Peanut aficionados take note: Fluctuations in peanut prices might be avoided as researchers succeed in helping the industry avoid widespread crop yield disasters.
And here's some more good news: A new peanut variety that resists a blight caused by the soilborne Sclerotinia minor fungus in unseasonably cool and damp late-summer weather will soon be making its debut in the Southern Plains.
That means farmers may not have to decide between either spending about $40 per acre for each of two or three fungicide applications or not treating fields and losing up to a quarter of their crop. The fungicide typically increases production costs about 5 cents per pound.
Southwest Runner, the first Sclerotinia-resistant variety of the most prevalent market type of peanut—runner, is recognizable by the kernels' oblong or variable shapes.
Hassan A. Melouk, an ARS plant pathologist at Stillwater, Oklahoma, along with plant breeder James S. Kirby and colleagues at Oklahoma State University, developed the variety.
Investment in the research is expected to pay off to the tune of $12 to $14 million annually in Oklahoma and Texas, where about one-fifth of the nation's peanuts are planted. In fields that are free of the blight, the new variety produces peanuts with yield, grade, and value per acre equal to other modern varieties.
But in fields heavily infested with the Sclerotinia fungus, the new variety's performance is exceeded slightly by Tamspan 90.
Development of this, the first Sclerotinia-resistant peanut of the Spanish market type, was completed about 5 years ago by Melouk and colleagues at Texas A&M University at College Station. [See "Confronting a New Fungal Nightmare," Agricultural Research, November 1991, pp. 20-23.] Spanish peanuts are the small-seeded round peanuts that are popular cocktail-party fare.
As a runner-type peanut, Southwest Runner should easily merit acceptance in the marketplace, Melouk says. The researchers found the variety has flavor and chemical composition similar to others now being grown.
"From some 150,000 pounds of Southwest Runner foundation seed planted by seed companies in May of 1995, we're hopeful that farmers in Oklahoma and Texas may be able to plant more than 28,000 acres in 1996," Melouk says. — By Ben Hardin, ARS.
"Southwest Runner Peanut Resists Blight" was published in the July 1995 issue of Agricultural Research magazine.