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As Jessica Anderson points a pressure washer into a bucket, about 75 peanuts bounce around in a metal cage.
The peanuts get beat up just enough to peel off the thin hull or pericarp.
“We need to take that outside layer off to reveal the mesocarp underneath,” Anderson said. “It’s going to be different colored based on how mature the peanut is.”
Anderson, an extension agent with the North Carolina Cooperative Extension office in Wilson County, and Norman Harrell, county extension director, were helping farmer Donnie Tyner of Tyner Farms determine the optimum time to harvest the farm’s 415 acres of peanuts.
“What is it looking like?” Tyner asks.
“It’s about time,” Harrell says as he matches peanuts with the color on the a chart spread out on the open gate of a pickup truck.
The mesocarp colors range from white, yellow, orange, brown and black.
Early peanuts are white and yellow, while the most mature ones are brown or black.
The color chart was developed by North Carolina State University.
“This is a long-term method in peanut production for determining peanut maturity,” Harrell said.
“In the olden days, they used to take a pocket knife and sit on the side of the field and scrape the hulls,” said Toni Wade, owner of Crop Management Inc, a crop consultant assisting the Tyner Farm, located off Town Creek Road.
Wade gathered 10 small sample buckets from the peanut fields to test.
“We did the oldest peanuts on each farm, the first ones planted,” Wade said. “We took all of our peanuts off of one plant or two, but we got every one of them from that spot so that you could see the less mature and the most mature.”
The information is vital to the farmer.
“We ask them to come out every year so we don’t mess up,” Tyner said.
Correct timing of the harvest will produce the best yield possible.
“If you do it too early, your peanuts won’t be mature enough,” Tyner said. “They won’t weigh. If you do it too late, a lot of peanuts will start sprouting in the pod or start falling off the vine, and you can’t harvest them. You leave them behind on the ground.”
“There are two main types of peanuts, Virginias, which are the ball park, the big roasted peanut, and then what we call runners,” Anderson said. “Runners are mostly used for candy bars and anything chopped peanut and peanut butter. They are a lot smaller in size. They are not a jumbo peanut that you are going to eat right out of the shell, but they yield a lot of peanuts per plant per acre.”
Tyner Farm grows both varieties.
“Originally North Carolina and Virginia only grew the jumbo ballpark peanuts, and they didn’t yield as much in pounds as the runner peanuts that the Georgians and South Carolinians grew,” Wade said. “Ours are the jarred peanuts and the ballpark peanuts. Because of economics and opportunity, we now grow both.”
Harrell said the cooperative extension can come out test a farmer’s peanuts as requested.
“We have a half dozen peanut farmers in the county, and some of those use private consultants to do that work,” Harrell said.
Wilson County doesn’t grow as many peanuts as other crops. In 2018, the county had 2,382 acres.
“It’s gone up this year,” Harrell said. “Wilson had a grower from another county pick up some land in the county, and we saw our peanut acres go up 500 to 800 acres. The peanut market is kind of stable right now for acres.”
Wilson County had $2,086,335 in farm sales of peanuts in 2018.