Researchers crack the peanut genome

Soroya Bertioli inspects peanut plants at the UGA Institute for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics greenhouse.

WORKING to understand the genetics of peanut disease resistance and yield, researchers led by scientists at the University of Georgia have uncovered the peanut’s unlikely and complicated evolution. Researchers working as part of the International Peanut Genome Initiative have previously pinpointed one of the peanut’s two wild ancestors and shown that the peanut is a living legacy of some of the earliest human agricultural societies in South America.

Since then the team has mapped the entire peanut genome and identified the crop’s second wild ancestor and the novel mechanism by which the shy, seed-hoarding plant generated the diversity we see today.

“Because of its complex genetic structure sequencing peanut was only possible using very recent developments in sequencing technology.

The result is of unprecedented quality, and provides a reference framework for breeding and improvement of the peanut crop, and a whole new set of insights into the extraordinary genetic structure of peanut,” said David Bertioli, Georgia Research Alliance Distinguished Investigator and peanut researcher at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

Bertioli conducts his research through the CAES Institute for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, which is home to some of the world’s foremost experts in this area of crop science and has been prolific in providing new genomic tools and information to help plant breeders around the world develop more sustainable, productive crop varieties.

The team’s most recent paper was published in the journal Nature Genetics and is available online. According to the USDA, farmers around the world grow 44.9 million metric tonnes of peanuts on more than 64 million acres.

The crop is a staple food in many parts of Africa and Asia and is a source of peanut butter, snacks and cooking oil in the United States. In Georgia alone farmers grow $825 million in peanuts each year.

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