Farm Progress

Do wild peanut species hold the key to better cultivated varieties? Charles Simpson thinks so

Ron Smith 1

September 21, 2015

14 Slides

<p>Charles Simpson has spent 48 years collecting and maintaining wild peanut species from South America, and looking for traits that will improve domestic varieties.</p>

Charles Simpson believes the keys to improved stress tolerance, higher yield and better quality in domestic peanut varieties will be found in the DNA of wild peanut species. He’s devoted his career, 48 years as a Texas A&M AgriLife research plant breeder, to looking for wild peanuts with specific genes to make domestic peanuts better.

In many of those years Simpson spent several months at a time in South America, where the peanut originated, looking for new, undescribed wild peanuts and identifying genetic traits that allow them to thrive in climates as varied as a sub-Amazon rain forest or at elevations as high as 2,000 meters (6,561 feet) above sea level, and in seasons of heavy rainfall or in areas as dry as a West Texas drought.

Simpson officially retired several years ago but he maintains a busy schedule overseeing the wild peanut collection in greenhouses at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Stephenville. He crosses some with domestic varieties and looks for genes that will make peanuts more drought tolerant, disease resistant and productive.

So far, 81 wild peanut species and only one cultivated species have been described.  Simpson has co-authored descriptions for 20 of the wild species.

He still makes trips to South America looking for more wild species and new sources of DNA to improve domestic peanut varieties.


About the Author(s)

Ron Smith 1

Senior Content Director, Farm Press/Farm Progress

Ron Smith has spent more than 40 years covering Sunbelt agriculture. Ron began his career in agricultural journalism as an Experiment Station and Extension editor at Clemson University, where he earned a Masters Degree in English in 1975. He served as associate editor for Southeast Farm Press from 1978 through 1989. In 1990, Smith helped launch Southern Turf Management Magazine and served as editor. He also helped launch two other regional Turf and Landscape publications and launched and edited Florida Grove and Vegetable Management for the Farm Press Group. Within two years of launch, the turf magazines were well-respected, award-winning publications. Ron has received numerous awards for writing and photography in both agriculture and landscape journalism. He is past president of The Turf and Ornamental Communicators Association and was chosen as the first media representative to the University of Georgia College of Agriculture Advisory Board. He was named Communicator of the Year for the Metropolitan Atlanta Agricultural Communicators Association. More recently, he was awarded the Norman Borlaug Lifetime Achievement Award by the Texas Plant Protection Association. Smith also worked in public relations, specializing in media relations for agricultural companies. Ron lives with his wife Pat in Johnson City, Tenn. They have two grown children, Stacey and Nick, and three grandsons, Aaron, Hunter and Walker.

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