In 2007, Harvey, then with the National Peanut Research Lab in Dawson, moved his peanut germplasm to Auburn and laid the groundwork for a cooperative breeding program between Auburn’s agronomy and soils department and the Dawson lab.

The Auburn-NPRL breeding program was established in April 2012, which is also when Chen joined the agronomy and soils faculty. He says the new program is a continuation of one he and others began at the national lab in 2007.

Joe Touchton, head of the agronomy and soils department — who, along with Chen, Harvey and Marshall Lamb, research chief at the National Peanut Research Lab, is credited with breeding AU-1101 — says the objectives of the program are to develop cultivars with desirable improved traits adapted to all U.S. peanut-producing regions and to enhance elite peanut germplasm through conventional and genomic approaches.


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The program is focusing on high yield, resistance to diseases, drought tolerance, early to medium maturity, seed characteristics and high oil and oleic acid content.

Chen says his research team planted 1,100 and 700 breeding lines, respectively, in Dawson and at the Alabama Ag Experiment Station’s Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland to evaluate for individual plants with desirable traits.

“We also planted 38 advanced breeding lines on test plots at those two locations as well as in Lucedale, Miss., and at the Gulf Coast Research and Extension Center in Fairhope to evaluate for yield and other characteristics,” Chen says.

The advanced lines also will be tested over multiple years.

“The top 50 percent of lines remain in the test for next year and new ones are added,” Chen says. “The longer a line stays in the test, the better the chance it will be released as a new variety. I believe some of those 38 advanced breeding lines will become new varieties we can release.”

The West Texas breeding program also is ongoing. Chen says another 500 breeding lines and 30 advanced lines will be evaluated there this year.

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