A better peanut on your plate? New findings reveal potential for peanut crop improvement

Global population growth has led to rapidly increasing food demand, but a new international study, published in Nature Genetics, has found a way to accelerate crop improvements, specifically in peanuts.

Funder: This research was partially supported by the Open Competition Program of Top 10 Critical Priorities of Agricultural Science and Technology Innovation for the 14th Five-Year Plan in Guangdong Province (2022SDZG05 to X.C.), the National Natural Science Foundation of China (32301869 to L.H. and 32172051 to Q.L.), the China Agriculture Research System of MOF and MARA (CARS-13 to X.L.), the Guangdong Provincial Key Research and Development Program-Modern Seed Industry (2020B020219003 to X.C. and 2022B0202060004 to Y.H.), the Guangdong Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation (2023A1515010098 and 2021A1515010811 to Q.L.), the Guangdong Provincial Department of Science and Technology Project-International Scientific and Technological Q14
Cooperation (20200503 to Y.H.), the Special Support Program of Guangdong Province (2021TX06N789 to X.C.), the Agricultural Competitive Industry Discipline Team Building Project of Guangdong Academy of Agricultural Sciences (202104TD to X.C.), the Special Fund for Scientific Innovation Strategy-Construction of High Level Academy of Agriculture Science (R2020PY-JX004 to Q.L., R2020PY-JG005 to X.C. and R2021PY-QY003 to Hao Liu), the Open Fund of Guangdong Provincial Key Laboratory of Crop Genetic Improvement (202101 to Hao Liu and 202201 to Q.L.) and Start-Up grant to R.K.V.

Media release

From: Murdoch University

Global population growth has led to rapidly increasing food demand, but a new international study, published in Nature Genetics, has found a way to accelerate crop improvements, specifically in peanuts. 

Murdoch University Food Futures Institute’s Centre for Crop & Food Innovation Director Professor Rajeev Varshney FRS said the significant findings of the collaborative research pave the way to improving global food security. 

“The peanut is an important crop in developing countries like Asia and Africa and holds great potential in combatting 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. 

“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.” 

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. 

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. 
 
“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. 

Full details of this study and its implications for peanut crop improvement can be found in ‘A genomic variation map provides insights into peanut diversity in China and associations with 28 agronomic traits’, published in Nature Genetics.   

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