The Code Is Unlocked

The Peanut Foundation says the Peanut Genomic Initiative has been completed on time, within budget and with great success.

An international group of scientists completed a five-year quest to map the peanut’s genetic code.

The Peanut Foundation recently announced the culmination of a research project that will give scientists around the world a map with which to unlock some of the genetic potential of the peanut plant.

This discovery by the Peanut Genome Consortium, a group of scientists from the U.S., 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.

Finding The Clues
“Study of 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,” says 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, North Carolina 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!” says Jeremy Schmutz with HudsonAlpha.

Largest Industry Project Ever

With the capacity to find beneficial genes in both cultivated and wild peanuts, as shown here, peanut breeders have a complete genetic tool box to work with.

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) was – and remains – 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 competiveness 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 50 developing countries around the globe count on to advance personal and community economic well being.

Making The Best Even Better
“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,” says 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.”

This complete report is available on the Peanut Foundation website at www.peanutfoundation.org.

Highlights of Research Accomplishments:

• The diploid wild parent species of todays’ cultivated peanut were sequenced and used to construct the cultivated peanut genome in the proper molecular sequences and positions.
• The cultivated peanut has also been sequenced, and the assembly of the genome is 99.996 percent complete. HudsonAlpha says the genome is the best tetraploid genome ever assembled.
• Molecular markers have been developed from the sequencing data, which led to the 2nd generation of a single nucleotide polymorphism chip currently being used to evaluate breeding populations.
• Molecular markers for genes conveying resistance with late leaf spot, early leaf spot, white mold, TSWV, root knot nematode and rust and for high-oleic oil chemistry have been identified and are being used in breeding programs.
• Populations, for breeders use, have been developed with high levels of leaf spot resistance from wild species.
Many genes have been identified that express traits at different developmental stages of growing peanut.
• Hybrid populations have been generated that contain an array of highly desirable characters for use by breeders to associate molecular markers with specific traits.
• Interspecific hybrid populations have been generated that are being used to introgress desirable genes from diploid peanut species into the cultivated genome.
• Peanut collections from all over the world are being genotyped to document the genetic diversity. Progress has been made in accessing the ICRISAT peanut germplasm collection in India.
• Thousands of different lines of peanut are being phenotyped for dozens of different traits. These phenotypes are being matched with genotypes which will help identify markers for even more desirable traits.
• PeanutBase, the on-line Breeders Toolbox, was developed and is widely used as a resource for genomic information and tools – as well as information about germplasm and the peanut community in general.
• The Peanut Foundation has sponsored Advances in Arachis Genomics and Biotechnology conferences, which have fostered international collaboration on peanut genomics.