While area peanut producers work to complete this year’s crop, state peanut researchers are harvesting a wealth of information that is leading to better Texas peanut varieties with qualities sought by food manufacturers worldwide. “These new high oleic peanuts will provide a healthier source of protein for consumers,” said Ted Higginbottom, a peanut grower from Seminole and chairman of the Texas Peanut Producers Board. Through continued grower support of the statewide $2 per ton peanut checkoff, researchers have developed new lines of high oleic runner and Spanish peanuts expected to be released to commercial seed companies in early 2002. High oleic peanuts have a 20 to 30 percent longer shelf life, which makes them high in demand among candy manufacturers, makers of peanut butter and a host of other peanut users. For farmers, the new lines should provide additional resistance and tolerance to peanut diseases. ‘I get calls several times a week from manufacturers and others who want high oleic lines like the ones we have developed through laboratory and field tests in every Texas peanut producing area,’ said Dr. Charles Simpson, long-time peanut breeder at the Texas A&M University Research and Extension Center in Stephenville. ‘These types of breeding programs have been made possible by Texas peanut producers, who understand the need to fund state peanut research that will benefit them and their farms directly. We are grateful for this long-standing support.’ The new high oleic runner line is TX977006. It produces a large peanut and moderate disease resistance that should be welcomed statewide. ‘It has shown some tolerance to Tomato Spotted Wilt Virus in early tests and also to Southern Blight,’ said Simpson. ‘It has Sclerotinia tolerance similar to Tamrun 96.’ The new Spanish line is TX962120. It is the first high oleic Spanish line bred specifically for Texas. ‘It has shown to yield about 10 percent less that Tamspan 96,’ said Simpson, ‘but the fact that it is high oleic makes it very attractive to the industry.’ Higginbottom said the new high oleic lines could give Texas growers a boost in meeting the market’s demand because Texas is by far the nation’s major high oleic peanut production area. The health benefits of these type peanuts add to the already high nutritional value of peanuts to consumers. Numerous independent research studies show that a diet that includes peanuts, peanut butter, peanut oil and other peanut products can help reduce heart disease and even cancer. Most recently, researchers at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston have found that people following a ‘Mediterranean-style,’ moderate fat weight loss diet were able to keep weight off longer than people following the traditionally recommended low fat diet. ‘This diet features tastier foods with ‘healthy fat,’ such as peanuts, peanut butter and other nuts and oils,’ said Mary Webb, TPPB executive director. ‘In the study, three times as many people trying to lose weight were able to stick to a Mediterranean-style diet versus the low fat diet. ‘Researchers indicated that this study suggests that the tastier the food, the greater overall success of the diet plan – even if it does include moderate amounts of fat.’ The high oleic peanut breeding programs are among some 20 research projects being funded from more than $390,000 in state checkoff money designated for peanut research. Other research programs center on irrigation efficiency, drought tolerance, disease resistance, weed control and other areas important to growers in Texas. In addition, about $300,000 in grower-funded Texas checkoff dollars go toward Texas peanut promotion and market development, and another $100,000 for grower and consumer education. For further information on Texas peanut research and how the statewide peanut checkoff program benefits growers in every Texas peanut production area, call TPPB at 1-800-734-0086, or visit the TPPB Web site at www.texaspeanutboard.com.