Conducting variety-type research for the Australian peanut industry
Many bio-physical and market features distinguish peanut varieties but the most crucial issues to consider are market type, time to maturity, disease resistance or susceptibility, and bush shape, which may impact on ease of harvesting.
There are three main peanut market types grown in Australia: Virginia, runner and Spanish.
Virginia types are the main type grown in Australian dryland areas. They are long (occasionally medium) season, have a high calcium requirement and are high-yielding in most situations. The larger kernels from the Virginia type are used in the snack-food trade (e.g. beer nuts).
Runner types have a smaller kernel compared to Virginia types and often have a flatter bush. They are long (occasionally medium) season and generally respond well to irrigation. Runner kernels are mainly used for confectionery (e.g. chocolate, muesli bars) and manufacturing (e.g. peanut butter).
Spanish types are quicker to mature and may therefore escape drought. Most have an erect bush and are easier to pull on heavier soils, because the pods cluster tightly around the taproot with strong pegs. They can tolerate slightly more acidic soils than the other types. However, they are not as high-yielding as the Virginia or runner types in good conditions and are more prone to pod splitting when the soil remains wet. Spanish kernels are mainly used for confectionery and manufacturing. Prices are usually not as high as for Virginia or runner types.
The Peanut Company of Australia (PCA) in collaboration with the Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation (DEEDI), and the Grains Research and Development Corporation (GRDC) conduct a peanut breeding program based in Kingaroy. The aim of the program is to produce new high-yielding varieties suitable for the domestic and export markets. PCA, in conjunction with DEEDI, also introduces overseas varieties for the Australian industry. These and the locally bred varieties now constitute the major varieties grown.
Before selecting a variety, seek information from different sources, primarily:
- growers and consultants about the agronomic performance of varieties in different seasons
- marketing organisations about the demand and price for particular varieties.