Peanuts will remain a top agricultural product in Georgia for years to come, thanks in part to research and development efforts at the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.
Robert Shulstad, associate dean for research, and his team focus on breeding new varieties of peanuts that result in a successful yield at harvest.
“We’re constantly changing the variety and improving the traits of the peanut to increase yield and improve the quality of the product, so there’s less breakage during shelling, for example,” Shulstad says.
Shulstad says the UGA -bred Georgia 06 variety that was grown in Tifton is responsible for 80 percent of the state’s peanut acreage.
In 2014, the Georgia Peanut Commission, which is funded by the state’s peanut farmers, awarded UGA with a grant of $256,280 toward research projects. The university plans to designate some $89,000 to its peanut-breeding program, which is focused on developing more drought- and disease-resistant varieties.
The research is proving successful. The yield for peanuts is up 25 percent over the last decade, compared to approximately 5 percent with most other Georgia commodities. That translates to an extra thousand pounds per acre, which is significant.
The UGA research team – which research includes a peanut physiologist and an ag economist, among other disciplines – works with peanut farmers to solve economic and marketing issues and make production more efficient through effective uses of insecticides, fertilizers and water resources.
“We have research going on about how to manage diseases and weeds, for example. It’s really an interesting part of what makes our farmers the most efficient producers in the world,” says Don Koehler, executive director of the Georgia Peanut Commission.
“A decade ago, I couldn’t say that. We’re also the most cost efficient. Georgia has the lowest cost of any origin right now in the international peanut market.”
With the continual dedication to peanut research efforts, Georgia’s industry isn’t slowing down any time soon.
“We have all of this research going on simultaneously,” Shulstad says. “As a result, peanuts continue to be one of the state’s top commodities and will continue to be so for a long time to come.”