The International Peanut Genome Initiative-a group of multinational crop geneticists who have been working in tandem for the last several years- successfully has sequenced the peanut’s genome.
Scott Jackson, director of the UGA Center for Applied Genetic Technologies in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, serves as chairman of IPGI.
The new peanut genome sequence will be available to researchers and plant breeders across the globe to aid in the breeding of more productive and more resilient peanut varieties.
The peanut, known scientifically as Arachis hypogaea and also called groundnut, is important both commercially and nutritionally. While the oil- and protein-rich legume is seen as a cash crop in the developed world, it remains a valuable sustenance crop in developing nations.
“The peanut crop is important in the U.S., 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.”
While peanuts successfully were bred for intensive cultivation for thousands of years, relatively little was known about the legume’s genetic structure because of its complexity, according to Peggy Ozias-Akins, a plant geneticist on the UGA Tifton campus who also works with the IPGI and is director of the UGA Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics.
The peanut in fields today is the result of a natural cross between two wild species, Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis. Because its ancestors were two different species, today’s peanut is a polyploid, meaning the species can carry two separate genomes, designated A and B subgenomes.
To map the peanut’s structure, researchers sequenced the genomes of 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- and disease-resistant, lower-input and higher-yielding varieties of peanuts.