Better varieties will be crucial for the U.S. peanut industry to improve productivity, and improved breeding programs across the peanut production belt will be essential to that effort.

“The key to success is peanut breeding programs,” said Stanley Fletcher, project director of the National Center for Peanut Competitiveness in Athens, Ga.

Fletcher, speaking at the Oklahoma Peanut Expo in Lone Wolf, Okla., said breeding efforts in the Southeast, especially from Bill Branch’s University of Georgia program, have  developed new varieties that are significantly more productive than the varieties they replace.

“Some new varieties average 1,000 pounds per acre above Georgia Green,” he said. “And new varieties now make up 80 percent of total production in the region.”

He said a 50-pound yield differential between Southwest and Southeast yields favor the Southeast. “And the gap is widening. Yield will be higher with more new varieties.”

But Southwest breeders are making strides. Kelly Chamberlin, USDA-ARS peanut breeder at Stillwater, Okla., says “the program’s goal is a super peanut that is disease resistant with better grades and higher yields.”

Chamberlin said runner varieties are showing improved resistance to Sclerotinia, “but we have breeding lines that will cut the incidence of Sclerotinia blight to one-third of that found in currently available varieties such as Tamrun OL07 and Red River Runner—without fungicide treatment.”

ARSOK-S1 is a promising Spanish variety.  “Data from trials conducted in Oklahoma and Texas show that this new, high oleic Spanish-type breeding line is superior to OLin in yield, grade, Sclerotinia blight resistance and pod rot resistance,” she said.  “Yield differences between this line and Tamnut OL06 have been insignificant in most growing regions tested.  ARSOK-S1 is a true Spanish breeding line with a seed size similar to that of Tamspan 90 (smaller than Tamnut OL06 but larger than OLin) and superior seed quality regarding the high oleic trait.  This line matures approximately 120 days after planting.   

“We’re working with Texas A&M, specifically Mark Burow (Texas AgriLife peanut breeder at Lubbock), to see how this line performs.” Release of this line is planned in 2012.

She said a Spanish and runner-type peanut cross, ARSOK-SR140-1 has produced “consistently high yield.” Seed size is close to Spanish but it yields similar to runner peanuts. “But it is not high oleic,” she said, “so we are breeding it back to produce a high oleic peanut.”

Southwest peanut breeders are working almost exclusively on high oleic varieties.

She said a high oleic Virginia type with sclerotinia resistance and yield equal to current standards is another goal.

Texas trials

Todd Baughman, Texas AgriLife Extension peanut specialist, said variety trials have identified top performers for Texas conditions. In 2010 tests, Flavorunner 458, Tamrun OL07, and ACI 149 were among the top performers.

ACI 149 is being touted for its high yields and early maturity. “We need more tests on disease tolerance,” he said. “Until we see it on more acres we will not have a good feel on disease tolerance.”

TX055307 and TX055308 had good yield and high grades in Baughman’s variety trials. “Grades were improved compared to recent Tamrun releases,” he said.

TXL061816 and TXL071606 are early maturing lines developed from Burow’s program. Baughman also looked at a Florida variety, UF09303, for the first time last year.

“All the varieties we’re testing are high oleic,” Baughman said. “We haven’t tested any non- high oleic varieties for several years.  The current market demands high oleic peanuts from Texas, so that is why we are only testing those lines.”

 Baughman said Virginia trials included Gregory, Perry, Bradley, Bailey, AT07V, Champs, Suggs and Florida Fancy, to name a few. “We also had one experimental variety from Virginia and three high oleic lines from North Carolina.”

Baughman also commented on the effect of plant stands on yield. “We planted peanut on spacings of 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 seed per foot of row.

“We started this study with a cotton project,” Baughman said.  “With lower populations, we get 80 percent or more of the seed up. At the higher rate, we get from 60 percent to 70 percent. We think the first seed takes much of the moisture from the soil and the second seed doesn’t germinate.

“We have found that we can lower our seeding rate and that higher seeding rates do not necessarily give us more plants.”

They’re also testing various seeding rates under several irrigation schemes. “We will continue to work on the potential to lower seeding rates. In West Texas’ cool planting conditions, we thought we needed more seed to get a stand.”

That may not be the case and peanut farmers may be able to save money without sacrificing yield potential.