In recent years, Bailey, Sugg, Titan, Sullivan, and Wynne have brought millions of dollars into the commonwealth.
These aren’t companies or entrepreneurs or even scientists. They are peanuts.
Researchers from Virginia Tech, working in conjunction with partners and peanut breeders in North and South Carolina, have developed and tested a constant stream of new Virginia peanut cultivars over the last 40 years that are as profitable as they are hearty.
“Farmers we work with not only benefit from the work we do, but also help guide our research in terms of telling us what characteristics they would like to see in new Virginia peanut strains,” said Maria Balota, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science who is also an Extension specialist.
The Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation Program is the only publicly funded program of its kind in the world that focuses solely on peanuts.
The big, gourmet Virginia peanuts are big business in the region. In the banner year of 2012, they had a production value of $210 million in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina.
Two varieties with extra-large pods that Balota’s group has grown — Bailey and Sugg — have added more than $16 million in value to the crops.