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Sustainable Agriculture: Programs: Organic Production


Dr. Tubbs in an orgainic peanut fieldInitial research efforts in organic peanut production began in 1989 (in collaboration with Dr. Craig Kvien and Dr. Sharad Phatak) as a result of concerns regarding the amount and types of pesticides used to produce peanuts and the potential risks to the environment, pesticide applicators and consumer health. Early research focused on disease control in organic peanut production using organically approved fungicides such as copper and sulfur. The rapidly increasing demand for organic peanuts and the possibility of economic benefits to Georgia and the southeastern U.S. has been an additional stimulus for continuing research efforts in recent years.

The primary needs and challenges in organic peanut production have been stand establishment, pest control, and infrastructure. Diseases (such as leaf spot, white mold, and tomato spotted wilt virus) can be huge limiting factors. The development of new cultivars (by Drs. Corley Holbrook, USDA; Bill Branch, UGA; and Dan Gorbet and Barry Tillman, University of Florida) has been a central component in successful disease control. A new cultivar named “Georganic” was released by USDA and UGA with organic production being a primary intended use. Although still relatively small in total acreage and production, on-farm results on transitional and certified organic fields in 2007 corroborated research findings that cultivars Georganic and DP-1 could produce good yields without fungicide or insecticide applications once the stand was established. UGA, USDA, and University of Florida breeding programs are all considering the suitability of new cultivar lines for organic production.

The top three production factors limiting organic peanut production in Georgia are weed control, weed control and weed control.  Although some early attempts have been made to try conservation tillage with organic peanuts, cultivation appears to be the best approach at this time. Cultivation research (by Dr. Carroll Johnson, USDA; and Dr. Scott Tubbs, UGA) has examined different types of cultivation equipment and the timing of cultivation for optimal weed control. Flex tine cultivation during early stand establishment followed by flat sweep cultivation has shown the most promising results. Ongoing research is examining cultivation timing for single and twin row trials.

Stand establishment probably ranks 4th on the list of production factors limiting organic peanut since normal seed treatments cannot be used to prevent fungal attacks before the plant germinates. Using seeds with an intact seed coat can help and biological seed treatments show some promise for helping with stand establishment.

Consistent, reliable sources of nontreated seed or seed treated with OMRI approved seed treatment (click here for more info) are needed if production is to increase.  This may be a niche opportunity for some growers.  Infrastructure for handling, shelling, and processing organic peanuts is also needed, as are links between producers and buyers.

Publications and Resources

More Info

For more information contact:

  • Albert Culbreath
    University of Georgia
    Plant Science Building
    115 Coastal Way
    Tifton, GA 31793
    Phone: 229/386-3156
  • Scott Tubbs
    University of Georgia
    Associate Professor
    Cropping Systems
    PO Box 748
    Tifton, GA 31794
    Phone: 229/386-3273
  • Wiley C. Johnson III (Carroll)
    USDA - ARS
    Crop Protection and Management Research Unit
    Research Agronomist – Weed Science
    Room 133
    2747 Davis Road
    Tifton, GA, 31793-0748
    Phone: 229/387-2347