Peanut Producers Face Future Without Chlorpyrifos

Clint Thompson Peanuts

Peanut Field.
Courtesy: UF/IFAS Northwest Extension District

By Clint Thompson

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) decision to stop the use of the pesticide chlorpyrifos on all food will adversely affect some Georgia peanut producers.

University of Georgia Extension peanut entomologist Mark Abney said the pesticide ban will have major implications for the few growers who experience problems with peanut burrower bugs and rootworms.

“There’s two pests of peanut that we can’t manage right now with anything other than chlorpyrifos. Those are peanut burrower bug and root worms. The good news is if you look at it on a statewide basis, year-by-year, relatively few acres are affected by those pests. But they tend to occur, especially rootworms, in the same fields every year,” Abney said.

“You might say out of our 800,000 acres, only 40,000 acres are affected by root worms. But the growers who have those 40,000 acres must control them if they’re going to grow peanuts. When they lose chlorpyrifos, which is the only thing they have to manage that pest with, they’re going to be in a very serious situation in 2022 and going forward if an alternative is not found. This insect feeds on the pods. You have yield loss, and you also have quality reduction.

“If your grade is reduced from what we call a segregation one to segregation two, you go from a peanut that’s worth $400 a ton to a peanut that’s worth $120 a ton. You can’t make a living with that.”

The revocations of the tolerances for all commodities will go into effect in six months. That means growers will have few, if any options, in 2022. Abney does not have any recommendations for the peanut burrower bug, though it is less predictable. He should have a recommendation for rootworms before next season.

Nonetheless, it is an ominous future for peanut producers who must manage these pests every year.

“If you look at it from, we grow 800,000 acres of peanuts, what’s the big deal? You can look at it like that, but there’s some growers in this state, it’s a huge deal for them. There couldn’t be a bigger deal,” Abney said.