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Peanut breeding requires vigorous patience

John Hart John_Hart_Farm_Press_PVQE_Plots_2021.jpg
Some of the experimental lines that are part of the PVQE (Peanut Variety Quality and Evaluation) program on the Taylor Slade farm in Williamston, N.C.
Peanut breeders using genetic marker-assisted technology to speed up the release of new peanut varieties.

As a peanut breeder, Jeff Dunne knows patience is a virtue.

Dunne has been the peanut breeder at North Carolina State University since 2018, succeeding longtime peanut breeder Tom Isleib who retired in 2018 after 27 years of service. Dunne notes that it takes from 12 to 15 years before a variety is ready for commercial release.

“We are making decisions now, planning for 10 to 12 years in the future. We look at yield and also think about disease and insect pressure. We evaluate and identify traits we want to keep in the breeding program. We evaluate lines that are going to be outstanding and keep those breeding lines as part of our breeding program going forward,” Dunne said at the PVQE (Peanut Variety Quality and Evaluation) tour Sept. 21 at the Taylor Slade Farm in Williamston, N.C

Dunne has implemented genetic marker-assisted technology to hopefully speed up the release of new varieties and be more efficient in selection and resources. In addition, North Carolina State’s peanut breeding program uses greenhouses in Raleigh to make selections on-site over the winter. This allows a line to move into the PVQE program faster.

“We do send our really elite material down to Puerto Rico to get an extra generation so we can get them through the testing phase of our program much more quickly. Before they make their way into the PVQE, we have a number of rounds of testing that we have,” Dunne explained

The breeding process begins with a preliminary trial of 150 to 200 lines that Dunne and his team are evaluating. From there, 100 to 120 lines then move onto the advanced trial if they offer good yield or disease-resistant traits.

“Every single year we are adding material into this advanced trial. Think of it like a reverse triangle, where we are trying to filter it down to just the best material we will eventually place in the PVQE,” Dunne explained.

Those 100 to 120 lines are replicated at three locations across North Carolina at three research stations. After three years’ worth of testing, the exceptional lines then can move into the PVQE program. The PVQE program contains 25 varieties that offer the greatest potential as commercial varieties.

As for the naming of varieties, Dunne explained that Isleib named them after prominent people in the peanut industry. For example, Bailey and Bailey II, a high-oleic version of Bailey, is named in honor of the late Jack E. Bailey, formerly North Carolina State’s breeding program’s collaborating plant pathologist. Bailey and now Bailey II are the most popular Virgina-type peanut varieties planted in North Carolina, South Carolina, and Virginia.

Dunne said he is open to suggestion for names of future varieties from his breeding program.

John_Hart_Farm_Press_Jeff_Dunne_PVQE_2021.jpgNorth Carolina State University peanut breeder Jeff Dunne, right, explains the process of how a line makes it to the PVQE (Peanut Variety Quality and Evaluation) program, during the PVQE Tour at the Taylor Slade Farm on Sept. 21. Listening is North Carolina State Extension Peanut Specialist David Jordan. (John Hart)
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