The successful outcome of this research mandate would reduce production costs to growers, which also will benefit shellers and manufacturers, states the initiative.

“Our university and USDA economists estimated in 2011 that the lack of varieties with superior disease resistance and other improved traits typically costs growers as a whole over $200 million a year or close to $200 per acre.

“These estimated grower losses are a huge target for the whole industry to overcome, but we must work together because shellers and manufacturers also suffer annual losses due to inferior peanuts in the food stream.”

The Peanut Foundation considered three different genomic approaches to develop improved breeding technologies and concluded that Marker Assisted Selection (MAS) would be the best means to deliver the new varieties.

MAS is a breeding method that relies on the use of DNA-markers found in plants to identify hybrids from a cross that have a desired trait before the hybrids are grown in the field, thereby giving breeders a time advantage in variety development.

However, by 2010 peanut breeders only had about 6,000 DNA-markers and few were associated with selectable or measurable traits; whereas soybean and corn scientists had over 100,000 very useful DNA-makers, states the white paper.

The reason soybeans and corn had so many markers is because DNA-markers were easier to discover after the DNA sequence of the soybean and corn genome was known. The same is true for cotton.

Now, nearly every agricultural crop has a genomic research effort aimed at determining the structure and order of genes in its genome. It is generally recognized that the information gained from a crop genome sequence enables quantum leaps in ability to develop and deliver improved varieties in a timely manner.

It became clear, states the initiative, that sequencing the peanut genome was necessary to find a larger inventory of useful DNA-markers to move forward with MAS breeding.

“The framework for organizing those efforts was published in a Strategic Plan covering research goals, priorities, and expected deliverables between 2008 and 2012. 

“With funding from growers, shellers, manufacturers, allies, USDA and universities, the work done under that plan made it possible to develop the building blocks that had to be in place before we were ready to tackle the genome sequence.”

Those “building blocks” included the following:

1.) Development of germplasm (starting material) necessary for sequencing the peanut genome.

• Replacement of lost germplasm in the USDA peanut germplasm collection at Griffin, Ga;

• Discovery of new germplasm resources with resistance to leaf spot and other diseases;

• Development of special breeding populations to find genes for TSWV, leaf spot, pre-harvest aflatoxin contamination (PAC), CBR, root-knot nematode and sclerotinia/white mold resistance; high-oleic peanut oil; and drought tolerance;

• Discovery of drought tolerant peanuts by researches in the U.S. and India.