Peanut butter saved? Heat-tolerant peanuts may stave off yield-cutting impacts of climate change

Credit: Wilaiwanphoto/iStock
Credit: Wilaiwanphoto/iStock

[A] group of researchers led by Clemson University Plant and Environmental Sciences assistant professor Sruthi Narayanan is working to develop heat-tolerant peanut varieties they hope will help maintain peanut production and profitability. Their latest venture focuses on how lipids (fats) in peanut plant anthers are altered by heat stress.

“Understanding these changes will aid in understanding the mechanisms of heat tolerance and help us determine how to develop heat-tolerant peanut varieties,” Narayanan said.

Peanuts are grown on about 42 million acres worldwide. They require temperatures of at least 56 degrees, with 86 degrees the optimal growing temperature. Higher temperatures can hurt yields. The Earth’s average yearly temperature has increased 2 degrees since the pre-industrial era of 1880-1900. This extra heat is driving up regional and seasonal temperatures, reducing snow cover and sea ice, intensifying heavy rainfall and changing habitat ranges for plants and animals.

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“Reduced pollen production and viability are the major reasons for loss of peanut yields when heat stress occurs during the flowering stage,” said Zolian Zoong Lwe, a former Clemson master’s student who conducted the study under Narayanan’s guidance and is now a doctoral student at Kansas State University. “Understanding the mechanisms underlying the decrease in peanut pollen performance during heat stress will help develop tolerant peanut varieties.”

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