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Photo: Black fungal bodies (sclerotia) on infected peanut stems under field conditions. Link to photo information
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Get Your Heart-Friendly, Blight-Resistant Peanuts

By Luis Pons
August 13, 2003

During the past 25 years, the Agricultural Research Service's Plant Science and Water Conservation Research Laboratory in Stillwater, Okla., has produced peanut cultivars that resist Sclerotinia blight.

But recently, two new varieties developed there have caused quite a stir. That's because they are the first peanut lines to possess both blight resistance and oil with high oleic acid content. Oleic is a monounsaturated fatty acid credited with benefitting the cardiovascular system, as well as warding off spoilage and off-flavor in stored peanut products.

The cultivars--Olin, a Spanish variety, and Tamrun OL 01, a runner type--were developed jointly in the lab's Wheat, Peanut and Other Field Crops Research Unit by plant pathologist Hassan Melouk, in cooperation with Texas A&M and Oklahoma State universities.

According to Melouk, the new varieties will have the greatest benefit in states such as Oklahoma and Texas, where most of the peanuts grown are runner and Spanish types. He adds they will save peanut growers millions of dollars by reducing reliance on fungicides and spoilage-related losses.

The two new peanut cultivars will be jointly released soon, and seed should be available to farmers from dealers this year.

Sclerotinia blight is a soil-borne disease that causes stem and peg rot. The fungus forms seedlike structures and attacks plants near the soil line, spreading rapidly. It survives winter in the soil and attacks again, even if other crops are rotated between peanut plantings.

Before the release of the new cultivars, the only way of fighting the blight was to use chemical-based fungicides, which increases production costs.

Read more about this research in the August issue of Agricultural Research magazine.

ARS is the chief scientific research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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