Not Such A Tough Nut To Crack Anymore

An international group of scientists have cracked the peanut genome, paving the way for genetic improvements in the widely-cultivated crop.

AsianScientist (Apr. 3, 2014) – The International Peanut Genome Initiative (IPGI) — a multinational group of crop geneticists working in cooperation for several years — has successfully sequenced the genome of the peanut.

The International Peanut Genome Initiative brings together scientists from the United States, China, Brazil, India and Israel. The initial sequencing was carried out by the BGI, Shenzhen, China. The project was made possible by funding provided by the peanut industry through the Peanut Foundation, by MARS Inc., and three Chinese Academies (Henan Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences, Shandong Academy of Agricultural Sciences).

The new peanut genome sequence has been made available to researchers and plant breeders across the globe to aid in the breeding of more productive, more resilient peanut varieties.

Peanut (Arachis hypogaea), also called groundnut, is an important crop both commercially and nutritionally. Globally, farmers tend about 24 million hectares of peanut each year, producing about 40 million metric tons. While the oil and protein rich legume is seen as a cash crop in the developed world, it remains an important sustenance crop in developing nations.

According to plant geneticist Rajeev Varshney from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT), Patancheru, 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. A. duranensis is widespread but A. ipaensis has only ever been collected from one location, and indeed may now be extinct in the wild.

When grappling with the thorny problem of how to understand peanut’s complex genome, it was clear that the genomes of the two ancestor species would provide excellent models for the genome of the cultivated peanut: A. duranenis serving as a model for the A sub-genome and A. ipaensis serving as a model for the B sub-genome. Fortunately because of the long-sighted efforts of germplasm collection and conservation, both species were available for study and use by the IPGI.

Knowing the two subgenome sequences present in this crop will aid future gene identification and lay the groundwork for new varieties with traits like added disease resistance and drought tolerance.


Source: Beijing Genomics Institute; Photo: Katerha/Flickr/CC.

Disclaimer: This article does not necessarily reflect the views of AsianScientist or its staff.

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