Big or Small?  Few Choices for Peanut Varieties in North-East Haiti

From MFK Agriculture Research and Extension Program Specialist Ben Wiseman

Peanut growers in North-East Haiti have the option for only two seed varieties at the market. The lack of seed choices limits farmers’ ability to choose seeds based on performance.

The most prevalent variety of peanut in North-East Haiti is the local runner, known as the ti piti a, “the little one.”  Ti piti a is indeed a small peanut, only slightly larger than a dried pea.  Even though it is tiny, it is the preferred peanut in the North-East due to its superior taste.

The other choice for peanut growers is the Georgia-06G runner peanut, known locally as the gwo a, “the big one.”  Gwo a is an improved variety developed at the University of Georgia and was introduced to North-East Haiti a few years ago.  It is now widely cultivated and farmers are drawn to its high yield; however the Georgia-06G variety is not loved like the traditionally-cultivated ti piti a which makes prices for the Georgia-06G variety a little lower than the preferred ti piti a.

Local runner and Georgia 06G

At planting-time farmers often chose to purchase seeds of Georgia-06G since it is cheaper and they can purchase more for their money.  On a regional scale, farmers say that more and more people are growing the Georgia-06G variety, although not necessarily by choice.  They chose to plant “the big one” because its seeds are cheaper.

Neither variety is perfect.  Regions of the world whose economy depends largely on peanut production typically put tremendous energy into finding the absolute best seed for each particular situation.  For example, the University of Georgia’s Extension’s 2018 Peanut Production Quick Reference Guide lists 13 varieties available to Georgia growers in 2018, each variety with a name in code similar to the Georgia-06G variety that was introduced in Haiti.  These peanuts are highly researched and field tested to maximize traits such as disease resistance, drought resistance, or yield performance.  In Haiti, farmers do not have a University’s extension office offering the most technically advanced seeds each year.  Instead, they rely on each other to save peanut seeds from last season’s harvest.

Georgia-06G and local runner

Developing new varieties of peanuts that are better suited to Haiti’s climate and resistant to common diseases in Haiti could significantly improve yields for Haitian farmers.  The picture below from a field trial at MFK demonstrates the power of improved breeding lines.  There are three varieties in the picture. The one in the middle is the Georgia-06G, dead from the stress of heavy infestation with various fungal diseases (rust and late leaf spot).  The two varieties bordering the Georgia-06G are improved varieties bred for resistance to those fungal infections.  They are green, and still healthily photosynthesizing and storing away nutrients in the ripening peanuts below the ground.    While those particular varieties show promise for disease resistance, their taste and oil quality is unacceptable.  Thus further development of breeding lines will need to be completed to pair disease resistance with a marketable taste and oil profile.

For now, Haitian farmers in North-East Haiti will have to work with the varieties available to them, the ti piti a and Georgia-06G.  MFK’s farmer training program facilitates learning about growing techniques for the ti piti a and Georgia-06G which allows farmers to overcome some of the weaknesses of these varieties.