White Mold Disease Major Problem in Peanuts

Clint Thompson Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Peanuts

University of Georgia photo shows a comparison between healthy peanuts and those infected with white mold disease.

It won’t be too long before it’s harvest time for peanut producers in the Southeast. However, University of Georgia Extension plant pathologist Bob Kemerait implores farmers to stay on a good fungicide program to protect their crop against white mold disease.

“The big story in peanuts right now is white mold. I just got off the phone with (county Extension agent) Jeremy Kichler about that. The weather we’ve got right now is absolutely perfect for it, with humidity and temperature,” Kemerait said. “We’ve got to maintain vigilance on that. Conditions are very favorable, everything’s favorable for white mold and growers are starting to see it.”

No. 1 Disease of Peanuts

White mold is often the No. 1 cause of the loss of peanuts due to disease in a season. Sclerotium rolfsii, the causal agent of white mold, is a fungus that remains in the soil between cropping systems and waits for the next susceptible crop to be planted.

When growers fail to use proper crop rotations, white mold can become more problematic. Growing peanuts behind peanuts is highly discouraged because of this disease. The white mold fungus lives along the soil line, near the surface. Because of its ability to move underground, it is extremely hard to manage with fungicides. The limbs, crown and pegs of peanut plants, and the pods are often completely destroyed as a result.

Kemerait is concerned about what the financial impact will cost producers, especially if they let up over the next month or two.

“It’s too early to say but if we continue on like we are, I think it’s going to be one of the hottest white mold years in recent years. I would say in fields where it’s not controlled, I would say 1,000 pounds lost to it is not unexpected. If they’re not able to control the white mold, I would say 1,000 pounds of peanuts. It could be that bad,” Kemerait said.

About the Author
Clint Thompson

Clint Thompson

Multimedia Journalist for AgNet Media Inc.