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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Peanut Breeding and Genetics
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A peanut breeding and genetics program at the National Peanut Research Laboratory was established in 2007.  The major objectives of the research are developing cultivars with desirable improved traits adapted to all US peanut producing regions; and enhancing elite peanut germplasm through conventional and genomic approaches. We will focus on high yield, resistance to tomato spotted wilt virus, leaf spot, root-knot nematode, maturity, and seed characteristics (size, split, taste et al.). We will also emphasize high oil content, high oleic and low linoleic, and drought tolerance. The program goals are to understand the genetic principles of important agronomic traits in peanuts; to map quantitative trait loci (QTL) underlying the desired traits in peanuts; to explore genetic potential from genes to genomes for peanut improvement, and to discover new genes related to desirable agronomic and seed quality traits.

Map showing states where research is on-going

Conduct peanut breeding and genetics research at five locations in four states: Dawson, GA; Headland, AL; Fairhope, AL; Brownfield, TX; and Orangeburg, SC.

The first step in a breeding program is to create a population with genetic variability for the traits of interest. This can be approached by hybridization of genetically different parents. The figure shows manually pollinating parent A (male) to parent B (female).

Manual pollination of peanut flower

Peanut hybridization is conducted in a greenhouse during late June and early July. Emasculation of stamens of female parents is carried out in the evening when pedicels of the flower grow to about 2 inches. The emasculated female parent is ready for pollination the next morning. The figure shows Dr. Charles Chen collecting the pollens from the male parent plants at the greenhouse of the National Peanut Research Laboratory.

Greenhouse pollination of peanut plant

In order to prevent the hybridized pods from being lost or damaged, the dirt surrounding root system of the plant is washed out from around the pod and harvested individually based on the label of the cross as shown on the picture.

Exposed hybridized peanut pod

Peanut breeding and genetics research plot in Dawson, Georgia.

Peanut breeding and genetics research plot at Breedloves Farms in Dawson, GA

Peanut lines tested in an irrigated field at Auburn University Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland, Alabama.

Advanced lines tested in irrigated field in Headland, AL

Every individual plant that was selected from segregated progenies was hand-picked for further evaluation in the laboratory in accordance with the breeding objectives.

Hand-picking individual peanut plants

The peanut breeding program at the National Peanut Research Lab is facilitated by molecular genomic tools. Genetic mapping of quantitative trait loci (QTLs) underlying desirable traits will be conducted to discover the associated DNA markers. These DNA markers will be used in making targeted selections in the NPRL peanut breeding program.

Molecular genomic tools at NPRL

Gas chromatograph determines oil fatty acid profiles such as oleic and linoleic for breeding lines.

GC determines fatty acid profiles

Annually, a field day in conjunction with Agronomy Day of the Department of Agronomy and Soil Sciences of Auburn University at Wiregrass Research and Extension Center in Headland, Alabama is held in August to promote our research results and update our research progress and advancement to US peanut growers, industry, and stake holders. 

Field Day in Headland, AL


The following associations / university are collaborating on these projects:

  • Auburn University 
  • Alabama Peanut Producers Association

For more information contact Charles Chen.


Last Modified: 3/24/2008