Georgia Peanuts: Saving Seed For 2012 - Three Considerations And A Word Of Caution

John Beasley

Sunday, October 9th, 2011

I’ve been inundated with calls the past 3 days concerning the questions about saving peanut seed. Growers realize that if contracts for farmer stock peanuts are reaching $1,000/ton – which they did yesterday (10/5) – then shelled peanut prices will climb, meaning the price of seed will go up for 2012.

Typically, anywhere from 12 to 15 cents per pound is added to the trading price of medium runners kernels to determine the seed cost. Where seed costs will be in the spring is anybody’s guess, but odds are it will be higher than this past spring.

Just two years ago growers were paying about 60 cents per pound for seed. When we were planting Georgia Green, which took about 110 lbs/acre to plant at 6 seed per row-foot, growers were spending about $65-$70 per acre in seed cost.

This year, planting Georgia-06G at 6 seed per row-foot ended up with about 135 pounds of seed per acre. Seed prices were about $0.90 per pound this past year, meaning growers spent about $120-$125 per acre in seed cost.

IF we end up seeing seed cost approach $1.20 per pound (that figure is pure speculation and should NOT be taken as absolute!), then we are talking about $160-plus per acre for seed cost. It is no wonder growers are considering saving their own seed. We are talking about spending nearly $100 more per acre in seed cost compared to just 2 or 3 years ago.

Now, here are 3 critical factors you need to taken into account concerning saving seed:

Factor #1: First and foremost, it is important to know that according to federal seed laws it is ILLEGAL to save seed of a patented cultivar.

The only patents on peanut seed are those associated with the high oleic trait. The following cultivars that are currently being grown in Georgia that have the high oleic trait are: Georgia-02C (very minor amount this year), Georgia-09B (also a very minor amount due to recent release), AT-215 (very minor amount), Florida-07, and FloRun ‘107’ (also very minor amount due to recent release).

Be sure and tell any of your producers that it is ILLEGAL for them to save seed of Georgia-02C, Georgia-09B, AT-215, Florida-07, and FloRun ‘107’.

Factor #2: The remaining runner-type peanut cultivars being grown in Georgia are protected by federal seed laws as PVP cultivars. According to the seed law, a grower can save seed of a PVP cultivar to plant on their own holdings (farm). It is ILLEGAL for a grower to sell seed of a PVP cultivar to another producer. Therefore, growers can save seed of the other cultivars to only plant their own farm.

Factor #3: Saving seed sounds like a simple process. However, it can be complicated. If not handled correctly, the seed can have very poor germination the following spring. Anyone planning on saving their own seed should consider these points:

•Peanuts being considered for saving for seed should come from a field that was IRRIGATED well during the season AND had GYPSUM applied at the level of 1,000 lbs/acre or more. I don’t mean one or the other, but both conditions. If the field being considered for saving for seed did not receive gypsum AND was not irrigated, then I would absolutely not recommend saving those peanuts for seed. Considering the growing conditions we had this year, saving seed from a field that was not irrigated and did not receive gypsum is asking for poor germination.

•I’ve had some calls this week where county agents have been asked about saving seed from trailers that were graded as Seg 3. That is really asking for trouble. The reason they went Seg 3 was due to stress, which is the absolute worst situation for quality seed production.

•I’ve also been asked about saving and planting the smaller seed after shelling and screening. In other words, plant those seed that fall through the “18” screen, which would be smaller than the medium seed size currently used for seed. This is a huge mistake! A high percentage of the smaller seed will be immature and will not germinate

•The peanuts being saved for seed will need to be stored over the winter in a structure that minimizes the dramatic fluctuations in air temperature and humidity we experience in south Georgia in the winter and early spring. These temperature and humidity fluctuations can cause rapid seed deterioration. The best place to store peanuts being saved for seed is in an approved, ventilated warehouse. The worst place to store farmer stock peanuts being saved for seed is in a peanut trailer sitting under a shed.

•The peanuts being saved for seed need to be monitored and treated, if necessary, for insects that typically feed on stored peanut. The insect of most concern is Indian meal moth.

•The seed will need to be shelled, screened, treated and bagged. This will have to be arranged and handled with a custom sheller. This does not come cheap.

•A sample of the seed will need to be germination tested, preferably by the Georgia Department of Agriculture Seed Lab in Tifton.

•Some producers have routinely saved seed and are already set up with the storage facility, custom shelling, treating and bagging. Those producers are experienced and will probably be alright, provided they grew those peanuts under irrigation and they applied gypsum.

However, a producer deciding here at harvest at the last minute they want to save seed just to save a little in production costs may actually cost themselves much more if the seed are not handled correctly.

Finally, in the case of saving patented seed, make sure they understand that there have already been some steep fines ($300,000 and more) paid by some producers in the past few years for saving seed of patented cultivars of different crops. 

By John Beasley, Extension Peanut Agronomist, University of Georgia