Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Using Crop Genetics to Battle Harsh Conditions

In the dry and unforgiving Southern High Plains, irrigation water is vital to the success of many crops, including the Valencia peanut. Most of this water comes from the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast groundwater resource that lies below the Great Plains. Due to the little amount of rainfall in the area and the high evaporation rate, the aquifer that many farmers depend on may be depleted within 30 to 40 years.
The Velencia peanut is one of the major market type peanuts in the country, mainly grown as an in-shell peanut and desired by the candy industry due to their distinct sweet flavor. This type of peanut is predominantly grown in eastern New Mexico and west Texas.
As time passes and water resources dwindle, peanut farmers in the area require cultivars that produce greater yields while using less water in the irrigation process.
In the May-June issue of Crop Science, this need was addressed by researchers from New Mexico State University (NMSU) and the International Crop Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT). They developed a system that reviews the collections of genetic information on peanuts that are stored in genebanks around the world.
“Genebanks around the world have large collection of peanut germplasm and it is unmanageable for any organization to accurately screen such large collections for useful traits,” explained NMSU researcher and professor Naveen Pupalla.
Fortunately, core collections make it possible to assess a variety of genetics from different genebanks. Despite being only 10% of the total collection, core collections capture ~80% of genetic variability, providing crop breeding programs with useful genetic resources efficiently and accurately.
In this study, a core collection specific to the Valencia peanut was developed, representing genetics from 15 countries.
Further collaborative research with scientists from U.S. universities, the USDA-ARS Cropping System Research Lab and the National Semi-Arid Resources Research Institute was conducted. The scientists placed the genetic information they gathered into five distinct location-based groups, allowing them to determine which areas contain the most genetic diversity for the Valencia peanut. They found Brazil to be the primary center of origin for the Valencia peanut.
The findings in this study may play a major role in the development of crop cultivars that are able to thrive in harsh and changing environments.
This study was supported by the National Peanut Board, New Mexico Peanut Research Board, New Mexico Agricultural Experiment Station, USDA-ARS, and USAID-Peanut CRSP through the University of Georgia.

Story Source:
Crop Science Society of America /

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