Completing the peanut genome sequence
Advanced DNA-based genetics enables faster crop improvement. A completed genome sequence is key in this endeavor, serving as a reference framework and allowing genetic data from breeding programs from all over the world can be integrated and leveraged. However, until very recently peanut lacked a complete genome sequence. To construct a common reference for peanut genetics, UGA crop and soil scientists led an international consortium that sequenced the peanut genome. Cutting edge technology was needed to resolve peanut’s peculiar doubled genome structure, a result of its hybrid origin in prehistory. This year saw the formal completion of the project, with a publication in the premium scientific journal Nature Genetics. This genome sequence has been recognized as the “reference genome" and is now being used internationally as a common standard. The sequenced peanut genome provides a framework for research results from all over the world to be directly compared, within a context of more than 66,000 genes, identified and characterized within their chromosomal context. This is leveraging research in the USA and the world, generating more knowledge and benefits, pure and applied. UGA's work with wild peanut species has now generated peanut lines that are 95 percent or more elite peanut genetics, with 5 percent or less wild species that confers pest and disease resistance. Collaboration with peanut breeding programs in the U.S., Brazil, Senegal and Uganda are incorporating these wild species-derived traits into elite local peanut varieties using a combination of traditional breeding and selection using DNA markers. So far, six new varieties have been released in Senegal and one in Brazil. New improved varieties are expected soon in the U.S. This will reduce farmer costs, increase yield, reduce fuel use and lower the environmental impact of farming.