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First peanut genome sequenced

Athens, Ga. The International Peanut Genome Initiativea group of multinational crop geneticists who have been working in tandem for the last several yearshas successfully sequenced the peanut's genome.

Scott Jackson, director of the University of Georgia Center for Applied Genetic Technologies in the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences, serves as chair of the International Peanut Genome Initiative, or IPGI.

The new peanut genome sequence will be available to researchers and plant breeders across the globe to aid in the breeding of more productive and more resilient peanut varieties.

Peanut, known scientifically as Arachis hypogaea and also called groundnut, is important both commercially and nutritionally. While the oil- and protein-rich legume is seen as a cash crop in the developed world, it remains a valuable sustenance crop in developing nations.

"The peanut crop is important in the United States, but it's very important for developing nations as well," Jackson said. "In many areas, it is a primary calorie source for families and a cash crop for farmers."

Globally, farmers tend about 24 million hectares of peanuts each year and produce about 40 million metric tons.

"Improving peanut varieties to be more drought-, insect- and disease-resistant can help farmers in developed nations produce more peanuts with fewer pesticides and other chemicals and help farmers in developing nations feed their families and build more secure livelihoods," said plant geneticist Rajeev Varshney of the International Crops Research Institute for Semi-Arid Tropics in India, who serves on the IPGI.

The effort to sequence the peanut genome has been underway for several years. While peanuts were successfully bred for intensive cultivation for thousands of years, relatively little was known about the legume's genetic structure because of its complexity, according to Peggy Ozias-Akins, a plant gene

Contact: Scott Jackson
University of Georgia

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