Florida adds to peanut program

The University of Florida/Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences (UF/IFAS) continues its investment of excellence in its peanut breeding program with the addition of Barry Tillman, who will assume the program when the current breeder, Dan Gorbet, retires.

The two will work as a team over the next two years at the North Florida Research and Education Center (NFREC) in Marianna, to insure a seamless transition.

Tillman is a native of Alabama, so moving into the Florida panhandle from Texas is like a homecoming for him. For the past six years he worked as a rice breeder developing hybrid rice for RiceTec Inc., a privately-held company, located in Alvin, Texas.

Prior to joining RiceTec, Tillman worked as a research scientist in the USDA/Texas A&M University rice breeding program in Beaumont, Texas.

He has a B.S. in Agronomy from Auburn University in Auburn, Ala., and later received a M.S. and Ph.D. in plant breeding and genetics from Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. His research and education efforts at NFREC-Marianna will focus on peanut breeding, genetics, and cultivar evaluation.

The current UF/IFAS breeder, Gorbet, has been developing peanut cultivars in Florida for nearly 33 years. He has developed or co-developed 16 peanut cultivars in his career, including SunOleic 97R and 95R. The SunOleic varieties were the first in the world to contain the UF/IFAS patented high oleic acid trait. Research shows that this trait extends product shelf life, helps to retain good flavor, and helps lower blood cholesterol (LDL).

After a long and productive career, Gorbet is planning to retire within the next two years. He is the fifth peanut breeder to lead the program since it began. Previous project leaders include F.H. Hull (1920-1954), W.A. Carver (1934-1963), A.J. Norden (1960-1987), and D.A. Knauft (1979-1995).

The UF/IFAS peanut breeding program, which was established in the early 1920s, has a rich tradition in the development of improved peanut cultivars. Products from peanut cultivars and germplasm developed by UF/IFAS breeders are in nearly every jar of peanut butter or can of peanuts sold in the United States.

Peanut cultivars developed by UF/IFAS are also grown in other countries such as South Africa, Australia and Argentina, showing the global impact of the program. UF/IFAS is confident that Tillman will continue the success of the program established by the peanut breeders before him.

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