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Wayne Hobbs is 2022 Peanut Efficiency Winner for lower southeast

Brad Haire Wayne-Hobbs-peanut-PEA-1-a.jpg
Wayne Hobbs, 69, continues the family tradition today. For his dedicated and timely ways of proficiently growing high-yielding peanuts, he is the 2022 Farm Press Peanut Efficiency winner for the Lower Southeastern states.

If you’re under the cool shade of a pecan tree in Irwin County, Ga., on a hot day in May and begin talking peanuts with brothers Wayne and Greg Hobbs, they’ll start by telling you about T.M. Hobbs, their father who decades ago established a reputation for growing peanuts.

Wayne Hobbs, 69, continues the family tradition today. For his dedicated and timely ways of proficiently growing high-yielding peanuts, he is the 2022 Farm Press Peanut Efficiency winner for the Lower Southeastern states.

Though the 2022 PEA award deservingly goes to Wayne, he said he’s accepting it for the family and its peanut history.

T.M. Hobbs has a legendary role in certain circles of Georgia’s peanut industry. Over his farming career, he received numerous state and local recognitions for his cutting-edge peanut practices. The Irwin County peanut award is named in his honor. Both Wayne and Greg, 60, grew up farming with their father. Greg was honored alongside T.M. on several occasions. Greg now works off the farm.

Forty to 50 years ago, T.M. achieved yields that would be considered extraordinary today. In the mid-1960s, he could make well over two tons per acre. In 1972, the first year T.M. used a twin-row pattern, he averaged 5,233 pounds. In 1984, he topped the peanut-yield mountain with 6,800 pounds per acre.

Local land-grant researchers would come to the Hobbs farm to figure out what T.M. was doing. Long-time University of Georgia peanut agronomist Frank McGill, known as Mr. Peanut to many globally, was no stranger on the farm. McGill would visit and do research work on the farm with T.M. The two were friends and respected each other, Greg said.

What to do

After doing work off the farm for several years, Wayne started back fulltime farming in 1994 when he rented the land from his father. T.M.’s last crop was in 1993. T.M. died in 1995. He was 64. Betty Jean, T.M.’s wife and the brothers’ mother, still lives on the farm. She’s 89.

“Daddy could just look at a peanut and know what it needed and knew how to give it what it needed when it needed it, and Wayne has that same ability,” Greg said.

Hobbs would not be considered a large-acreage farmer by today’s norm. He uses a two-year rotation of cotton and peanuts on a total of 110 acres.

Hobbs takes soil samples and limes as needed. He doesn’t fertilize his peanuts. He fertilizes the previous cotton enough to carryover nutrients to the peanut crop. The peanut land in the rotation in most cases gets a moldboard plow, which has helped keep pigweed, a major issue for all growers in the region, to a minimum on his farm.

Based around John Deere 71 planters, Hobbs built his own peanut planter, retrofitting it over the years — over the decades really. “If you came to see new, shiny painted equipment, you’ve probably come to the wrong place. I work with and on things that might have a little rust,” Hobbs said, with a smile.

Also based off his father’s legacy, he plants eight-inch twin rows spaced 24 inches on six foot beds, which ends up being 32-inch middles.

In 2021, Hobbs planted 53 acres of GA-06G with an average of 6,121 pounds per acre.

He puts Thimet in the furrow along with a seeding rate of 220 pounds to 230 pounds per acre. He wants six to seven plants per foot of row in his twin-row system. “It may be more seed per acre than others, but I seed what I need. Seed is like an insurance policy for me and the stand I want,” he said.

In the 1980s, the brothers couldn’t figure out why a particular peanut field had become the weakest on the farm. They determined it might be because the rows in the weak field were planted east to west, limiting sun exposure for the plants. The next season, they changed the troubled field’s row direction. It improved. From that day to now, all rows in all fields are planted north to south for optimal sun and photosynthesis.

He starts with a weed-free field and waters in herbicides Valor and Sonalan behind the planter. He’s on a two-week fungicide program based around Bravo and Elatus.

The farm is all irrigated. He doesn’t let the peanuts stress. “Like my daddy would say, if you walk outside and you think it needs to rain, you need to water,” he said. Depending on that rain, he waters as needed typically seven-tenths at a time. Last year, he didn’t water as often due to timely rains across the area.

Family work

Wayne’s wife of 48 years, Joy, passed away in fall 2019. She was an important part of the farming operation, the family’s anchor and loved and respected in the community. When he was with her sick in the hospital, friends told him not to bother with getting ready for or harvesting his crops. Stay with her. They’d handle it all. They did.

He has four children and many grandchildren, including Turner Hall and Waylon Hobbs, both heading into the 9th grade, who were helping him finish peanut planting on that hot day in May. Wayne’s son, Tommy, also helps on the farm but works fulltime off the farm. Wayne is a member and leader at Rebecca Baptist Church.

“Wayne Hobbs is just an outstanding person who also happens to also be an outstanding farmer. He has followed right in the footsteps of his father. The Irwin County High Yield Peanut Award is named for his father Mr. T.M. Hobbs and has been presented each year since the mid-90’s. Wayne, like so many of our farmers in Irwin County, is timely in all of his efforts from planting, weed control, fungicide selection, irrigation, proper maturity determination and the like,” said Phillip Edwards, University of Georgia Extension coordinator in Irwin County.

Wayne has received the county’s high yield award many times, Edwards said.

“But I think he may be more excited when another farmer in the county is honored with this award. He or his brother and other family members have always been there for the presentations. He, like his father, has also achieved recognition in the Georgia Peanut Achievement Club. He supports and uses the information coming from UGA Extension and delivered through our county Extension office,” Edwards said.

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