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USDA releases peanut engineered to have a longer shelf life

USDA releases peanut engineered to have a longer shelf life
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A disease-resistant peanut with a longer shelf life is headed to the marketplace. 

In a joint release, the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and Soil Science Society of America said USDA recently released OLé, a new variety of peanut that’s packed with high amounts of a heart-healthy fatty acid called oleic acid, and bred to have a longer shelf life and be more resistant to diseases.

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Spanish peanuts are high-oleic peanuts, which are found in candy, used for peanut butter and sold roasted with salt, but these scientific agriculture groups said seed stock contamination and other logistical issues have led to a shortage of the nuts. 

In the news release, Kelly Chamberlin, a research biologist in the wheat, peanut and other field crops research unit at the USDA Agricultural Research Service, said the OLé peanut was developed to meet this pressing need for more nuts in the peanut industry, which contributes more than $4 billion a year to the U.S. economy.

What makes these peanuts have a longer shelf life is their high amount of oleic acid, compared to another fatty acid called linoleic acid. Fats can go rancid when double bonds between carbon atoms break down, but fewer double bonds in a fatty acid means a greater shelf life, and oleic acid has fewer double bonds than linoleic acid.

“Basically what we are doing is changing the chemistry of the seed so the peanuts do not go rancid as rapidly,” Chamberlin said, “and that increases the shelf life of the peanut product by up to 10 times.”