FLORENCE — Hats were optional at Clemson Extension Pee Dee Farm Field Day. An overcast sky and day-before rain kept temperatures mild in a region where the sun can bake your brains if you don’t wear a cap.

Conditions were definitely appreciated by the more than 160 growers who came see and hear about the research projects dealing with peanuts, soybeans, cotton, bioenergy crops and sorghum.

Peanut breeder Shyam Tallury presents research results to growers at Pee Dee Farm Field Day.

Peanut breeder Shyam Tallury presents research results to growers at Pee Dee Farm Field Day.
Image Credit: Clemson University

Soybean and peanut attracted the most attention. Soybean breeder Ben Fallan summarized work to show that S.C. growers could produce solid yields planted later in the season. Fallan also talked about the importance of genetic diversity – 92 percent of the soybeans grown in the United States rise from 30 varieties, creating a potential bottleneck for developing new traits to deal with disease and drought.

Peanut growers saw the results of work from Shyam Tallury. Tallury and USDA researcher Phil Bauer top-lined their findings on the differences between calcitic and dolomitic limes. Tallury showed peanut varieties he has been studying. “We are breeding varieties to meet your needs – high yield and disease resistant,” Tallury said. “We also are working on satisfying industry standards. People want good-looking peanuts that are shiny when they buy them at the ballpark.”

The field day was held a little later this year to showcase soybean and peanut work. Fallan and Tallury are new hires, part of Clemson’s Advanced Plant Technology program, which legislators have funded to develop new varieties and crops.

“The program is an investment in producing food, fuel and fiber for South Carolina, improving farm revenue and generating agriculture economic spinoffs to create jobs and rural community growth,” Tom Dobbins, Extension Service director.

A new crop was added to the program this year — grain sorghum.

“The grain sorghum industry is based now in the high plains, but they don’t have enough water. The industry is going to move east, so it’s a great opportunity here,” said Stephen Kresovich, who leads the Advance Plant Technology program. “Clemson is trying to take advantage of where the science is going and steer it into the crop. We are building the capabilities to help the plant breeders incorporate the traits they want into crop.”

Tim Lust flew up from Lubbock, Texas, to meet with sorghum contacts in the Carolinas. Lust is CEO of National Sorghum Producers and market developer with the United Sorghum Checkoff, which funds research. The day before the field day, he had met with hog industry leaders in North Carolina to talk about grain sorghum as an feed alternative to corn.

Biofuel expert Jim Fredrick forecasted an announcement in the next few weeks about a research agreement with an ethanol producer in Spain. “The first step is study growing conditions here,” said Frederick. “If all goes well, the plan is to build a production facility in South Carolina in the next two to three years.”

The 2,300-acre Pee Dee Research and Education Center is at 2200 Pocket Road in Florence near Interstate 95. The center conducts research and education programs on traditional and new crops that offer economic potential for the Pee Dee region of South Carolina.

Research at the center often involves partnerships with other Clemson programs and the USDA Agriculture Research Service and Natural Resources Conservation Service.