Soraya Leal-Bertioli, a senior research scientist at the University of Georgia and part of the team that traced peanut back to its wild ancestors, has landed a $445,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to study the resilience found in the genes of those ancient species.
The National Institute of Food and Agriculture grant is aimed at creating modern varieties that are more resistant to fungi and root diseases, which might cut down on the cost American farmers pay for pesticides and other inputs.
“In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, hundreds of wild peanut populations were collected from the wild and deposited in the USDA seed bank,” she said. “Several studies show that these species carry resistance to pests and diseases that affect the peanut crop.”
Using modern techniques, Bertioli plans to introduce ancient, naturally-occurring resistance traits into modern lines of productive peanuts. Breeding peanut varieties with the resistance of their wild relatives that can keep up with modern production levels will allow farmers to produce peanuts with fewer chemicals at a lower cost.
For more information on Bertioli’s proposal, go to tinyurl.com/sustainablepeanuts.