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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

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Student Science Project
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Growing Peanuts for Science Project

 Peanuts will grow and produce in a wide variety of soil types and textures provided that the soil is well drained and not water logged. However, since the pods originate from stem tissue above the ground and are pulled by gravity into the soil where they develop and mature, soil texture becomes the dominant factor in the ability to physically harvest and recover what the plants have yielded 2 - 3" deep into the soil. If the texture of the soil is mostly clay, the clay adheres to the pods and when the plants are extracted from the soil at harvest, the pods become detached and are lost in the harvesting process. Therefore, soil that is friable, mostly sand that is not sticky when wet should be selected.

For a science project, use good fertile local soil, garden type soil that is sandy in texture. Usually the soil will have enough residual fertility containing all the essential plant food elements except nitrogen, so no fertilizer will need to be applied to get them off to a good start during the first 30 days of their life cycle. Being a legume, the peanut has the mechanism to manufacture its own nitrogen if nitrogen-fixing bacteria are in the soil. If not, the peanut leaves will begin to turn yellow. If this happens and does not disappear 40 days after planting, apply some nitrogen fertilizer.

In higher altitudes, the length of the growing season may not permit the plant to achieve its full production cycle. For this reason, an earlier maturing variety such as Spanish or Valencia type is recommended.

When planting, be sure the soil temperature in the spring is high enough to promote seed germination. When it's warm enough to plant a spring garden, it is usually warm enough to plant peanuts.

Place the seed approximately 2" deep into the soil and allow 5 - 6" between seed. They should emerge in 10 - 14 days. Once plants emerge, the normal spring rain will usually be adequate to promote normal vegetation for the next 30 - 40 days. During the latter part of the cycle, bright yellow flowers begin to emerge and will continue to emerge for the next 30 - 40 days. The fertilized ovary that will eventually produce the peanut is located in the base of this flower stalk. Once the flower provides the pollination for the ovary, it withers and dies. The ovary will then be pulled into the soil to a 2 - 3" depth where it will enlarge and mature into a peanut.

This flowering and fruiting process will continue for about 30 to 90 days after planting. Each weekly sequence blooms, fades, and penetrates the soil to produce peanuts. This is the critical water requirement period. Plants typically need about 1 - 1½" of water per week. Should the plants become drought stressed during this cycle as evidenced by the plants wilting by midday or early afternoon, extra water should be applied every 5 - 7 days until they show no further sign of drought stress.

From emergence to maturity all weeds emerging in and around the peanut plants should be removed carefully by hand. Care should be exercised in not disturbing the peanut limbs and stems by hand cultivation or controlling weeds. Reason being, if limbs containing pegs or pods that have entered the soil are disturbed, these developing pods will not re-enter the soil. Keep all foliage feeders controlled to protect the leaf area by using a safe commonly used garden insecticide sold under the trade name of Sevin.

Spanish type peanuts will usually mature in 100 - 110 days here in the Southeast at 500 feet above sea level. It is estimated that at a high altitude of 7000 feet, it may require 120 -130 days to mature the peanuts.

At 100 days, begin to extract a single plant and examine it as to the stage of maturity. There will be different stages of maturity on any peanut plant, so check pods nearest the taproot which will be your most mature pods. They should have a rich pink kernel skin color and be relatively tight in the hull as opposed to immature kernels which are colored pale pink to white.

Extract all peanut plants when mature, shake off excess soil and scatter them on the soil surface on a piece of brown paper under full exposure to the sun and allow to sun dry until kernels will rattle in the shell when shaken. Hand pick and store in a safe dry place.

Have fun and good luck!

 

We wish to thank Mr. Bobby Moss for his contribution to this page.


Last Modified: 2/9/2005
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