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Wild About Peanuts – Using Crop Wild Relatives To Improve Today’s Crops

By Susan V. Fisk

However you eat your peanuts – shelled, salted, or in a favorite mix – they are a snack item enjoyed by many. The peanut we eat is technically a seed, and they also are a rich source of oils. An obstacle this crop faces, however, is a variety of plant diseases that reduce yields. In the September 22nd Sustainable, Secure Food Blog, crop breeders discover a new variety of peanut that is disease-resistant, with help from crop wild relatives.

Crop wild relatives are the ancient ancestors of today’s cultivated crops. And even today, they live on in various harsh locations – deserts, roadside ditches. Places where they look like “weeds.” But really, these crop wild relatives contain important genetic information for today’s crop breeders. Crop breeders at the University of Georgia recently released a new variety of peanut that is disease-resistant thanks to help from the crop wild relative of peanut. The team looked for ways to make it possible to use the genetic material of the wild relative of peanut to improve disease resistance in modern peanut varieties.

The team used seeds provided by the United States Department of Agriculture to grow small plants and took cuttings. They treated these cuttings with a chemical called “colchicine” – chemicals are often used by breeders for many reasons. The good news? The team was able to breed new peanut varieties that had resistance to common leaf rusts (a fungal disease).

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