Peanut breakthrough involved Texas A&M AgriLife scientists

Writer: Steve Byrns, 325-653-4576,

Contact: Dr. Mark Burow, 806-746-6101,


LUBBOCK– A Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist said the recent release of the first peanut genome sequences to the public by the International Peanut Genome Initiative should have major effects on Texas peanut production for years to come.

Dr. Mark Burow and Ratan Chopra, Texas Tech graduate student, survey potted peanuts in their Lubbock greenhouse. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)

Dr. Mark Burow and Ratan Chopra, Texas Tech graduate student, survey potted peanuts in their Lubbock greenhouse. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)


“This release is important to both the peanut industry and consumers, because having the peanut genome sequence available will allow for faster and more accurate selection of peanuts with improved traits,”said Dr. Mark Burow, AgriLife Research peanut geneticist at Lubbock. “This will help with releasing new varieties to improve grower profitability and consumer health.”


According to an April 2 news release from the The Peanut Foundation and Peanut Genome Consortium chairman, the International Peanut Genome Initiative is a multinational group of crop geneticists working in cooperation for several years to successfully sequence the peanut genome that they’ve now released. Dr. Scott Jackson, director of the University of Georgia Institute of Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics, serves as chair of the initiative.

The International Peanut Genome Initiative brings together scientists from the U.S., China, Brazil, India and Israel to sequence the peanut genome, characterize variation in the DNA and traits of cultivated and wild peanuts, and develop genomic tools for peanut breeding.


The initial sequencing was carried out by the Beijing Genomics Institutes, Shenzen, China. Assembly of the genome was done at the Beijing Genomics Institute, the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, Ames, Iowa and the University of California-Davis.

Burow and his coworkers were part of that effort.


“Our contribution to the initiative has been to provide sequences of genes that are expressed in the peanut through collaboration with several institutions and individuals,” he said.

The Texas A&M Peanut Breeding and Genetics Program has worked with a graduate student of Burow, Ratan Chopra, at Texas Tech University. Burow and Chopra, in collaboration with other faculty, the National Center for Genome Resources in Santa Fe, N.M. and the Agricultural Research Service at Lubbock, worked to sequence tens of thousands of genes in each of 22 peanut accessions, 10 wild and 12 cultivated, including varieties developed in Texas.


“These sequences are being used to help identify and understand the structure and function of peanut genes,” he said. “These genes are only a small part of the whole genomic DNA sequence, but they make a major contribution to the traits of the peanut.


“The peanut genome sequence just released by the initiative deals with two wild peanut species, Arachis duranensis and Arachis ipaensis, which are thought to be the ancestors of the cultivated peanut,” Burow said. “Wild species are an important source of genes for resistance to disease, and some species even have tolerance to drought stress.


“For example, the Texas A&M AgriLife Peanut Breeding and Genetics program has released three peanut varieties resistant to root-knot nematode, a serious threat to peanut production in parts of Texas, through the introduction of resistance genes from wild species using crosses made by AgriLife scientist Dr. Charles Simpson of Stephenville,” Burow said.


“DNA markers were used to select for resistance for the second and third of these varieties. Part of our peanut improvement program involves the use of markers to breed for resistance to pests and diseases, for drought tolerance and for improved oil composition, which can contribute to better consumer coronary health. Now, with the release of the genome sequences to the public, this work can be greatly accelerated.”


Along with Burow, the Texas A&M program includes Simpson, Michael Baring at College Station, several graduate and undergraduate students, and technical staff.


Their work was supported by funding from the Texas Peanut Producers Board, National Peanut Board, Peanut Foundation, Ogallala Aquifer Initiative and USDA Hatch formula funding.

For more information, contact Burow at 806-746-6101, . -30-

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