Peanuts get a genetic tune-up

Peanuts could be getting a new look in the coming seasons. / Matt Prichard

Peanut planting season is just around the corner with spring beginning to creep into the forecast. The American Peanut Shellers Association held their annual spring conference this morning, outlining how the 2013 season will pan out, and how the 2012 season finished up.

"We did have a record harvest across the United States last year, approximately 3.3 to 3.4 million tons. We were worried about it because the markets are weaker, but we were saved by increased export interest particularly with China," said Vice President of sales for Mcclesky Mills, Joe West.

With the help of foreign connections, farmers throughout the southeast were able to sell most of the record crop, and begin to set their sights on 2013.

"The recent rains in February have been a big help, we were on our third straight dry winner so that water was definitely needed. Thanks to that we're in good shape and we're looking forward to a great planting season," said West.

But a new piece to the planting puzzle may be added in the next couple seasons that could revolutionize the entire process.

"The industry decided a couple of years ago that we needed to compete with other crops out there such as cotton, corn and soy beans. Because of that we've begun a project that will alter the peanut plant and make it more sustainable to insects, weather, drought, and disease," said Corporate Food Safety Director for Birdsong Peanuts, Darlene Cowart.

With corn, cotton, and soy beans all boasting a genetically modified seed, the entire peanut industry has come together to join the genetic revolution with a project called, "The Genomics Initiative."

"The program seeks to identify parts of the peanut plant that can be singled out, and used in our breeding plan to build a peanut that is resistant to the most harmful natural elements," said Cowart.

Although the new plant won't be available anytime soon, peanut farmers are anxious to get their hands on this new and exciting piece of farming technology.

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