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article imageCracking open the peanut genome

By Tim Sandle     May 5, 2019 in Science
Atlanta - U.S. scientists have cracked the peanut genome for the first time. The new genome map provides insights into ancestry and diversity of today's peanuts, and will assist with boosting agricultural production.
Scientists from the University of Georgia have been researching the genetics of peanuts in order to build robustness to disease and to improve yield. Undertaking this process, the scientists have uncovered the complicated evolution of the peanut. The research formed part of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, which exists to provide tools to guide the future direction of peanut breeding.
Peanuts play a major role in many economies, including the U.S. (peanuts contribute over four billion dollars to the U.S. economy each year and globally farmers produce 44.9 million metric tons of peanuts, grown on more than 64 million acres). As a foodstuff, peanuts contain by weight more plant-based protein compared with most other nut varieties. In addition, peanuts are are significant source of nutrients including magnesium, potassium, folate, niacin and vitamin E .
Through the research, it has been established that today's peanut is a living legacy of some of the earliest human agricultural societies in South America and the peanut originates via the hybridization of two wild ancestral species thousands of years ago. Advances in gene sequencing reveal that genome sequence of today's peanut if formed of more than 2.5 billion base pairs of DNA, which are arranged in 20 pairs of chromosomes and these consist of 10 pairs from each of the ancestral species.
This information will be of importance to farmers and plant breeders. As the data is further analyzed clues about the genetic code that controls important traits like seed size and disease resistance will be revealed. This will involved studying the variations relating to in excess of 200 variants of peanuts from around the world.
The research is published in the journal Nature Genetics, with the study titled "The genome sequence of segmental allotetraploid peanut Arachis hypogaea."
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