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Visiting scientist conducts research on peanut pathogen at UGA Griffin

By Sharon Dowdy
University of Georgia, College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences
Christy Fricks
University of Georgia, Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Lab

Maxwell Lamptey is visiting America, specifically Griffin, Georgia, in the hopes of learning new methods to fight aflatoxin — a carcinogen produced by soil fungus that can grow on peanuts — in his home country of Ghana.

Lamptey is participating in a short-term training program, from March to September, supported by the Peanut and Mycotoxin Innovation Lab (PMIL), housed at the University of Georgia’s College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences.

A senior technical officer studying legumes at the Crops Research Institute, Lamptey has been working on the university’s campus in Griffin, Georgia, alongside food scientist and PMIL collaborator Jinru Chen.

Research is nothing new to Lamptey, but his work normally focuses on ways to increase yields.

“In Ghana, I am involved in conducting a lot of trials, evaluations and cross hybridizations of all kinds of legumes, but mainly cowpeas and groundnuts (peanuts),” he said.

On the UGA Griffin Campus, he is studying the use of solar drying to control aflatoxin contamination in peanuts. He is comparing solar drying to normal drying.

Normal drying involves exposing the peanuts directly to sunlight on the ground or on concrete. Solar drying does not expose the peanuts directly to sunlight or rain. Instead, a dryer captures the heat from the sun and an enclosed structure around the nuts conducts the heat, Lamptey said.

“Everything is enclosed, so there will be no moisture from rain,” he said.

Lamptey aims to develop the “best and most affordable” solar peanut dryer that can be built mostly from local materials available in Ghana. “Then, when I go home (and share the method), farmers can build it themselves with what they have,” he said.

While in Georgia, Lamptey hopes to learn about affordable, effective ways to control aflatoxin and transfer that knowledge to farmers in Ghana.

“I hope I will gain a lot of knowledge about farming and storage and aflatoxins (while in Georgia). Aflatoxin is not something that is well known outside the scientific community. Most families in Ghana do not know much about it. Actually, I hardly hear anything about it in Ghana,” he said.

The University of Georgia (UGA) College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences (CAES) hosts the Management Entity responsible for directing the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Peanut Productivity and Mycotoxin Control (PMIL). UGA and its U.S. and international partners join other Feed the Future Innovation Labs based at top U.S. universities and developing country research institutions to tackle some of the world’s greatest challenges in agriculture and food security. For more information about the Feed the Future’s PMIL program, visit pmil.caes.uga.edu.

(Sharon Dowdy is a news editor with the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences. Christy Fricks is the communications specialist for USAID Feed the Future Peanut & Mycotoxin Innovation Labs.)

Published August 27, 2015