Southeastern Virginia has developed a well-deserved reputation for producing the large-seeded, good-tasting peanut type that bears the state's name.

But there is some thought now that at least part of the Virginia peanut crop might ought to be planted with runner type varieties.

As Pat Phipps, Virginia Extension plant pathologist, explains, field trials in Virginia of runners in comparison to Virginias show that the medium-kerneled type associated with Georgia might offer some advantages in the Old Dominion.

Among them:

  • “Less TSWV — In years of high incidence of tomato spotted wilt virus, the new runner-type varieties have shown significantly less infection.

  • “And less CBR — Like TSWV, incidence of Cylindrocladium black rot was also lower in runner types than Virginias, especially GA-01R, GA-02C, and GA-03L.

    “No more leafspot than Virginias — Early and late leafspot were similar for the two types except for some occurrences of more early leafspot in Virginia type varieties such as VA 98R, NC-V 11 and Champs. But Sclerotinia blight tended to be higher in the runner types, except GA-03L.

  • “Less landplaster needed — “The cost of landplaster and application ($35 per acre) may be eliminated where runner-type peanuts are grown in soils with medium or higher levels of calcium,” says Phipps. “Even if lower levels of calcium are present, a lower rate of landplaster may be needed.”

    Where calcium levels are below the M-level, a half rate of landplaster should satisfy the need for calcium in most runner-type varieties.

  • “Lower seed costs — Seed counts per pound are higher for runner types due to their smaller size. At seeding rates of 100 pounds per acre for runner types and 120 pounds per acre for Virginia types, seed costs for runners compared to Virginia types can save an additional $20 per acre when runner types are planted.

    Phipps noted that recommended seeding rates in Virginia are lower than in Georgia because of Sclerotinia blight. Seeding rates of up to five seed per foot of row are recommended for runner types in Virginia, whereas higher rates increase plant height and the density of vine growth, favoring Sclerotinia blight.

  • “Tillage economies — Strip-tillage on sandy textured soils has been tried successfully by several growers in Virginia. Runner varieties lend themselves better to strip-tillage because of greater vine strength and smaller pods. But Virginia types that maintain good vine strength such as Perry and Wilson can be successfully used. Virginia types like VA 98R and NC-V 11 that have weaker vines at digging should be monitored carefully for maturity and vine health as harvest approaches.

    A major advantage of strip-tillage is a reduction by $30 or more per acre for equipment, labor and fuel.

    Another advantage of strip-tillage over conventional-tillage is that it can reduce soil erosion by wind and water when used with a cover crop. The cover crop also improves moisture retention and water penetration since runoff is reduced.

    Strip-tillage is not going to work in every situation. It is better suited to soils with a sandy texture that allows digging and inverting with minimal loss of pods. It is not suited for fine textured soils that can cause heavy losses of pods when digging and inverting.

  • A side benefit — “Planting a winter cover crop and using Roundup to kill it prior to strip-tillage and planting may offer some suppression of TSWV and leaf spot disease,” Phipps says. But the primary benefits are reduced wind erosion, which causes sand blasting of emerging seedlings, and reduced runoff, which conserves soil moisture.

    “Higher yield — The newer runner-type varieties often yield equal to or better than Virginia-type varieties.

  • They are less likely to go Seg 2 — Comparisons in Virginia have shown that runner types have less concealed damage and damaged kernels that can grade Seg 2, says Phipps. “Some of our large-seeded Virginia type peanuts are more at risk of Seg 2 grades, especially if you can't dig them in a timely manner.”

    While the state of Virginia provides a highly favorable environment for growing Virginia type peanuts, there could be some advantage to planting runner types, especially in years such as 2004-2005 when market supplies of Virginia type peanuts exceed demand.

It won't surprise Phipps if no great conversion to runners takes place in 2008. “Right now, contracts for Virginias are better,” he says. “But we can grow runners here. I am confident of that. They offer a means for Virginia to maintain its infrastructure for our peanut industry whenever contracts for Virginia types are limited or fail to offset production costs.”

A final note: Whatever type you are growing, a four-year rotation is one of the most effective ways to reduce the cost of disease management, says Phipps. “Diseases showing significant reductions in incidence and severity with extended intervals between peanut crops include CBR, early leaf spot, web blotch, Sclerotinia blight and crop damage by northern root knot nematode.”