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Progress Made In Peanut Genome Initiative Funding


By: Tifton Gazette
8/26/2013 2:23:37 PM


The Peanut Foundation, which supports national peanut research for the American Peanut Council, announced that significant progress has been made toward funding its Peanut Genomic Initiative project.

According to George Birdsong of Birdsong Peanuts, member of The Peanut Foundation's Peanut Genomics Initiative, the goal of this project is to sequence the peanut genome and identify genetic traits that will help speed up the natural development of new peanut varieties with greater disease resistance and improved quality traits. When all these improvements are implemented the industry will save more than $200 million each year in production and quality costs in addition to significantly shorting the time to get new varieties into the marketplace.

The project is estimated to cost $6 million over the next five years. The industry determined that the best way to fund this initiative was to divide the cost equally among the three industry segments - growers, shellers/buying points and manufacturers/allied.

"I'm very pleased to announce that the growers, through the National Peanut Board, have agreed to $400,000 per year, for a total of $2 million over the course of the project, assuming all milestones are met," said Birdsong. "We see the importance of being progressive in farming and this type of work takes collaboration across all segments," said Michael Davis, NPB Research Committee chairman.

The shellers, through their three area sheller associations (American Peanut Shellers Association, Virginia Carolina Peanut Shellers Association and Southwest Peanut Shellers Association) have also agreed to raise $400,000 per year, for a total of $2 million over the same five-year period. This amount will come from the shelling/buying point segments. "Shellers see the need to reduce production costs and improve quality. This project is a major step in that direction," said Joe West, president of the American Peanut Shellers Association.

Most peanut manufacturers, including Hershey, Mars, Kraft-Planters and J.M. Smucker, have made significant commitments along with the rest of the allied segment totaling over $2,000,000 over five years. "This project is important to maintaining the high quality supply of peanuts for the manufacturing segment," said Victor Nwosu, research manager, Raw Materials, Platform and External Research, Mars Chocolate North America LLC.

"With these commitments in place, we feel the Peanut Foundation can now have the confidence to move forward with this project for the benefit of the entire industry, Birdsong added. "I'm particularly gratified by the tremendous spirit of cooperation across the entire industry. I applaud the growers, my fellow shellers, and all of the manufacturers who have come together to pledge their support. We know this is a significant investment and the demand for funds is extensive, however, the expected payback for this project is tremendous, and I along with everyone at the Foundation pledge to work toward a successful outcome for all segments of the industry."

To ensure continued funding in each subsequent year, the Foundation has provided the first annual progress report to all segment supporters July 31 and each will supply a report each July 31 thereafter. This year's report is a summary of the key accomplishments of each component in layman's terms. The remainder of the paper provides technical details of the accomplishments and goals of the six components of the PGI project. Key accomplishments for the first year are:

The two wild parents of the cultivated peanut have been sequenced and essentially assembled. This will aid in the assembly of the more complex Tifrunner cultivar. The information is also being prepared for publication in late 2013.

More than 11,000 genetic markers have been discovered this year and field work is underway to associate these markers with needed traits. This compares to only 5,000 markers identified over the last five years.

Researchers have determined that the cultivated peanut genome contains over 30,000 unique genes and a size of 2.65 Gb (gigabases = a billion molecules).

Field work began in April with eight populations that have been planted repeatedly for seven seasons giving us plants that have segregated for the traits we are seeking. This will give us the ability to associate the markers discovered in components two and three with the resistant and quality traits we need.

The system for housing all the data is already live and ready to accept the data from all the other components as it is generated.

The 1,084 peanut lines being sequenced and assembled will represent 90 percent of the total genetic variability for all traits that exists in peanut. Dr. Scott Jackson, University of Georgia and chair of the project technical team remarked, "We're making good progress toward achieving a genome sequence for cultivated peanut, in fact, better progress than I anticipated given the challenges facing us. We are already seeing people begin to use the data to develop additional markers for breeding and to associate traits with the genome sequence. Much of this work will be done in Tifton."

Fore more information, contact the Foundation at (703) 838-9500 or e-mail


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