A peanut breeding program operated jointly by the College of Agriculture’s Department of Agronomy and Soils and USDA’s National Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, Ga., has yielded AU-1101, a high-yielding, early- maturing, Virginia-type peanut and the first peanut variety ever released by Auburn.

But program leader Charles Chen says it won’t be the last.

“We currently have three promising advanced breeding lines, and they could be released as early as 2015,” says Chen, a former USDA Agricultural Research Service research geneticist who in early 2012 joined the College of Ag’s agronomy and soils department as an associate professor of peanut breeding and genetics.

Those varieties, Chen says, will be high-yielding runner-type peanuts that are adapted to the Southeast and bred for improved resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus, leafspot and other costly diseases and for reduced seed size. Those two characteristics could help farmers in Alabama, Georgia and Florida lower their seed and overall production costs.

While AU-1101 also promises high yields and improved drought tolerance, its other key trait — early maturity — will make it a strong option for West Texas peanut growers, once certified seeds become available to farmers in 2014, Chen says.

“AU-1101 is a large-kernelled Virginia-type peanut, and that is the type grown in West Texas, but the varieties that dominate the fields there now often aren’t mature enough to harvest and are still in the ground when the first frost hits,” Chen says. “That can reduce crop quality and yields.”

That the first peanut variety to be released by Auburn was developed for growers in West Texas might seem odd, except that the research behind AU-1101 began in the Lone Star State in the early 2000s under Ernest Harvey, one of the world’s leading peanut breeders.