Peanut rust and aflatoxin contamination also are getting attention from researchers, says Lamb.

“We had samples sent to us from experiment stations we thought were purely rust samples. But there was bacterial feeding on the samples.

“We amplified them within the lab and found out this bacteria was very aggressive and possibly could be used as a bio-control. We’re looking at the activity of this same bacteria on other pathogens as well.”

The goal with aflatoxin, he says, is to identify which genes, through genetic expression, are responsible for overcoming the defense mechanism within peanut plants.

“We’re talking about genes in the aflavus mold that secrete the aflatoxin. The plants produce phytoalexins for protection — just as do the white blood cells in our bodies.

“The plants send out the phytoalexins to wherever the aflavus mold is located, the aflavus mold detects the phytoalexins, and then it has a genetic expression that creates enzymes that it secretes to phytoalexins, breaking them down.

“Our scientists have identified the three genes that are in aspergillus and the two potential phytoalexins that are being broken down. This is a big breakthrough.”

Lamb says he expects some of these improved varieties to be released or available for seed increase soon.

He emphasizes there are no transgenic peanuts in edible markets today, that the varieties “are only in the experimental stage, and it will be years before any transgenic varieties will even be considered for release.”

Other articles in the series:

X-ray vision points to more efficient peanut grading system

Early-season disease control keeps peanut yield foe at bay

Water-use efficiency becoming priority for peanut producers who irrigate

Lack of nematicides slows use of variable rate application in peanuts

Taking guesswork out of determining peanut maturity