State legislators learn how ag research funding makes difference

Fewer Americans have ties to a farm so when someone offers them an opportunity to see modern farming up close many take it. That was the case for a group of Georgia state legislators who toured central and south Georgia this week. The Georgia Peanut Commission’s Don Koehler talked to the group about the importance of ag research funding during a stop at the field demonstrations at this year’s Sunbelt Ag Expo.

Koehler briefly described how peanut yields have risen dramatically in recent years as peanut farmers have used new peanut varieties and new technologies developed by researchers at the University of Georgia and the USDA National Peanut Laboratory. During that time, peanut yields have climbed from about 3,000 pounds to 7,000 to 8,000 pounds per acre.

“We had the most phenomenal yield we’ve ever had last year,” he said. “Our yield last year surpassed the record yields we had a couple of years ago by 1,000 pounds per acre. I’m going to tell you why that happened. We have a breeder at the University of Georgia named Dr. Bill Branch, and we have a breeder at USDA. There’s been a lot of time, money and effort put into the breeding program, and that’s why these things happen.”

Researchers are now looking at drip irrigation as a means of reducing water use and improving yields. Koehler also talked about the mapping of the peanut genome, a project that being lead by the University of Georgia’s Scott Jackson.

"The fact that we have peanuts like this is largely by accident," said Koehler. "Two different parents came together and created basically what you see here today. The work on the peanut genome will enable us to diversify the characteristics of the peanut plant in ways we can't imagine today." 

The tour, which was organized by the Georgia Agri-Business Council in Commerce, Ga., included stops at a Reinke center pivot for a discussion on water issues, at a test plot for sesame seed production, at the cotton harvesting demonstration and Livestock Area, all at the Sunbelt Ag Expo in Moultrie, Ga. The legislators also toured the University of Georgia Center at Tifton, the Sanderson Farms Hatchery in Adel and Southland Forest Products in Valdosta.

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