The Evolution of the Peanut
The peanut has been around for a long time. Evidence shows it was part of some of the earliest forms of agriculture in South America.
Scientists have been studying the peanut to understand its unique disease resistance and yield. It appears that today’s peanut evolved from two wild ancestral peanut species thousands of years ago. New DNA technology uses sequencing to lay out the genetic code of the plant, providing information on the genetic code that controls size, yield, disease resistance, and more.
The peanut has two sets of chromosomes, one from each parent. Only recently have both these sets of chromosomes been successfully identified. Because the peanut has an amazingly complex genetic structure, it required new developments in technology to make this identification possible.
Since peanuts produce their seeds underground, it is quite amazing that scientists can unravel the mystery of how such a plant can develop so many varieties. Genetic shuffling over 10,000 years has contributed significantly to the plants’ diversification.
We Have Much to Learn from Peanuts
Plant breeders are interested in the genetic mechanisms that have allowed the peanut to adapt around the globe. Farmers around the world grow over 40 million metric tons of peanuts which are a staple in many countries. Peanut butter, peanut snacks, peanut oil, and more are enjoyed around the world in many cuisines.
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