanut seed down deep and covered.