Wednesday, June 30, 2010
Perennial peanuts being readied for Florida landscapes, including replacing turfgrass
Here's a news release from the University of Florida where researchers are developing varieties of perennial peanuts to be used as landscape groundcovers or low-input lawns replacing turfgrass.
UF’s Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has released two rhizoma perennial peanuts for ornamental use, Arblick and Ecoturf. They are formally announced in the current issue of Journal of Plant Registrations.
Both grow low to the ground and produce dense green foliage with small yellow-orange flowers, said Ann Blount, an associate professor with UF’s North Florida Research and Education Center in Marianna.
The plants were released into the public domain, so anyone may buy, sell or grow them.
Ken Quesenberry, a retired UF agronomist who’s studied the crop for years, points out that some plants marketed as perennial peanut do not grow from communal root systems, called rhizomes.
Those root systems help the plant withstand heavy foot traffic and allow them to bounce back from winter frost. Sometimes called pintoi perennial peanut, the non-rhizoma plants are suitable for South Florida but aren’t as cold-tolerant as rhizoma varieties, he said.
Researchers didn’t breed the plants—instead, they collected wild specimens in South America in the 1950s, Blount said. For decades afterward, UF agronomists Tito French and Gordon Prine studied these and other perennial peanuts as potential livestock forages and hay crops; in recent years they began providing samples to commercial sod producers.
UF is evaluating almost 40 rhizoma perennial peanuts, some of them suited to ornamental use, he said. Researchers hope to identify shade-tolerant varieties, which would expand the crop’s potential for home lawns.
Quesenberry said it’s anyone’s guess whether perennial peanut will ever rival turfgrass in popularity. But the legume will probably get attention in communities with water restrictions, he said.
The perennial peanut is adapted to subtropical and warm temperate climates. In the northern hemisphere, this would include locations below 32o north latitude (Florida-Georgia state line) having a long, warm growing season.
Those of you in Florida wanting to know more about using rhizomal perennial peanuts in the urban landscape can check out a guide from the University of Florida authored by Robert E. Rouse, Elan M. Miavitz, and Fritz M. Roka. Click here for the Guide.
Images courtesy the University of Florida