The 2012 peanut production season was literally one for the record books, with growers throughout the U.S. making record-high yields and production.

Improved peanut varieties combined with ideal growing conditions led to a record-high production, exceeding 3 million farmer stock tons with an average yield of 4,192 pounds per acre, the highest ever and almost 1,000 pounds more than the average.

Having accomplished such a feat, many in the industry are asking, “What’s next?”

With some producers yielding an astounding 7,000-plus pounds per acre in 2012, has peanut production peaked or are there improvements and advances yet to be realized?

For the answer to this question, it’s important to take a look at what is in the peanut research pipeline — those problems, issues and initiatives currently being addressed that will lead to even more efficient and profitable peanut production.

For the next several days, we will present ‘Pipelines to Peanut Profitability,’ sponsored by DuPont Crop Protection, which takes an in-depth look at these areas of research, what they could mean to growers, and when producers can expect to see practical, on-farm applications of this research.

To find these articles simply click on the peanut button at the top of this page.

“For the U.S. to make 4,200 pounds per acre from 1.6 million acres is astounding, but we can still improve through research and technology,” says Marshall Lamb, research leader at the National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga., and advisor for the Farm Press Peanut Profitability Awards.

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“No one believed we could average more than 2 tons per acre, but we did it with excellent weather conditions, improved varieties and methods and practices that are the result of years of research.

“But there is still more to come — there are tools in the pipeline that promise to make our growers even more productive and efficient,” says Lamb.

While peanut research encompasses a multitude of disciplines, there are several key areas that are likely to impact peanut production in the near-term future.

Lamb and his staff have identified the following areas to be included in “Pipelines to Profitability”:

• Improved cultivars. It’s no coincidence that improved peanut yields have followed the release of improved cultivars.

Collaborative efforts between university and USDA breeding programs aim to continue that trend. A peanut breeding and genetics program at the National Peanut Lab is working to develop cultivars with desirable improved traits adapted to all peanut-producing regions, in addition to enhancing elite peanut germplasm through conventional and genomic approaches.

Also, plant breeding programs at the University of Georgia and the University of Florida continue to release varieties that offer high yields along with disease and nematode resistance.

Worldwide peanut genome project

A worldwide peanut genome project has an ultimate goal of taking eight to 10 years off the normal time for variety development, a process that usually takes at least 15 years.

• Determining maturity. Research is moving from helping farmers measure maturity as they dig peanuts to actually enabling them to improve the maturity of their crop in the field. Also, a new adjusted growing degree day model adds a degree of precision to the determination of peanut maturity.

• Water management. Some states, including Georgia, are beginning to place water restrictions on farmers who use irrigation. Georgia legislators recently proposed a bill that would establish irrigation efficiency requirements for all agricultural water permits in the Flint River basin, located in the southwest corner of the state.

Farmers can only expect more of these regulations in the future, and peanut research is focusing on improving water use through expert irrigation scheduling programs, drought tolerance, and various water-use studies designed to help growers maximize the efficiency of their water resources.

Water management research in the Southeast also is helping farmers expand their use of drip irrigation, a method that results in a 25-percent reduction in water use

•Disease management. New chemistries will continue to be combined with improved cultivars and annually revised risk-management indexes such as Peanut Rx to promote good stewardship and cost-efficiency in managing peanut diseases.

• Variable rate nematicide applications. Using the popular soil fumigant Telone II can become costly. In addition, meeting federal application standards has gotten more difficult for producers in recent years.

Clemson University Plant Pathologist John Mueller has conducted research on variable-rate applications of various nematicides, including Telone, over the past few years.

Using nematode maps developed from using a Veris rig to measure electric conductivity of the soil, Mueller says his research shows growers can cut Telone use and improve yields by using a variable-rate applicator.

Also contributing to the control of nematodes is the development of cultivars such as Tifguard, which has a high level of resistance to attack by the peanut root-knot nematode.

• Grading advances. With support from the Federal-State Inspection Services, researchers are looking at x-ray technology for grading peanuts.

Grading has been done the same way since the 1960s, and is a great asset for the industry in determining peanut quality, but it is very labor-intensive.

X-ray technology is very fast and as accurate as the current method.

Follow the series now:

New, improved varieties leading way for U.S. production

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