An international group of agricultural scientists have mapped the genetic code of peanut, the culmination of a five-year research project giving scientists around the world a map with which to unlock some of the genetic potential of the peanut plant. The data will be openly available to all scientists.

This discovery by the Peanut Genome Consortium, a group of scientists from the United States, China, Japan, Brazil, Argentina, Australia, India, Israel and several countries in Africa, gives scientists the capability to find beneficial genes in cultivated and wild peanuts that can lead to greater yields, lower production costs, lower losses to disease, improved processing traits, improved nutrition, improved safety, better flavor and virtually anything that is genetically determined by the peanut plant.

“The study of the peanut genome structure and order makes a great detective story, where many clues are found and linked together to unlock mysteries of genetics and gene regulation. This is exciting work,” said University of Georgia Professor and Eminent Scholar Scott Jackson, chair of the Peanut Genome Consortium. The U.S. team included scientists from University of California-Davis, University of Georgia, Texas A&M University, NC State University, Auburn University, University of Florida, USDA-ARS in Tifton, Ga., Griffin, Ga., Stillwater, Ok., Ames, Iowa and Stoneville, Miss., and NCGR at Santa Fe, NM.

Many researchers contributed to this project, with The HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology coordinating the assembly of the final peanut genome. “The quality and completeness of the peanut genome sequence exceeds anything to date that has been produced for a tetraploid crop plant. It’s much more complete than our cotton assemblies. It’s really, really good!” said Jeremy Schmutz with HudsonAlpha.

In 2012, the U.S. peanut industry urged The Peanut Foundation to initiate a research program to map the genetic code of the peanut plant. The International Peanut Genome Initiative (IPGI) is the largest research project ever funded by the industry, with the $6 million cost shared equally among growers, shellers and manufacturers.

For decades to come, the IPGI work will lead to improved sustainability and profitability of every segment of the industry and maintain peanut’s competitiveness among other crop choices that farmers may have. These accomplishments have opened doors for breeders to manipulate peanut traits like never before, and without using controversial and expensive GMO techniques.

Today, peanuts are a staple in diets across the globe, from the Americas to Africa and Asia. They are also a key ingredient in Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF) that have been proven to treat severe acute malnutrition. Moreover, they are a crop that farmers in developing countries around the globe count on to advance personal and community economic well-being.

“Peanuts are already more sustainable and affordable than any nut available today, and consumers choose them for their flavor and familiarity,” explained Bob Parker, president and CEO of the National Peanut Board. “I don’t know that any of us can fully articulate what this advance means to our ability to grow more peanuts with fewer resources to feed the world. But I’m excited just thinking about the promises ahead of us.”

“Mapping the genetic code of the peanut proved to be an especially difficult task, but the final product is one of the best ever generated,” said Steve Brown, executive director of The Peanut Foundation. “We now have a map that will help breeders incorporate desirable traits that benefit growers, processors, and most importantly, the consumers that enjoy delicious and nutritious peanut products all over the world.”

Source: The Peanut Foundation