Farm Progress

Lee and Charlie Cromley are the kind of farmers their Extension agent refers to as being innovative, and that’s why they’re taking a long look at planting high-oleic peanut cultivars on their Georgia farm.

Paul L. Hollis

January 7, 2015

6 Min Read
<p>SOUTHEAST GEORGIA FARMER Lee Cromley, left, is shown here with Georgia Farm Bureau President Zippy Duvall during this past year&rsquo;s Georgia Peanut Tour. Lee and his brother Charlie are giving high-oleic peanuts a close look on their Bulloch County farm.&nbsp;</p>

Lee and Charlie Cromley are the kind of farmers their Extension agent refers to as being innovative and on the cutting edge – always looking for ways to increase yields and profits. That’s why they’re taking a long look at planting high-oleic peanut cultivars on their southeast Georgia farm.

The Cromley’s – who grow 400 acres of peanuts and 2,200 acres of cotton in Bulloch County, Ga., near Savannah – were a featured during a stop on this past year’s Georgia Peanut Tour with their side-by-side comparison in a 300-acre field of Georgia-06G, the most commonly grown peanut in the Southeast, and Georgia-09B, a high-oleic cultivar.

(Editor’s note: This is part one of a two-part series focusing on high-oleic peanut cultivars and their adoption by Southeast producers.)

“We know there are advantages with high-oleic peanuts, including a better shelf life and the fact that it’s considered a healthier product,” says Lee Cromley. “It really hasn’t caught on with Georgia growers, but it seems like the acreage should be increasing because it’s a healthy product with a lot of advantages.”

The primary disadvantage for Cromley has been the lower yield of high-oleic cultivars. “We’ve planted Georgia-02C in the past, and they were tough to manage as far as growth and maturity. The newer cultivars are much improved from that standpoint, as far as maturity, and the growth of the vine is not as bad as earlier high-oleic varieties like Georgia-02C. So I think the cultivars are getting better, and there are some better ones yet to come,” he says.

For now, the premium being paid for high-oleic peanuts make up for the yield drop, says Cromley.

“We’re looking at yield drag of 400 to 500 pounds on these peanuts, but there’s a premium paid for them, so we feel like if we’re in the 400 to 500-pound range on yield drag, then we’ll be fine. We don’t plant a lot of them, but we do plant some. I wonder why the high-oleic peanuts aren’t embraced more because of their longer shelf life and the fact that everyone’s so much more health conscious these days. The yield drag has been our primary issue with them, but I believe the cultivars will continue to improve as we move forward.”

According to the 2014 University of Georgia Peanut Update, Georgia-09B is a high-yielding, high-oleic, TSWV-resistant, medium-seeded, runner-type peanut cultivar that was released in 2009. It was developed at the University of Georgia, Coastal Plain Experiment Station, Tifton, Ga., originating from the first backcross made with Georgia Green as the recurrent parent.

The primary difference in conventional and high-oleic cultivars is the components of the fats or oil in the high-oleic peanut. The percentage of oil is similar to currently grown cultivars (48 to 49 percent), however, the fatty acids making up the fat in the oil is different. High-oleic peanuts and the products made from these peanuts have an extended shelf life and increased storability.

The high-oleic peanut contains about 80 percent oleic fatty acids compared to about 50 percent in most peanut cultivars. They contain about 2 to 3 percent linoleic fatty acid. Oleic fatty acids are monounsaturated while linoleic fatty acid is polyunsaturated. The key difference is that monounsaturated fats are significantly less susceptible to oxidation than polyunsaturated fats, and oxidation is the main cause of rancidity in peanuts. Peanuts and peanut products with the high-oleic chemistry are expected to have a shelf life five to 10 times longer than that of other peanuts.

Switch won’t happen overnight

Peanut manufacturers are demanding more high-oleic peanuts, for the reasons mentioned by Cromley, but it’s not as simple as producers making a wholesale change in the cultivars they grow, says Scott Monfort, University of Georgia Extension peanut agronomist.

Currently, less than 10 percent of the peanuts grown in Georgia are high-oleic.

“The consensus is that we could grow all high-oleic, but the marketplace is not built to accept that situation right now, nor do we have the cultivars that are yielding like Georgia-06G. Currently, Georgia-06G is the prominent cultivar grown in Georgia, and when it comes down to it, a producer wants to grow what will yield, and what will pay him back. That may be some of the reason we haven’t seen a big shift into high-oleic peanuts, but it also has a lot to do with the marketplace,” says Monfort.

While a large percentage of Georgia’s peanut acreage is non-oleic, there are other locations in the Southeast that have become niche markets for high-oleic peanuts, says Monfort.

“But they have built their buying points to segregate those out. We can’t just start growing high-oleic mixed in with Georgia-06G and take them to one buying point that can’t segregate them out – they don’t want those peanuts mixed. That ruins their chance of getting a premium for high-oleic and being able to sell them to a specific manufacturer. They want that product to be pure. As we begin to build up our high-oleic acreage in these areas that are predominately non high-oleic, we need to be aware of this. That’s one part of it,” he says.

High-oleic niche markets have been established in Florida – to some degree – and in South Carolina, says Monfort.

“So all of these smaller states that have been growing high-oleic, and they have been getting a premium. The premium is there to offset the yield loss. That’s wonderful. But if we grew all high-oleic in Georgia right now, do you think we’d get a premium? Probably not, and that negates the acceptance of high-oleic to some extent.”

Extension specialists, researchers and plant breeders need to continue to work on producing and promoting high-oleic cultivars that yield as well as Georgia-06G, says Monfort.

“And those might be coming down the pipeline, but they’re not here yet. So until we get something that has the high yield potential and the characteristics that we want, and shrink that difference between high-oleic and non high-oleic, it’s kind of a mute point. We’ll continue to have these little niche areas growing high-oleic for the marketplace for that reason.”

More widespread adoption of high-oleic cultivars certainly will come with improved genetics, he says. “And then it doesn’t matter if the premium is there. We always wish we had that premium, but if it’s not there, but our yield’s are there, then we’re not losing anything as a grower.”

All available cultivars are being grown and evaluated, says Monfort. “We’re looking at the different cultivars and trying to match up what’s going on in these localized areas to yield potential, disease resistance in the plant, and other characteristics. We do have a good diverse crop of cultivars from university breeders from North Carolina down to Florida. We’re just hoping to get the yield potential up on these high-oleic cultivars.”

This past year, the high-oleic cultivars performed well both in research plots and in farmers’ fields, says Monfort.

“We think some could be similar to Georgia-06G and Georgia-12Y that’s coming out. That will definitely shrink the negative yield response that we’ve seen in the past from high-oleic peanuts. It brings diversity to the table, which is wonderful. I’d love to see more cultivars planted in Georgia than just one. We’ve got 85 percent of our acres in one cultivar – Georgia-06. So if we can spread that out to cultivars that have better resistance to certain things and that have other characteristics, that’ll strengthen our crop overall.”

About the Author(s)

Paul L. Hollis

Auburn University College of Agriculture

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