Peanut genetics and crop improvement
The UGA Center for Applied Genetic Technologies studies the genetics that control important traits in the peanut crop and in related wild peanut species. These traits include resistance to peanut pests and diseases, seed size, pod format, growth habit, productivity and resilience to drought. Breeding varieties with improved pest and disease resistance depends upon genetic variability and sources of resistance, both of which are very limited in cultivated peanut. In contrast, wild species of peanut, native to South America, harbor both genetic variability and pest and disease resistances in abundance. In collaboration with breeders in the USA and abroad, the results of these studies are applied to produce peanuts with improved characteristics. Their most advanced results involve new strong sources of resistance to the most important fungal diseases of peanut late leaf-spot and rust and root-knot nematodes. Collaboration with peanut breeding programs in the USA, Brazil and Senegal are incorporating these and other wild species-derived traits into elite local peanut varieties. So far, six new varieties have been released in Senegal and one in Brazil. New improved varieties are expected soon. This will reduce farmer costs, increase yield, reduce fuel use and lower the environmental impact of farming.