Research: Reducing Aflatoxin in peanut genomes could give legumes a leg up

HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology uses genomics to improve peanut production.

Alabama peanut growers produced approximately 559 million pounds of peanuts in 2022. According to ongoing agricultural research by the HudsonAlpha Institute of Biotechnology, genomics could hold a key to improving the production of that cash crop across the state.

Dr. Josh Clevenger, the research institute’s faculty advisor, is leading that effort. His team’s work is focused on finding traits within the genetic makeup of these legumes. That is because peanut genomes determine characteristics of the crop from how well they roast and fill their shells to their resistance to drought and disease.

“If we have a molecular marker we can select in the lab, we can speed up the breeding process considerably, going from potentially 10 years to three years,” Clevenger said.

Clevenger’s team of researchers are testing to see if reducing aflatoxins would give them a leg up in terms of yield efficiency, drought tolerance, and aflatoxin resistance. The purpose of the research, which is funded primarily by farmers, is to help them succeed.

“It really allowed me to understand the large gap between us as geneticists, and actual stakeholders, who are the people farming and making a living growing seed,” Clevenger said. “My entire role in my research is to support them.”

A drought- and fungal-disease resistant variety of peanuts would mean some relief for farmers struggling to produce these crops against ever-rising input costs and a growing number of ecological and weather challenges.

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