As competition from other crops increases, variety choice is looming as a very important management tool to make peanuts more profitable.

Pat Phipps, Virginia Tech University Extension plant pathologist, told Southeast Farm Press recently that a number of new or relatively new varieties — both of the traditional Virginia type or of the runner type — are available to Virginia growers, or will be soon.

One new Virginia-type variety was very competitive in tests in 2007 and caught Phipps’ attention.

“Florida Fancy shows promise for improving profitability with its high yield and good grade characteristics,” says Phipps. “Its maturity is similar to other Virginia-type varieties grown in the Mid-Atlantic Region.”

Another relatively new Virginia-type variety, Georgia Hi/OL, also performed well in field trials, as did Champs, Brantley and Phillips.

The standard Virginia-types VA 98R, Gregory and Perry also generally performed well, but they must be monitored carefully in the fall for maturity to maximize the grade and the efficiency of harvest, he says.

A problem with VA 98R and Gregory is that they are susceptible to all the major diseases — leafspot, web blotch, Cylindrocladium black rot (CBR), Sclerotinia and Southern stem rot. Early maturity in these varieties seems to be accompanied by a weakening of vines that can be a major contributor to losses of pods and yield during digging.

Perry, on the other hand, is a CBR-resistant Virginia-type variety that continues to mature and maintains good vine strength in the fall. But it did not perform well under drought stress in some locations in 2007, because of Seg 2 grades it received due to internal damage, says Phipps. The same could be said of VA 98R, Brantley and Gregory.

Lower grades in some situations resulted in losses of two to five cents per pound — an estimated loss of 5 percent to 30 percent of the crop’s potential value per acre.

Different varieties perform differently when grown in a strip-tillage program. Champs, Phillips, Florida Fancy and Ga Hi/OL all produced a gross value exceeding $800 per acre (unirrigated) at the Tommy Rountree Farm in Suffolk, Va. This field location had not been planted to peanuts for eight years and lacked any CBR or other yield-limiting diseases.

At the Tidewater AREC, where there was moderate CBR pressure, Perry grown without irrigation had a value of 19.3 cents per pound and yielded 4,702 pounds per acre, resulting in a gross value of $908 per acre. This was the only variety among either Virginia or runner types that produced a gross value that exceeded $800 per acre.

Virginia types in this trial — including GA Hi/OL, Gregory, Wilson and Florida Fancy — graded Seg 2 because of internal damage which reduced value by 5 percent to 11 percent.

Of the runner types tested in 2007, none had losses in value due to grade characteristics, either in strip or conventional-tillage. Disease incidence was consistently lower in runners compared to most Virginia-types at each location.

Nevertheless, both runner and Virginia-type varieties are susceptible to Sclerotinia blight. Factors that make this disease worse include high plant populations and planting after May 5.

“Whenever runner types are grown in Virginia, they should be planted early — from April 15 to May 1—to minimize late season exposure to Sclerotinia blight and to promote early pod set and maturity,” says Phipps. “This practice should also help to avoid delays in harvest caused by later maturity in cool seasons.”

The runner varieties GA Green, GA 02C, FL 07 and McCloud all had gross values above $800 per acre at two locations (unirrigated). Maturity in GA Green was earlier than the Perry Virginia variety, while GA 02C, GA 03L, FL 07 and McCloud matured at about the same time as Perry.

A general trait of the runner-type varieties has been greater vine strength and better pod retention during digging and inverting vines into wind rows, says Phipps. “This trait, along with a smaller pod size and reduced susceptibility to disease, may account for the greater adaptability of runner types to strip-tillage than Virginia types.”

There are two other possible advantages of runners over Virginias, he says. Seed costs for runner-types are generally lower (about $22 per acre) and you may be able to eliminate land plaster in fields with M– or higher calcium levels. That might save as much as $35 per acre.

Values in the trials described in this article were based on grade and the government loan rate of $340 per ton.

In North Carolina, Extension peanut specialist David Jordan says that 2008 could be the year for the Virginia varieties Champs and Phillips to show their worth.

“They were released two years ago, but this is the first season when our farmers have been able to get adequate seed,” he says.

So far, they have looked very good in North Carolina, he says. “They seem to be on another tier than the varieties we have been planting.”

e-mail: cebickers@aol.com