S1059: Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation Program for Development of Virginia-type Cultivars with High Oleic Trait

(Multistate Research Project)

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The Virginia-Carolina (VC) region including Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, is the most important peanut production region for the large seeded virginia-type peanut in the United States. Over 80,000 ha are grown annually with production ranging from 200,000 to over 400,000 tons. For example in 2012, the production value was $30,000,000 in Virginia and $210,000,000 in the VC region (USDA-NASS). Virginia-market type peanut cultivars are produced on over 90% of this area, for which Virginia and the Carolinas are lead producers not only in the U.S.A. but also the world.

Desirability of the virginia-market type vs. other peanut types, e.g., runner and valencia, is related to its kernel size, flavor, and the industry that evolved in the VC region around this particular type of peanut. Virginia-type peanuts have larger seeds than other types, which garner a premium price. For example, 450 g of seed has an average of 825 seeds for runners and valencia, and 475 for virginia-type. That is the virginia-type peanuts are almost twice the weight per seed of the runner or valencia-type. Therefore, in addition to revenues from pod yield farmers receive premiums from the extra large (ELK) and super extra large kernels (SELK) of virginia-type cultivars. In an average $355 per ton load of farmer stock, the farmer receives about $15-18 of premium based on the ELK. In shelled goods, the largest of the extra large kernels carry the highest value of any of the virginia-type kernels. These kernels, called super extra large, provide the backbone for the gourmet processing trade which sets Virginia apart from the other peanut growing states since the majority of these firms are located in Virginia. Part of the ongoing effort of the VC breeding program involves finding cultivars with higher percentages of these SELK. Consumers recognize the size of kernels attributable to the virginia-type peanut and desire the crunchiness and flavor for which they are known. Ultimately, the combination of peanut type and growing environment contributed to establishment of specific peanut markets in the VC region, with in-shell peanut trade, the gourmet peanut market, export markets, as well as the edible peanut being the predominant markets.

The VC region is not only home for virginia-type peanut farming, but also virginia-type cultivar development. The Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation (PVQE) program has provided multi-state variety testing for virginia-type cultivar development for over 38 years through several multi-state projects, i.e., S-1038, S-1003, and S-140. With leadership at Virginia Techs Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center (TAREC) in Suffolk, VA, the PVQE is currently funded by Virginia Tech, North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, Virginia-Carolina Peanut Association, and South Carolina Peanut Growers and serves as a source of unbiased information for the peanut breeding lines across multiple years and locations. The PVQE program also provides a forum for various segments of the peanut production, shelling, and processing industries to determine future directions for the breeding program to better address the industry needs. Created in 1968, the PVQE is unique among established peanut programs at universities throughout the U.S.A., and is internationally recognized as a strong multi-state data support program for the virginia-type cultivar development.

Among future priorities, development of virginia-type cultivars with the high oleic trait was identified as the most important for the VC region. Increased oleic and decreased linoleic fatty acid content, the so called high oleic trait, has been shown to improve peanut shelf life, reduce rancidity, and increase safety for consumers. In the VC region where edible peanut markets are predominant, replacement of non-high oleic with high oleic cultivars is imperative. Very few of the existing cultivars that occupy significant acreage in the VC region are high oleic, even though the trait is in great demand by the manufacturing industry and efforts towards development of high oleic cultivars have begun in 1990. Since 2001, 47 high oleic breeding lines from the NCSU breeding program were included in the PVQE multi-state tests, but the backcross-derived high oleic lines, based on the cultivars existing in 1990, were too susceptible to diseases. Therefore, disease resistance was rather emphasized by the program. In 2006, Brantley peanut was released [1], as a backcross-derived high oleic NC 7. However, comingling the high oleic Brantley seed with non-high oleic seed of other cultivars resulted in Brantley being removed from the market in 2009. It quickly became apparent that high and normal oleic cultivars could not be commingled in commercial streams but rather all cultivars must be high oleic for processing to be economically feasible and seed purity preserved. Other states are also moving towards development and production of only high oleic peanuts. For example, in Texas 100% of the runner and spanish peanut production is based on high oleic cultivars developed in the past decade. Besides Texas, other peanut breeding programs in Georgia and Florida are well underway with development of high oleic runner and valencia-type peanut cultivars. In our program, there was a gap in the entry of new high oleic lines from 2005 through 2009. Since 2010, high oleic breeding lines were reintroduced in the PVQE program from which three lines were recently approved by the PVQE Advisory Committee as acceptable for release. However, bringing a sufficient number of high oleic virginia-type cultivars on the market will require further testing over multiple years and locations. Disease response along with the agronomic and quality factors will have to be determined for the specific disease pressure, soil type, and general environmental conditions specific for various regions within each state of the VC region. That will mean several additional years of testing past 2013, when the present project S1038 expires, before a sufficient number of high oleic virginia-type cultivars will be produced to cover the diversity of environments in the VC region. The ultimate plan is to have enough high oleic varieties tested and released so that all peanuts grown in our three states are high oleic which will essentially guarantee a pure high oleic shelled product. This would most benefit the VC in-shell industry, for which shelf life is critical, and the consumers of the gourmet peanut products.
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