Peanuts blighted with tobacco spotted wilt virus -, Albany News, Weather, Sports

Peanuts blighted with tobacco spotted wilt virus

September 22, 2005

Calhoun County -- South Georgia farmers have begun harvesting their peanut crop, and many are very disappointed. Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus is widespread, hurting quality and yields. And that's bad news for the state's economy.

Harvey Jordan Farms tractors dig peanuts, but this harvest is bitter. Jimmy Webb said "That's what tomato spotted wilt virus does to one."

Caused by small bugs called thrips, tomato spotted wilt virus cuts some of the peanut plant's yield and overall quality. Webb said " what I've heard from my friends south of here, they are off three to five hundred pounds. We like a grade running 74 to 76, and they are running 68 to 70."

Webb said "You probably only got three nuts on this plant that will grade. You've only got three nuts. Where here you've got a dozen or better. This makes a tremendous difference."

Some Southwest Georgia farmers are just beginning to dig peanuts. Others are waiting for rain to soften the rock hard ground to harvest. Heavy rains earlier this summer are being blamed for the widespread tomato spotted wilt virus. Webb said "We're going to have some dead plants. That dead plant really hurts your yield, and I see a little more than I would like. But we don't have anything to combat it right now."

What had been projected to be a bumper peanut crop is now looking fair at best. The peanuts will probably rate only the farm bill's 355 dollar a ton minimum. Georgia farmers planted record acres this year, and low earnings mean less dollars from the state's largest industry.

Webb said "I just want to get what the Lord provided for me, and get it to the house right now." The tomato spotted wilt virus is more bad news for many peanut farmers, who were late planting their crops, and will not begin harvesting for weeks. Fuel costs are expected to skyrocket again, making it more expensive to dig up a blighted crop.

Some Southwest Georgia farmers are hoping for rain, to soften the ground so they can dig up their peanuts. Some like Webb hope it stays dry, until they bring their combines into the fields to pick up the nuts.