Scientists Successfully Map Peanut DNA

The International Peanut Genome Initiative says it has successfully sequenced the genome of the peanut.

By Dave Fusaro, Editor in Chief, and David Phillips, Technical Editor

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Nuts, both tree-nuts and peanuts, play an important role in confections. Candy leader Mars Inc. is part of worldwide initiative that will help scientists have a better understanding of the peanut.
The International Peanut Genome Initiative (IPGI) — a multinational group of crop geneticists working in cooperation for several years — says it has successfully sequenced the genome of the peanut. This peanut DNA map will be available to researchers and plant breeders across the globe to aid in the breeding of more productive, more resilient peanut varieties.

Improving peanut varieties to be more drought-, insect- and disease-resistant, using the genome sequence, can help farmers in developed nations produce more peanuts with fewer pesticides and other chemicals and help farmers in developing nations feed their families and build more-secure livelihoods.

– Rajeev Varshney, plant geneticist

Scott Jackson, director of the University of Georgia's Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics at the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, serves as chair of the International Peanut Genome Initiative. “The peanut crop is important in the United States, but it’s very important for developing nations as well,” Jackson said. “In many areas, it is a primary calorie source for families and a cash crop for farmers.”

According to plant geneticist Rajeev Varshney of India, “Improving peanut varieties to be more drought-, insect- and disease-resistant, using the genome sequence, can help farmers in developed nations produce more peanuts with fewer pesticides and other chemicals and help farmers in developing nations feed their families and build more-secure livelihoods”

The peanut grown in fields today is the result of a natural cross between two wild species, Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis that occurred in the north of Argentina between 4,000 and 6,000 years ago. Because its ancestors were two different species, today’s peanut is a tetraploid, meaning the species carries two separate genomes, which are designated A and B sub-genomes.

To map the peanut’s genome structure, IPGI researchers sequenced the two ancestral parents, because together they represent the cultivated peanut. The sequences provide researchers access to 96 percent of all peanut genes in their genomic context, providing the molecular map needed to more quickly breed drought-resistant, disease-resistant, lower-input and higher-yielding varieties.

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