Crosses will then be made with transformed peanuts into elite varieties like GA-06G or a newer line — one that shows very good agronomic production practices, he says.

The old variety AgraTech 271516 has been released as a germplasm, and it has proven to be a very good transforming peanut, says Lamb. “It has a very high success rate, so we are making some crosses with some high-yielding, high-grading varieties.”

Researchers then have to check for a gene’s stability and continue the backcross, he says.

“This is the part that takes time. We’re dealing with a biological organism, and we have to make sure that once we come up with a line, that over several generations, it is breeding true, and we make selections to keep it breeding true.

“Then, there’s the process of going to the field and testing for release.

“We made crosses between the transgenic peanuts that are showing extremely high levels of leafspot resistance into conventional lines.

“This cross-pollination was completed this past January. In our environmental control facility at the lab, we built a greenhouse so that we could overwinter these peanuts here instead of sending them to Puerto Rico. We can heat soil, saving us a year in getting these crosses made.”

Auburn University pathologists will be inoculating the peanuts that have been transformed, and they’ll be testing them rigorously for resistance to leafspot, he says.

“I won’t use the word immunity, because I don’t know if we’ll have immunity, which is 100 percent, but we’re trying to reach a very high level of resistance.”

Scientists also are identifying drought regulating gene markers, says Lamb.

“Even though we’re blessed this year with a lot of ponds and creeks full of water from good rainfall this winter, our water use issues are not going away, and we’ve got to keep looking at ways to reduce irrigation and to empower dryland growers to withstand drought periods a little bit longer.

“We’re trying to buy a little time until we get a rainfall. This is not genetic modification. This is part of the genomic initiative to identify markers within peanuts that we can then get into other elite varieties. Breeding and biotechnology is “a numbers game, and we’ve been able to have success.”