A peanut breeder at New Mexico State University’s (NMSU) Agricultural Science Center at Clovis is testing commercially available organic seed treatments and bacterial inoculants as part of ongoing research for peanut production.
Naveen Puppala, who oversees NMSU’s peanut breeding program, is conducting the two studies with support from graduate students from Eastern New Mexico University (ENMU).
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In one study, Puppala is assessing organic formulations to control soil-borne diseases and maximize peanut production in organic farming, and in the other study, he is evaluating peanut yield and grade characteristics of organic peanut crops treated with commercially available Rhizobium inoculants.
In both studies, Puppala is using the newly developed high-oleic Valencia peanut cultivar, adopted for farmers in northeastern New Mexico and West Texas. Peanut cultivars with a high oleic-linoleic ratio provide health benefits and prolong product stability.
Legumes, including peanuts, form symbiotic relationships with the root-nodule rhizobia, Puppala said. The atmospheric nitrogen fixed by legumes is a renewable source, which plays an important role in agriculture, he explained. He added that applying seed treatments to seeds before sowing controls soil-borne fungal diseases.
According to Puppala, legumes have many benefits: legumes in production systems improve soil structure and increase soil organic carbon status; reduce the incidence of pest and diseases in cropping systems; and increase the overall productivity and economic benefits of the production systems.
“Organic farming uses ecologically based pest controls and biological fertilizers derived largely from animal and plant wastes and nitrogen-fixing cover crops,” he said. “There is a growing demand for organically produced food because of health considerations. The organically produced crops fetch higher premiums over traditionally grown crops, and peanut is not the exception.”
Puppala is aiming to identify products that can benefit organic farmers to minimize peanut production costs of organic peanuts and make the organic peanut production system economically viable to farmers.
The Rhizobium project is an ongoing collaboration between NMSU and ENMU that began in 2018. This summer, ENMU biology student Hayden Kelly, who is working on a master’s degree, conducted field experiments on an organic field in Lingo, New Mexico, and collected data every week to look at the Rhizobium-nodule activity. While the study focused on organic seed, treatments got underway three years ago to minimize soil-borne diseases in peanuts.
In general, Puppala said, conventional farmers apply fungicide as a seed treatment to control soil-borne diseases. But fungicides are prohibited in organic farming.
“We are experimenting with a number of organic formulations to find which seed treatment will benefit the most organic farmers,” he said. “Ideally, a variety with disease resistance will be most preferred by growers. We have some breeding lines that are showing promising results with high yields and disease resistance, but we need a couple more years to evaluate these materials.”
The previous year’s results showed that peanut seeds treated with neem oil, which is derived from the neem tree, had a 30 percent higher yield than the untreated control.
This summer, ENMU biology student Manisha Ojha is helping Puppala conduct this study. “We want to see whether we will see consistent results or a different result,” he said.
For more information about Puppala’s research, visit https://aces.nmsu.edu/aes/offcampus.html#anchor_80346.
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