Heat tolerance of groundnut (Arachis hypogaea L.) was evaluated under field conditions using physiological traits identified in a yield model [crop growth rate (C), reproductive duration (Dr) and partitioning (p)]. In 1991, 625 diverse genotypes were initially screened under irrigation during the hottest months (February to May). Subsequent tests consisted of 16 contrasting genotypes selected based on a combination of high pod yield and partitioning coefficient of >0· 50. Large variation was observed among the 625 genotypes for pod yield and physiological traits. C was a powerful factor influencing pod yield. Eight genotypes combining high pod yield and a partitioning coefficient greater than 0·6 were identified. These included two released cultivars (55–437 and 796) in the Sahel. Correlations between seasons were significant for p (r=0·84), but non-significant for pod yield (r=0·40), C (r=0·39), and Dr (0·36). Date of sowing and genotypes had significant effects on pod yield and C, but were slight on p and Dr. Pod yield of most genotypes declined by more than 50% when flowering and pod formation occurred when maximum temperatures averaged 40°C. The results revealed that estimates of p would be a more reliable selection criterion for identification of genotypes tolerant to heat than yield. Further research is suggested to maximize crop growth rate and partitioning of genotypes growing under supra-optimal temperatures.