Organic Peanut Production
Producing peanuts that meet certified organic criteria set by the USDA with restrictions set by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI) can be challenging compared with peanut produced using conventional technologies (synthetic pesticides and fertilizers). However, demand for organically-produced peanut is strong, and markets are available. The two major production-oriented challenges with the organic approach to production are obtaining adequate plant stands and effectively controlling weeds. While disease, insect and nematode control can be difficult to achieve, in most instances impacts of insects and nematodes, and in some cases in-season diseases, are not catastrophic but can reduce yield substantially. In contrast, the need to plant seed that is not treated with effective fungicides and the difficultly in controlling grassy weeds can result in complete crop failure. Growers interested in producing peanut using organic principles should plant when soil conditions favor rapid emergence of seedlings. Fields with low infestations of weeds should be selected. Challenges also exist from a post-harvest perspective. The certification process does not end in the field but carries through all processing steps. This can be a major constraint to organic adoption because current shellers in the Virginia-Carolina region are too large to invest in transitioning their plants to a relatively small volume of peanut for organic certification. For example, Hampton Farms markets several products that are certified organic, but all production is in New Mexico because of shelling and processing logistics and certification requirements at the post-harvest level. The North Carolina Agricultural Foundation has provided funding to develop elements of an organic peanut value chain in North Carolina. This project includes efforts to increase efficiency of production, determine consumer demand and potential farmer
involvement, and establish a pilot project with selected certified organic growers in the state. The current goal is to assist growers in producing certified organic peanut for the in-shell trade. Depending on success in this approach, a cooperative among producers of certified organic peanut could lead to shelling of peanut for additional markets. Our goal in this chapter is to provide information on requirements for certified organic
production, basic agronomic practices required for certified organic production of peanut, challenges with pest management in certified organic production, and estimated cost of certified organic production.
Publisher:NC Coorporative Extension