Runners provide marketing options

Amidst a rapid decline in acreage over the past several years in Virginia, peanut growers have been approached with the proposition of expanding their peanut acreage through planting runner market-type peanuts.

Virginia producers who want to produce peanuts in 2006 and are not satisfied with the availability of Virginia market type contracts, have found themselves considering runner market type production.

The cause of the decline in Virginia market type acres has not only been due to a reduction in contract price following the loss of the quota system, but in the past several years there has been an over-supply of Virginia market type peanuts and contracts available have been very limited.

Meanwhile, the demand for runner market types has increased sharply since the mid-1990s and the demand for Virginia market types has been static. Even so, the demand for the super extra large Virginia market type peanut sold in the gourmet market outpaces the supply, although this is only a small fraction of the total volume of Virginia types harvested.

When asked about the feasibility of runner market type production in Virginia, my first response is that this needs to be considered on an individual farm basis. We do have a couple of producers who have successfully grown Georgia Green, the runner variety available for Virginia in 2006.

At Virginia Tech, our data on runners is limited. Pat Phipps, Virginia Tech plant pathologist, has examined the yield potential and disease susceptibility of runner-type peanuts for two years. While the relationship between yields of the two types of peanuts has been inconsistent, the Georgia Green and new runner market types offer improved tolerance to tomato spotted wilt virus relative to Virginia market types.

The new runner market types have Cylindrocladium black rot (CBR) resistance equal or better than Perry, which is the most resistant Virginia type commonly grown here. However the runner types are susceptible to Sclerotinia.

Another observation of runner market types in this research, whether due to genetics or just lack of deterioration from disease, is superior vine strength over many Virginia type varieties, including Perry, a Virginia market type recognized for its vine strength and partial resistance to Sclerotinia and early leaf spot.

In addition, Dennis Coker, Peanut Variety Quality Evaluation coordinator has conducted two years research on runner market type comparisons at multiple sites demonstrating the value of delaying runner harvest in this region.

As far as selecting which runner-type variety to grow in 2006, the answer is simple. Your three options are Georgia Green, Georgia Green, or if you don't want those you can always grow Georgia Green.

Length of season

The No. 1 question we have is, can runner-type peanuts fully mature in Virginia and we simply don't have the data at Virginia Tech to answer that question. What we do know is data collected by Pat Phipps in 2004 and 2005, two warm seasons, runner market type peanuts have produced acceptable yields and grades. Pods were blasted to determine optimal digging and showed that some varieties were too late for the climate in Virginia. Because it represents only two years of testing, we are not confident in making maturity estimates.

David Jordan, North Carolina State University peanut specialist, also has contributed to the body of knowledge we are utilizing to help producers. Jordan put together a table (2006 Peanut Information for North Carolina, p. 33, based on 31 trials (1997-2005) to aid producers in comparing value of runner- and Virginia market type peanuts at different yield potentials and different contract prices.

Considerations when using this budget are that 1) both market types were dug on the same day in these trials, 2) gypsum rate was assumed to be half for the runners, 3) seeding rates were 140 and 100 pounds per acre for Virginia and runner-type, respectively, 4) seed costs were set at $0.70 per pound for both market types, and 5) pathogen control costs are not included in the budget.

Producers can adjust values based on their input costs to aid in decision making. Another consideration for Virginia producers is that the majority of these studies were conducted in southeastern North Carolina where the climate is typically warmer.

Hopefully, having runners as an option will be a way to keep producers in business doing what they truly enjoy and do well, and that is producing peanuts.

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