Published on 08/07/19

Peanut Innovation Lab holds meeting to launch Ghana projects

By Allison Floyd

The Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut officially started several projects in Ghana this month with a launch meeting to bring together teams of scientists and students from the U.S. and the West African country. The lab is managed out of the University of Georgia College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences through an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development, but involves scientists from a dozen U.S. universities, as well as institutions across partner countries.

Fifty scientists and graduate students met for two days in Tamale to discuss the research, which spans variety development, value chain improvements, nutrition and social science targeting the roles of women and youth.

The projects include:

High throughput phenotyping (HTP)

Principal Investigator: Maria Balota, Virginia Tech

(presented by Co-PI Richard Oteng-Frimpong)

Using handheld digital sensors to measure temperature, ultraviolet light and other potentially informative parameters. The project will allow breeding programs in Senegal, Ghana and Uganda to evaluate plants in new ways and more quickly for enhanced breeding purposes.


Breeding for drought, leaf spot and oil

Principal Investigator: Mark Burow, Texas A&M University          

This project uses wild species, genetic populations generated in the USA and West Africa, and selected ICRISAT breeding lines to breed for tolerance to water deficit, resistance to leaf spots, and enhanced oil composition in Ghana and Senegal. DNA markers for tolerance to water deficit stress and resistance to leafspots will be shared with national programs. Multi-location trials will be conducted with the goal of identifying release candidates for new varieties.


Enhancing genetic potential in West Africa

Principal Investigator:  Daniel Fonceka, Institut Senegalais de Recherches Agricoles-Centre d'Etude regional pour l'Amelioration de l'Adaptation a la Secheresse

(presented by Co-PI Richard Oteng-Frimpong)

This project builds on an earlier project that genotyped groundnut germplasm using the high-density, 48K Axiom_Arachis2 SNP array. Plant breeders in Ghana, Senegal, Mozambique, Uganda, Malawi, Zambia and elsewhere now have the data from hundreds of accessions and will phenotype the lines and run single and multi-environment (GxE) analysis to evaluate core panel performance.

Diversity analysis, bringing together phenotypic and genotypic data from lines across Africa will allow for a better understanding of the genetic diversity used by each breeding program in West Africa, and provide breeders with opportunities to enlarge the genetic pool of material they use as parental lines for new crosses. The same set of data will also allow genome-wide association studies (GWAS) to be run which will identify the genomic regions involved in the expression of certain traits. Accessions that perform well under specific local conditions might be considered as suitable donor lines for new crosses, or even ready to go directly into the national registration process.


Production packages for Ghana

Principal Investigator: David Jordan, North Carolina State University

The project aims to scale up production packages that improve peanut production and quality, evaluate peanut-cereal cropping rotations to promote increased income and food security, improve linkages among public and private sector partners along the peanut value chain and refine a risk assessment tool specific to the country.

The risk tool is based on project Jordan completed in the first year of the lab to reformulate a tool used in North Carolina to calculate overall risk based on variety, agronomic practices, pest pressure and other factors. Evaluating the potential risk to the crop, farmers can make better decisions about whether to invest in inputs. The tool now can be updated with specific data about conditions in Ghana. 


Farmer incentives for quality Ghanaian peanuts

Principal Investigator: Nick Magnan, University of Georgia

Groundnuts reach consumers through a complex value chain that makes it difficult to incentivize farmers to produce high-quality, low-aflatoxin nuts. This project will work with aggregators to create a system of inputs and incentives, study whether the system brings better nuts to market and explore how these changes specifically affect female growers.


Seed coat chemical markers

Principal Investigator: Venugopal Mendu, Texas Tech

The project studies the development of the seed coat of peanut and whether increasing naturally occurring biochemicals in the seed coat can increase the resistance to A. flavus, the fungus that can produce aflatoxin.


Time poverty among women

Principal Investigator: Leland Glenna, Pennsylvania State University        

Women are the principal growers of groundnut, but those same women have many household and child-rearing obligations on their time. This project explores how those time constraints may impact whether a female farmer is able and willing to try improved practices that lead to a healthier or more plentiful crop and evaluates technologies or techniques that may better address the time limitations of women.


Peanuts for school feeding

Principal Investigator: Mark Manary, Washington University in St. Louis

School-aged children in Ghana primarily receive starchy cereals for their sporadic school meals. This project will develop a peanut-centered snack that fits the cost and nutritional constraints of the school program and then employ clinical trials to test whether consuming more protein-rich peanuts will improve growth and cognition.

Allison Floyd is the PR coordinator for the Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Peanut, which is headquartered at UGA.

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