There was a time, not too many years ago, when peanut growers had few choices when it came to varieties. But times have changed, and producers are beginning to see new and improved options for planting each year.

“We have 20 or more new runner varieties now available,” says William Branch, University of Georgia peanut breeder.

So what prompted this “golden age” of peanut variety development? The answer to this question might be summed up best with the old adage, “Necessity is the mother of invention.”

“The threat of tomato spotted wilt virus (TSWV) is really what spurred this development of new varieties,” says Branch. “For two decades, Florunner was the dominant variety, but then tomato spotted wilt virus came onto the scene, and Florunner had no resistance. Georgia Green and Southern Runner were some of the first to offer resistance, with Georgia Green still holding strong. More than 50 percent of Georgia’s acreage in 2008 was planted in Georgia Green.”

The development of Georgia Green helped to alleviate certain disaster, he says. “Yields were steadily going down and disease levels were going up. The breeding that has been conducted has led to increased resistance to tomato spotted wilt, and now we’re seeing progress being made in developing varieties that have resistance to other diseases and to insects,” says Branch.

The University of Georgia Peanut Breeding Program is actively involved in the development of improved varieties with desirable traits for increasing dollar value, yield, grade, disease resistance, insect resistance, virus resistance, nematode resistance, aflatoxin resistance, drought tolerance, better shelling characteristics, longer shelf life and enhanced flavor and nutritional qualities, he says.

Other universities, the USDA-ARS and private companies are also involved in peanut breeding.

Peanut breeding, he says, is a long-term commitment, with it normally taking 10 years to develop a new variety. So, he adds, peanut varieties for this new millennium are currently being considered.

“We started our program again in the mid-1990s, and we’re now seeing results from those efforts,” he says.

While change sometimes occurs slowly, says Branch, many growers are trying some of the newer varieties to determine which ones might work best for them. “It all depends on a grower’s specific needs. If a field has more CBR pressure, a producer might select a variety with some resistance to that disease,” he says.

University of Georgia Extension Peanut Specialist John Beasley says the new variety options make it an exciting time to be in peanut production.

“Based on our early harvest this year, some of the new cultivars seem to be giving us a bump in yields,” says Beasley. “We’ve had less-than-desirable growing conditions this year, but compared to the standard of Georgia Green, these newer varieties look promising.”

Varieties developed in the past two to three years look even more impressive than those released in the last four to five years, he says. “The breeding programs have come up with cultivars with better traits, such as Tifguard, the USDA-ARS release that has resistance to peanut root-knot nematodes. Growers eventually will decide which of the new varieties they like best and the list will be narrowed down to about five or six primary ones,” he says.

Beasley says 2009 might be seen as a transition year, as growers move from planting a majority of their acreage in Georgia Green to planting a more of their acreage in some of the new cultivars.

The following are some of the most recent varietal releases from the Georgia Peanut Breeding Program:

• Georgia-07W is a high-yielding, TSWV-resistant, white mold-resistant, runner-type peanut variety that was released in 2007 by the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations. It was developed at the University of Georgia Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga. Georgia-07W has a high level of resistance to both TSWV and to white mold, or stem rot. In 14 multi-location tests conducted in Georgia over three years (2004-06), Georgia-07W was found to have the lowest disease incidence, highest pod yield, highest TSMK grade, and highest dollar value return per acre when compared to C-99R and other tested runner varieties.

During additional multi-location tests conducted in 2007, Georgia-07W had the best overall performance compared to five other newly released runner-type varieties. Georgia-07W combines high TSWV and high white mold resistance with medium maturity and excellent yield, grade, and dollar value return per acre.

• Georgia Greener is a high-yielding, TSWV-resistant, typical-seeded, runner-type peanut variety that was released in 2006 by the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations. It was developed at the University of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga.

Georgia Greener has a high level of resistance to the spotted wilt disease caused by TSWV. In 26 multi-location tests conducted in Georgia during the past three years (2003-05), Georgia Greener was found to have the lowest disease incidence, highest pod yield, highest TSMK grade, and highest dollar value return per acre compared to Georgia Green and all of the other runner-type varieties tested each year.

Also during 2006, Georgia Greener was again found to have the best overall field performance compared to five other newly released runner-types as well. Georgia Greener as the name implies has darker green foliage, a typical runner seed size, and a medium maturity similar to Georgia Green.

• Georgia-06G is a high-yielding, TSWV-resistant, large-seeded, runner-type peanut variety that was released in 2006 by the Georgia Agricultural Experiment Stations. It was developed at the University of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station in Tifton, Ga.

Georgia-06G has a high level of resistance to the spotted wilt disease caused by TSWV. In 26 multi-location tests conducted in Georgia during the past three-years (2003-05), Georgia-06G was found to have the lowest disease incidence, highest pod yield, highest TSMK grade, and highest dollar value return per acre compared to C-99R and other runner-types tested each year.

During 2006, Georgia-06G was also found to have the best overall performance compared to five other newly released runner-types as well. Georgia-06G combines high TSWV resistance with medium maturity and excellent yield, grade and dollar value return per acre.

e-mail: phollis@farmpress.com