Findings from Murdoch’s Food Futures Institute reveal potential for peanut crop improvement

Findings from Murdoch University's Food Futures Institute reveal potential for peanut crop improvement

The growing global population has led to rapidly increasing food demand, but a new international study, published in Nature Genetics, has found a way to accelerate peanut crop improvement.

Highlighting the development, Professor Rajeev Varshney FRS, Director of Perth, Australia-based, Murdoch University Food Futures Institute’s Centre for Crop & Food Innovation said the significant findings of the collaborative research, undertaken with Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences, pave the way to improving global food security.

“Peanut is an important crop in developing countries in Asia and Africa and holds great potential in combating malnutrition due to its rich content of OA-rich oil, protein, dietary fibre, and various vitamins,” Professor Varshney said.

“Our study, undertaken collaboratively with researchers across the world, aims to enhance crop improvement efforts. China is one of the world’s largest peanut producers and consumers. We performed Genome-Wide Association Studies for 20 component traits and created a genome-wide variation map, suggesting that peanuts might have been introduced into southern and northern China separately, forming two cultivation centres,” a Murdoch University press note informed.

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“We found groundbreaking genomic variations in a collection of 390 peanut germplasm – the seeds, plants, or plant parts useful in crop breeding. The results also unveiled multiple selective signals relevant to crop improvement and several candidate genes related to key desirable agronomic traits such as high yields, disease resistance and quality of the end product,” the press note further said.

One of the significant findings of the study was the identification of the AhANT gene, associated with seed and pod weight, on chromosome B06. The AhANT gene, belonging to the ANT-like gene family, plays a crucial role in controlling organ cell number and size throughout shoot development, the University’s Centre said.

“Another important candidate gene, AhBSK1, encoding a serine/threonine-protein kinase, was found to be associated with peanut-branching habits. The study also identified the AhWRI1 gene, encoding an ethylene-responsive transcription factor, as being involved in oil biosynthesis, not only in peanuts, but also in other crops, the press note informed.

“While these candidate genes hold great potential for peanut molecular breeding and crop improvement, future studies, including functional genomics methods such as transformation and gene editing, will be necessary to verify the biological effects of these genes in peanuts,” Professor Varshney said.

The research supports the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), 2, 3 and 11.

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