Drought-tolerant peanuts researched

By Naveen Puppala: Ag sense

While peanuts have been a longtime success story in eastern New Mexico, researchers at New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Experiment Station at Clovis and fellow scientists are working to help the best get better.

Peanuts are an important legume crop with the seed itself composed of approximately 24 percent protein. That helps make peanuts the third most important source of plant protein, contributing 11 percent of the world’s protein supply.

Valencia peanuts grown in eastern New Mexico attract a high market price because of their premium flavor and high sugar content, and New Mexico is the country’s largest supplier of Valencia peanuts.

With increasing demand and high price, their cultivation is spreading into adjoining West Texas, replacing other types of peanuts that historically have been grown there.

In addition, cotton producers in West Texas who lose their crop as a result of hail and poor stand establishment have found Valencia peanuts as an alternate crop because of the shorter growing season of only 130 days. However, the pod yields of Valencia peanuts are considerably lower than other peanut types.

In order to improve yield, outcrossing or hybridization (the practice of introducing unrelated genetic material into a breeding line) is the most preferred technique, but it eventually leads to loss of flavor and other quality traits.

To prevent flavor loss while improving yield, underlying genetic and biochemical mechanisms need to be better understood. Since proteins are directly associated with function, we have utilized approaches to understand genetic and biochemical mechanisms underlying flavor and quality of Valencia peanuts.

Two differential proteins were identified by a process commonly used to resolve soluble proteins called two-dimensional gel electrophoresis.

These proteins may be associated with the desirable flavor and quality of Valencia peanuts, and could be used as markers in Valencia breeding programs.

Higher crop yields also require optimum water and nutrients. However, most agricultural regions of the world suffer from inadequate water supplies that reduce crop productivity. Global climatic trends may accentuate this problem by combining heat and water-deficit stresses.

While efficient irrigation technologies help to reduce the gap between potential and actual yield, many regions are relying upon the intrinsic genetic improvement of crop productivity under arid conditions as a sustainable and economically viable solution to this problem. To identify tolerant genes and understand the mechanism of tolerance, a peanut mini-core collection was independently evaluated for heat and water-deficit stress tolerance.

Research has been conducted by Paxton Payton of the Cropping Systems Lab at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture Research Service in Lubbock as well as Kottapalli Kameswara Rao in collaboration with the Advanced Institute of Science and Technology in Japan.

The objective of our collaborative research is to incorporate genes into Valencia-A and Valencia-C varieties that are locally grown and released by NMSU’s Agricultural Experiment Station to enable them to tolerate both heat and drought tolerance as the High Plains region is more exposed to these conditions.

A more complete update on peanut research being conducted by NMSU scientists and collaborators will be available during the science center’s Peanut Field Day on Wednesday. The event will be from 9 a.m. to 2:30 p.m., with registration at 8:30 a.m., at Curry County Fertilizer, south of Clovis on U.S. 70.

Contact me for information.

Naveen Puppala is peanut breeder at New Mexico State University’s Agricultural Science Center at Clovis. He can be contacted at 985-2292 or by e-mail: