“Most growers have traditionally been spraying every 14 days with some type of fungicide. With the Prescription Rx program, we’ve been able to calculate the level of risk of various diseases and reduce fungicide applications accordingly. This can be done on a computer, or manually with a pencil and a sheet of paper.” (Information on how the program works can be found at http://www.griffin.uga.edu/PeanutRx/)

For moderate to low risk situations, Howell says, producers have been able to eliminate three or more fungicide applications during the season for a considerable cost savings.

“In one whole farm evaluation of the Peanut Rx program, the grower saved $68 per acre across the entire farm, compared to a traditional spray program. The yield average was 4,006 pounds — the best in the farm’s history.”

The entire farm was scouted weekly, and fungicide recommendations were based on risk index in combination with weather data and scouting observations.

“We will continue to evaluate this program on a large scale basis,” he says, “and we’ll work with growers to show them firsthand how it works and the potential benefits. Reducing the number of fungicide applications can dramatically bring down their production costs — from $50 to $75 per acre in many cases.”

Plant pathologists and others involved with peanut production are continuing to tweak the program to make it more useful for growers, Howell says.

“I get a lot of questions, too, about tillage, particularly from new growers. Many of them use strip tillage, but they also want to know about the possibility of no-till or strip-till.

“We set up four tillage tests last year at Hamilton and Lucedale: full tillage, no-till, and two strip-till. At Lucedale, we saw no particular advantage for no-till or strip-till over full tillage, but at Hamilton we saw a slight advantage for the two strip-till systems.

“We’re hoping to continue the work this year and build our information database, including soil moisture and compaction data.”