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Maria Balota

Maria Balota
6321 Holland Road
Suffolk, VA 23437


Maria Balota is an Professor with two-way appointment in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences (SPES) covering 50% research and 50% extension.  She resides at the Tidewater Agricultural Research and Extension Center (TAREC) in Suffolk, VA, where serves as the leader of the multi-state Peanut Variety and Quality Evaluation (PVQE) project and as Virginia’s State Peanut Specialist. The foundation of her research and extension programs has evolved around the PVQE, which is the pipeline for Virginia-type peanut cultivar development for Virginia and the Carolinas.


  • Stress physiology of field crops
  • Peanut cultivar development
  • High-throughput phenotyping
  • Sustainable crop production


  • Ph.D., Plant Physiology, University of Bucharest, Romania, 1997
  • B.S., Agronomy, University of Agronomic Sciences and Veterinary Medicine, Romania, 1982 

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 over 50 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 'Sullivan', 'Emery', 'Wynne', 'Bailey II' and 'Walton' 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 includes selection of drought and heat tolerant varieties and crops in terms of improved photosynthesis, quantum efficiency, growth and development, and development of fast and accurate high-throughput phenotyping tools for improved variety selection.

Competitive grants and other currently sponsored research:

  • U.S. Agency for International Development, Peanut Innovation Lab; $283,739. Integrated HTP for Enhancing Breeding Programs in Senegal, Ghana, and Uganda. (2018-2022); PI.
  • U.S. Agency for International Development, Peanut Innovation Lab. $499.535. Production Packages for Ghana. (2018-2022); Co-PI.
  • Natl. Inst Food & Agric. (NIFA), Biomass Res. Development Initiative. $1,873,987. Sorghum Collaborative in the Mid-Atlantic. (2016-2020); Co-PI.
  • NIFA- Agric. Food Res. Initiative (AFRI), Physiology of Agric. Plants Program. $470,000. Development of Advanced Physiological and Molecular Markers for Stress Tolerance in Peanut. (2017-2021); PI.
  • NIFA-AFRI, Critical Ag. Res. and Extension (CARE). $294,000. Integrated Approach to Improve Drought Tolerance in Peanut. (2017-2021); PI.
  • Balota, M. (100%; June 2014 – July 2020). PVQE sponsorship by the North Carolina Agricultural Research Service, the Virginia Crop Improvement Association, the Virginia Agricultural Experiment Station, the American Peanut Shellers Association, the North Carolina Seed Foundation, and grower associations in North and South Carolina. $1,097,688. 


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.
  • “Integrated Approach to Improve Drought Tolerance in Peanut” – in collaboration with SPES Bioinformaticist, David Haak, and Peanut Breeder, Jeff Dunne at the North Carolina State University, this project is aimed at quantitative trait loci (QTL) for genes associated with mechanisms of peanut adaptation to dry and hot conditions. The project uses three populations totaling 730 recombinant inbred lines (RIL) from crosses of Virginia-type and Spanish-type peanut breeding lines.
  • “Development of Advanced Physiological and Molecular Markers for Stress Tolerance in Peanut” – this project is in collaboration with Texas Teck, Oklahoma State University, and USDA-ARS. My program’s contribution is towards development of high-throughput phenotyping (HTP) tools for morphological and physiological traits in peanut relevant to high yield and stress tolerance.  HTP tools include photogrammetry using drones.
  • Finally, two international projects are currently building research and education capacity in peanut breeding programs in Ghana, Senegal, and Uganda through opportunities to expand the use of HTP tools in breeding programs in these countries and train the graduate student on their use. 
  • July 2014 - Present: Associate Professor, Department of Plant Pathology Physiology and Weed Sciences, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, Blacksburg
  • Sep. 2008 – July 2014: 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:

Extension Publications

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.
  • Balota, M. 2020. Rainout shelter-induced water deficit negatively impacts peanut yield and quality in a sub-humid environment. Peanut Science 47(2):54-65.
  • Abudulai, M., Mahama, G., Dzomeku, I., Seidu, A., Sugri, I., Nboyine, J. A., Opoku, N., Alhassan, M. H., Appaw, W., Ellis, W. O., Akromah, R., Mochiah, M. B., Dankyi, A., Jordan, D. L. , Brandenburg, R. L., Bravo-Ureta, B. E., Jelliffe, J., Boote, K., MacDonald, G., Chen, J., Phillips, R. D. , Mallikarjunan, K., Balota, M., Hoisington, D., and Rhoads, J. 2020. Evaluating improved management practices to minimize aflatoxin contamination in the field, during drying, and in storage in Ghana. Peanut Sci. (in press).
  • Kaufman, A. A., Jordan, D. L., Reberg-Horton, C., Dean, L. L., Shew, B. B., Brandenburg, R. L., Anco, D., Mehl, H., Taylor, S., Balota, M., Goodell, L. S., and Allen. J. 2020. Identifying interest, risk, and impressions of organic peanut production: a survey of conventional farmers in the Virginia-Carolina region. Crop, Forage Turfgrass Management. DOI:10.1002/cft2.20042.
  • Jordan, D. L., Dunne, J., Stalker, H. T., Shew, B. B., Brandenburg, R. L., Anco, D., Mehl, H., Taylor, S., and Balota, M. 2020. Risk to sustainability of pest management tools in peanut. Agric. Environ. Letters 5: e20018. DOI: 10.1002/ael2.20018.
  • Sarkar, S., Cazenave, A. B., Oakes, J., McCall, D., Wade, T., Lynn, A., and Balota, M. 2020. High-throughput measurement of peanut canopy height using Digital Surface Models (DSMs). The Plant Phenome J. 3(1): e20003. doi:10.1002/ppj2.20003.
  • Balota, M., and Isleib, T.G. 2020. Registration of ‘GP-VT NC 01’ peanut germplasm. Journal of Plant Registrations 14(2): 172-178. doi:10.1002/plr2.20028.
  • Brasier, K.G., Ward, B, Smith, J, Seago, J, Oakes, J, Balota, M., et al. 2020. Identification of quantitative trait loci associated with nitrogen use efficiency in winter wheat. PLoS ONE 15(2): e0228775. pone.0228775.
  • Brasier, K.G., Oakes, J., Balota, M., et al. 2020. Genotypic variation and stability for nitrogen use efficiency in winter wheat. Crop Sci. 60(1): 32-49
  • Brasier, K. G., Oakes, J., Balota, M., Thomason, W., Griffey, C. 2019. Greater biomass accumulation at anthesis increases nitrogen use efficiency in winter wheat. Agron. J. 111(5):2163-2173.
  • Jordan, L. D., P.D. Johnson, A.T. Hare, D. Anco, J. Chapin, J. Thomas, S. Monfort, and M. Balota. 2018. Influence of inoculation with Bradyrhizobia and nitrogen rate on yield and estimated economic return on Virginia market-type peanut.  Crop, Forage, and Turfgrass Management. Published online Oct 18, 2018 doi: 10.2134/cftm2018.01.0002. 
  • Jordan, L.D., A.T. Hare, G.T. Roberson, B.B. Shew, R.L. Brandenburg, D. Anco, M. Balota, H. Mehl, and S. Taylor. 2018. Summary of variable associated with application of plant protection products in peanut. Forage, and Turfgrass Management. Published online Oct 18, 2018 doi: 10.2134/cftm2018.05.0034.
  • Sinclair, T.R., Shekoofa, A., Isleib, T.G., Balota, M., and Zhang, H. 2018. Identification of Virginia-type peanut genotypes for water-deficit conditions based on early decrease in transpiration rate with soil drying. Crop Sci. 58:2607-2612. Doi: 10.2135/cropsci2018.05.0293.
  • Balota, M., Thomason, W.E., Mehl, H.L., Cahoon, C.W., Reay-Jones, F., Taylor, S.V., Flessner, M.L., and Everman, W. 2018. Revival of grain sorghum in the mid-Atlantic. Crops and Soils Magazine. (Feb 2018). doi:10.2134/cs2018.51.0110.
  • Balota, M., A.J. Green, C.A. Griffey, P. Pitman, and W. Thomason. 2017. Genetic gains for physiological traits associated with yield in soft red winter wheat in the Eastern United States from 1919 to 2009. European J. Agron. 84:76-83. doi:10.1016/j.eja.2016.11.008.
  • Thomason, W., Chim, B.K., Holshouser, D., Behl, H., Balota, M., Xia, K., Frame, H., and Black, T. 2017. Comparison of full-season and double-crop soybean and grain sorghum systems in central and southeastern Virginia. Agron. J. 109:1532-1539 (doi:10.2134/agronj2016.10.0577).
  • Oakes, J., Sadeghpour, A., and Balota, M. 2017. Grain sorghum response to irrigation in Virginia. Crop, Forage, and Turfgrass Management 3. Online. doi:10.2134/cftm2017.08.0059 
  • Singh, D., Balota, M., Collakova, E, Isleib, T.G., Welbaum, G.E., and Tallury. S.P. 2016. Heat Stress Related Physiological and Metabolic Traits in Peanut Seedlings. Peanut Sci. 43:24-35.
  • Balota, M., Partridge-Telenko, D.E., Phipps, P.M. and Grabau E.A. 2015. Comparison of three transgenic peanut lines with their parents for agronomic and physiological characteristics. Peanut Sci. 42:74-82.
  • Isleib, T. G., Milla-Lewis, S. R., Pattee, H. E., Copeland, S. C., Zuleta, M. C., Shew, B. B., Hollowell, J. E., Sanders, T. H., Dean, L. O., Hendrix, K. W., Balota, M., Chapin, J. W., and Monfort, W.S. 2015. Registration of ‘Sugg’ peanut. J. Plant Reg. 9:44-52. doi:10.3198/jpr2013.09.0059crc.
  • Shekoofa, A., Rosas-Anderson, P., Sinclair, T.R., Balota M. and Isleib, T.JG. 2015. Measurement of limited-transpiration trait under high vapor pressure deficit for peanut in chambers and in field. Agron. J. 107(3): 1019-1024.
  • Pavuluri, K., Chim, B.K., Griffey, C.A., Reiter, M.S., Balota, M. and Thomason, W.E., 2014. Canopy spectral reflectance can predict grain nitrogen use efficiency in soft red winter wheat. Precision Agric. Online (DOI) 10.1007/s11119-014-9385-2.
  • Singh, D., Collakova, E., Isleib, T.G., Welbaum, G.E., Tallury, S. and Balota M., 2014. Differential Physiological and Metabolic Responses to Drought Stress of Peanut Cultivars and Breeding Lines. Crop Sci. 54:2262-2274.
  • Green, A.J., Berger, G., Griffey, C.A., Pitman, R., Thomason, W. and Balota, M. 2014. Genetic resistance to and effect of leaf rust and powdery mildew on yield and its components in 50 soft red winter wheat cultivars. Agron. J. 64:177-186.
  • Singh, D., Balota, M., Isleib, T.G., Collakova, E. and Welbaum, G.E., 2014. Suitability of canopy temperature depression, specific leaf area, and SPAD chlorophyll reading for genotypic comparison of peanut grown in a sub-humid environment. Peanut Sci. 41:100-110.
  • Pavuluri, K., Reiter, M.S., Balota, M., Griffey, C.A. and Thomason, W.E., 2014. Winter Barley as a Commodity Cover Crop in the Mid-Atlantic Coastal Plain.  Agron. J. 106:577-584.
  • Shekoofa, A., Balota, M. and Sinclair, T., 2014. Limited-transpiration trait evaluated in growth chamber and field for sorghum genotypes. Environ. Exp. Bot. 99:175-179.
  • Rosas-Anderson, P., Shekoofa, A., Sinclair, T.R., Balota, M., Isleib, T.G., Tallury, S. and Rufty, T. 2014. Genetic variation in peanut leaf maintenance and transpiration recovery from severe soil drying. Field Crops Res. 158:65-72.
  • Rosas-Anderson, P., Sinclair, T.R., Balota, M., Tallury, S., Isleib, T.G. and Rufty, T. 2014. Genetic variation for epidermal conductance in peanut. Crop Sci. 54(2):730-737.
  • Tallury, S. P., Isleib, T. G., Copeland, S. C., Anderson, P. R., Balota, M., Singh, D. and Stalker, H. T., 2014.  Registration of two multiple disease-resistant peanut germplasm lines derived from Arachis cardenasii Krapov. & W.C. Gregory, GKP 10017 (PI 262141).  J. Plant Reg. 8:86-89.
  • Kapanigowada, M.H., Payne, W.A., Rooney, W.L., Mullet, J. E. and Balota, M. 2014. Quantitative trait locus mapping of the transpiration ratio related to preflowering drought tolerance in sorghum (Sorghum bicolor). Functional Plant Biol. 41:104901965.
  • 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.


* graduate student