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Maria Balota

Maria Balota
  • Fax: 757-657-9333

Program Focus

The overall goal of my research is to provide leadership for the multi-state Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation (PVQE) program while combining with a new research initiative focused on crop stress physiology. For almost 40 years, the PVQE program has been vital to the peanut industry in Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina allowing knowledge-based selection for release of highly productive cultivars that meet the criteria for market success. Put simply, PVQE is the official “pipeline” for virginia-type peanut cultivar development for the Virginia-Carolina region.

The peanut industry in the Virginia-Carolina peanut production region is a multimillion dollar business that includes farmers, shellers, and processors and is famous for production of large “Virginia-type” cocktail peanuts. Recent releases from this program include “Bailey”, “Sugg”, and “Titan” peanuts.

Although production losses resulting from catastrophic or severe droughts are well-documented, less is known about significant losses due to short-term drought during “good rainy” years. My research determined that due to uneven rainfall distribution and summer heat, water is still a significant factor limiting yield in “good rainy” years in Virginia. This coupled with documented long-term temperature increase (2˚C over the past 70 years) and future projections (5˚C increase by 2080) show the need for more research to maintain agriculture profitable and environment sustainable in the Commonwealth. My research in this area include selection of drought and heat tolerant varieties and crops in terms of improved photosynthesis, quantum efficiency, growth and development, and development of new eco-physiological methods for improved variety selection, i.e., remotely sensed infra-red temperature.

Currently one large national grant is pending and several other grants were awarded for this research. One M.S. student has finished and two more M.S. students are currently focused in this area. Seven journal articles have been recently published on several aspects of my research.

Current Projects

  • “Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation” – this project is a USDA/CSREES project funded by a multi-state consortium including the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, North Carolina State University, Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, and Virginia-Carolina Peanut Association (shellers and processors) and it is aimed at development of virginia-type peanut cultivars for Virginia and Carolinas.
  • “Grain Sorghum Performance Testing, Breeding, and Genetics to Increase Productivity, Double-Cropping Utilization, and Profitability” – this multi-state project has been sponsored by the National Sorghum Checkoff, Murphy-Brown Inc., and recently a USDA/AFRI proposal was submitted. The objective is to strengthen the mid-Atlantic livestock industry by stimulating grain sorghum production in Virginia and Carolinas and providing growers with information about sorghum hybrid performance in this region. Collaborators on this project include Dr. Ron Heiniger (North Carolina State University), Dr. Chris Ray (Clemson University), and Dr. Paul Ulanch (NC Biotech Center).
  • “Crop Stress Physiology Research” – several projects are going on under this research initiative with funding from the National Peanut Board, VA Peanut Board, VA Crop Improvement Association, and VA Agricultural Council. The research topics include evaluation of peanut cultivars under limited irrigation, identification of tolerance mechanisms to drought and extreme temperatures in peanut and sorghum, and development of recombinant breeding lines (RILs) of peanut for drought tolerance. For this project, I collaborate with Dr. Tom Sinclair (North Carolina State University) and his students, and colleagues in the Horticulture and PPWS departments at Virginia Tech.


Ph.D., Plant Physiology, University of Bucharest, Romania, 1997

B.S., Agronomy, University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Romania, 1982


  • Sep. 2008 – present: Assistant Professor, Department of Plant Pathology Physiology and Weed Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
  • Feb. 2008 – Aug. 2008: Research Scientist, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, Amarillo Center
  • Sep. 2005 – Feb. 2008: Associate Research Scientist, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, Amarillo Center
  • Dec. 2001 – Aug. 2005: Assistant Research Scientist, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, Amarillo Center
  • Jan. 2001 – Nov. 2001: Post-Doctoral Associate, Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, Texas A&M University, Amarillo Center
  • Jan. 1983 – Dec. 1999: Researcher, Natl. Agric. Res. & Development Institute, Fundulea, Romania

Selected Major Awards

  • 2012 – High Impact Paper Award (J. Integrative Agriculture) (shared with other 3 co-authors)
  • 2011 – Recognition of Service, Crop Science Society of America
  • 2000 - Scholarship – Fulbright International Educational Exchange Program, USA
  • 1998 – Travel Award, European Science Foundation
  • 1997 – Fellowship, The North Atlantic Treaty Organization
  • 1995 – Fellowship, European Commission

Program Focus

My primary role is to develop peanut production programs. The primary extension thrust of these programs is in utilization of the most profitable peanut varieties by farmers and identification of profitable rotational crops for peanut, such as sorghum. My overall Extension goal is to maintain agricultural profitability through selection and use of the highest yielding and water-use efficient varieties of peanut and sorghum. I have initiated the following educational programs:

Variety testing and selection: This program combines research and Extension efforts and it is aimed at gathering information on variety performance in a real farm scenario. Selection of the most profitable varieties within an environment is the most important decision a farmer can make because this adds no additional costs to production and can result in 10-20% higher yields. This approach has potential to bring the new varieties faster to production.

Peanut and sorghum production: This program is aimed at updating farmers on the critical aspects of peanut and sorghum production. Special attention is given to crop growth and development, and their relevance to the best agronomic practices to maximize yields. This program is performed in collaboration with the Extension agents. This program has potential to increase yield, maintain agricultural land free of pests with low pesticide use, reduce energy costs, and protect the environment.

Peanut harvest: Choosing the right harvest time is critical for maximizing peanut yields because the harvestable crop develops in the ground. With involvement from the Extension agents, this program is aimed at determining peanut maturity and optimum harvest time throughout the Virginia peanut growing area. This program helps growers to determine each year the time and order of harvesting their peanut fields for reduced yield loss to pod broken off.

Current Projects

  • Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation (PVQE) Project – PVQE test trials are planted in farmers’ fields each year. Farmers are proud to have us in their fields. For example, Mr. Taylor Slade, a grower in Martin County NC, allows us every year to organize PVQE field tours and he pays for the meals. “I feel much better if I see how peanuts do in my field”, he usually says. This event is one of the most important related to the PVQE testing and involves farmers, shellers, processors, researchers, and administrators from VA, NC, and SC.   
  • Coordinated Tri-State Grain Sorghum Official Variety Trials – the major objective is to increase sorghum production in the Virginia-Carolina region. Sorghum is a drought tolerant crop and can be more profitable than corn on marginal land and a good rotation crop for peanut and other legumes.

* graduate student

  • Tallury, S. P., T. G. Isleib, S. C. Copeland, P. R. Anderson, M. Balota, D. Singh and H. T. Stalker. 2013.  Registration of two multiple disease-resistant peanut germplasm lines derived from Arachis cardenasii Krapov. & W.C. Gregory, GKP 10017 (PI 262141).  J. Plant Reg. (in press).
  • Balota, M. and P. Phipps. 2013. Comparison of Virginia and runner-type peanut cultivars for development, disease, yield potential, and grade factors in Eastern Virginia. Peanut Sci. 40(1):15-23.
  • Balota, M., 2013. Performance of sorghum hybrids in the Virginia-Carolina region. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. AREC-11P. 25 p.
  • Balota, M., 2013. Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation results I. 2012 Agronomic and grade data. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. AREC-32NP. 63 p.
  • Balota, M., 2013 Agronomic recommendations and procedures. In 2013 Peanut production guide. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. 7-32 p.
  • Xu*, B., S. Noppadon, Y. Tang, M. Udvardi, J. Zhang, Z. Shen, M. Balota, K. Harich, P. Y-H Zhan, B. Zhao. 2012. Overexpression of AtLOV1 in switchgrass alters plant architecture, lignin content, and flowering time. PLOS ONE 7(12): e47399. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0047399.
  • Balota, M., 2012. Effects of drought and heat on peanut (Arachis hypogaea, L.) production. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. AREC-27NP
  • Balota, M., T.G. Isleib, and S. Tallury. 2012. Variability for drought related traits of virginia-type peanut cultivars and advanced breeding lines. Crop Sci. 52(6):2702-2713.
  • Balota, M., S. McGrath*, T.G. Isleib, and S. Tallury. 2012. Transpiration response to vapor pressure deficit in field grown peanut. Peanut Sci. 39(1): 53-61.
  • Green*, A.J., G. Berger, C.A. Griffey, W. Thomason, M. Balota, and A. Ahmed. 2012. Genetic yield improvement of soft red winter wheat in the Eastern United States from 1919 to 2009. Crop Sci. 52(5):2097-2108.
  • Balota, M. W. R. Mozingo, T. A. Coffelt, T. G. Isleib, B. R. Beahm, H. G. Pittman, F. S. Bryant, P. A. Copeland, C. J. Daughtrey, B. C. Kennedy, F. M. Shokes, R. D. Ashburn, Jr., D. L. Whitt, and D. A. Redd. 2011. Registration of ‘Titan’ peanut. J. Plant Registrations 5:282-288.
  • Isleib, T. G., S. R. Milla-Lewis, H. E. Pattee, S. C. Copeland, M. C. Zuleta, B. B. Shew, J. E. Hollowell, T. H. Sanders, L. O. Dean, K. W. Hendrix, M. Balota and J. W. Chapin. 2011. Registration of ‘Bailey’ peanut. J. Plant Registrations 5:27-39.
  • Holland*, K.W., M. Balota, W.N. Eigel III, P. Mallikrjurnan, J.M. Tanko, K. Zhou, and S.F. O’Keefe. 2011. ORC chromatography and total phenolics content of peanut root extracts. J. Food Sci. 76:380-384.
  • Balota, M., 2011. Peanut crop physiology related projects at Tidewater AREC – 2010 data. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. PPWS-2. 48 p.
  • Balota, M., T. Isleib, J. Chapin, 2010. Description and performance of the virginia market type peanut cultivars. Virginia Tech and Virginia Coop. Ext. Publ. 432-201. 11 p.
  • Balota, M., W.A. Payne, S.K. Veeragoni, B.A. Stewart, and D.T. Rosenow. 2010. Respiration and its relationship to germination, emergence, and early growth under cool temperatures in sorghum. Crop Sci. 50:1414-1422.
  • Balota, M., W.A. Payne, D. Rosenow, and W. Rooney. 2008. Gas exchange and transpiration ratio in sorghum. Crop Sci. 48:2361-2371.
  • Balota, M., W.A. Payne, S.R. Evett, and T.R. Peters. 2008. Morphological and physiological traits related with canopy temperature depression in three-closely related wheat lines. Crop Sci. 48:1897-1910.
  • Balota, M., W.A. Payne, S.R. Evett, and M.D. Lazar. 2007. Canopy temperature depression sampling to assess grain yield variation and genotypic differentiation in winter wheat. Crop Sci. 47:1518-1529.
  • Balota, M., C.M. Rush, W.A. Payne, and M.D. Lazar. 2005. The effect of Take-all disease on gas-exchange rates and biomass in two winter wheat lines with differential drought response. Plant Soil 275:337-348.
  • Ting-lu, F., M. Balota, J.C. Rudd, and W.A. Payne. 2005. Canopy temperature depression as a potential selection criterion for drought resistance in wheat. J. Integrative Agric. 4(10): 793-800.
  • Balota, M., S. Cristescu, W.A. Payne, S. te Lintel Hekkeret, L.J.J. Laarhoven, and F.J.M. Harren. 2004. Ethylene production of two wheat cultivars exposed to desiccation, heat, high irradiance, and paraquat-induced oxidation. Crop Sci., 44:812-818.