GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) — At this time of year, Pitt County farmers are deciding whether to start digging into their crops or wait.

A method called peanut pod blasting helps farmers make that choice.

Since peanuts grow underground, farmers can’t tell when the best time to harvest is just by sight or touch. If they harvest too early or too late, they could lose up to 10% of their final yield.

“During the 1970s, research determined that by removing the outer shell of the peanut and exposing the inner shell called the mesocarp, actually, you can see a color change that occurs as peanuts mature,” said Mitch Smith, agricultural extension agent at Pitt County N.C. Cooperative Extension Center. “The colors would change from white to yellow or orange-brown to black as peanuts material and reach up and maturity.”

That’s when pod blasting comes into play.

“The pod blasting process is to use a high-pressure nozzle with a sprayer and to remove the outer shield of about 150 peanuts, and then place those on the chart,” said Smith. “So we invite growers to bring those samples to us. And as a result, we will remove the outer shell place them on the chart and assist him with making that decision.”

The scientific chart determines when 60% of those peanuts reach optimal maturity. North Carolina ranks No. 6 nationwide in terms of peanut production.

“Last year we produced over 30 million pounds of peanuts here in Pitt and that represents more than $8 million each year,” said Smith.

The next pod blasting workshops are coming up soon: Friday, 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m., Charles Tucker and Son Peanut Company, 4480 Old River Road in Belvoir; and.Sept. 12, 9:30 a.m. to noon, Ayden Nitrogen Company, 4728 Old N.C. 11 in Ayden.