AgroNotes Series 9: Peanut Production

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Enterprise Brief:

The peanut, also known as the groundnut, a legume crop grown mainly for its edible seeds. It is widely grown in the tropics and subtropics, being important to both small and large commercial producers. It is classified as both a grain legume due to its high oil content, an oil crop. World annual production of shelled peanuts was 44 million tonnes in 2016, led by China with 38% of the world total. Atypically among legume crop plants, peanut pods develop underground rather than above ground.

The peanut belongs to the botanical family Fabaceae (or Leguminosae), commonly known as the legume, bean, or pea family. Like most other legumes, peanuts harbor symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria in root nodules. The capacity to fix nitrogen means peanuts require less nitrogen-containing fertilizer and improve soil fertility, making them valuable in crop rotations. Peanuts are similar in taste and nutritional profile to “tree nuts” such as walnuts and almonds, and, as a culinary nut, are often served in similar ways in Western cuisines. The botanical definition of a nut is “a fruit whose ovary wall becomes hard at maturity”. Using this criterion, the peanut is not a nut.

Variety selection: Many varieties are available. The commonly grown once include: Red Beauty which is red seeded and other more recent varieties like Serenut 2T, Serenut 3R, Serenut 4T, Serenut 5R, Serenut 12 R upto Serenut 14R. Get certified seed at regular intervals, preferably every 2–3 years.

Variety Maturity period (days) Yield (bags/acre) Attributes
Serenut 2 115-120 800 kg(20 bags of 40 kg) Bunch type; Resistant to rosette; large tan seeded, 47% oil content
Serenut 4 90 -100 1080 Kg (27 bags of 40kg) Bunch type; Resistant to rosette; drought tolerant; small tan seed 43% oil content
Red Beauty 90-100 800 Kg (20 bags of 40kg) Bunch type; susceptible to rosette; medium red seed with short pods.

Growth environment

Grown all over Uganda and does best at altitudes of below l, 500m ASL. It requires rainfall of at least 1,016 mm.  Its water requirement is greater at flowering, pegging and pod filling. However, dry weather is required for harvesting and drying. The crop cannot tolerate water logging. Well-drained sandy loam is preferred, with a high sulphur content and aeration.

Land preparation

  • The farmer should prepare a good seedbed for good root growth and to allow the groundnut pods to grow and fill well
  • The residue from the previous crop should be managed as the first step in seed bed preparation.
  • The soil should be dug/ ploughed deeply by hand/ ox plough or tractor to deeply turn the soil to bury residues
  • Weed 3-4 weeks before planting.
  • Plant in a moist seed bed to ensure good germination


Pods should be shelled 1–2 weeks before sowing and only good quality seed should be selected for sowing. Spacing is 45cm x 15cm for spreading types ; and 45 x 10cm for bunch types like Red Beauty, Serenut 14, and Serenut 4. The recommended planting depth is up to 5cm deep; and the seed rate is 32 kg/ Acre for spreading varieties and 40Kg/ acre for bunch types. Maturity depends on the variety used, but varies from 90-135 days (3 – 4.5 months)

Weed Control

Keep the crop weed free. Early weed control is essential in order to achieve maximum economic yields. Two or three times are necessary in hand hoed fields. Herbicides, if applied judiciously, may be used e.g. roundup for bush clearing before ploughing, and or Stomp at planting. Weeding using oxen is becoming common. Once flowering and development of the pod into the soil begin, it is advisable to weed by hand pulling, rather than by using a hoe, as this is less likely to disturb any developing pods.

Pests and diseases control

  • Viral diseases: Groundnut rosette is the most serious disease. Spray 4 times against the vector (Aphids) for susceptible varieties, using Rogor or Fenkill. Start the first spray at 10 days after emergence after the first weeding and thereafter at 10 day intervals for 3 more times. Use of resistant varieties such as Serenut 2, Serenut 14, and Serenut 4 eliminates use and costs on chemicals.
  • Fungal diseases: Cercospora leaf-spots. Spray with Dithane, Benlate, Brestan if severe, however, it may not be necessary.
  • Pests: The leaf miner larvae can cause severe leaf damage to leaves. It binds the leaves and bores the leaf surface and feeds between the leaf tissues causing leaves to dry. If it is not controlled, it can cause severe loss to yield especially if the crop if still young. Use a systemic insecticide like Rogor as soon as sings of the pest are noticed.

Harvest and Post-Harvest

Harvest when the inside of the pod turns dark brown and seed has attained its real colour. Other maturity indicators are; shedding of leaves and vines turning yellowish. Discuss others. Harvest and leave in windrows for three days before plucking. Clean the pods by removing the soil and other dirt and dry properly before storing in a well-ventilated place.

The harvesting is mainly done by hand pulling, digging using a hand hoe or by groundnut plough attachment lifter.Harvesting by hand only is more suitable for groundnut bunch varieties that grow erect (upright), in sandy, loam soils which are free of water that has settled in it.

Post-harvest Handling

  1. Drying of groundnuts

For good storage and germination, the moisture content of the pods should be reduced to 6-10%. Dry on tarpaulins, improved dryers, cement-brick and stabilised grounds. Correct drying of the harvested groundnuts is very important as poor drying leads to fungal growth which produce poisonous chemicals (aflatoxin contamination) and reduce seed quality for consumption, marketing and germination for the following season’s planting.

Storage life of Groundnut seeds outside the shell is short and quality can deteriorate fast. Groundnuts seeds should therefore be shelled as and when need arises. Use manual groundnut Sheller, seed/grain cleaner/sorter to shell, clean and sort groundnuts or by hand which is commonly done by farmers.

It is best to store groundnuts in their shell. Good drying of the pods to 7–8% moisture content will help to ensure that the seeds remain in good condition during storage. Never bag groundnuts for storage if the pods are still damp. Before storing; poor, damaged, shrivelled, rotten, or dieses-infected pods should be removed. Whatever the storage container, it is important to ensure that the store is dry and that there is good ventilation so that the pods/seeds do not increase in moisture content, which would encourage fungal growth. Ideally the store should be cool, as this prolongs the storage life of the pods.

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