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U.S. and Ecuador Work Together to Preserve PeanutsStory TitleBy Hank Becker
October 26, 1998
Ecuador may have more types of peanuts than any other country in the world. The countrys peanut diversity offers rich sources of genes that breeders worldwide can use to improve commercial varieties.
In 1995 and 1996, Agricultural Research Service plant explorer Karen A. Williams and colleagues from Texas, Colombia, and Ecuador traveled throughout Ecuador to find and collect samples of this peanut diversity. ARS is the principal research agency of the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
In Ecuador, peanuts are planted in slash-and-burn plots in the rain forests of the eastern Amazonian lowlands and in small fields on the sandy coastal plains. Farmers also grow peanuts on irrigated terraces in the dry southern mountains. In northern Ecuador, peanuts grow at unusually high altitudes.
The country is rich in native varieties known to scientists as landraces. Some of the useful traits that may be found in these landraces include resistance to pests, diseases, and environmental stresses. Several landraces were previously unknown to science.
In all, the team collected 200 accessions of native peanut landraces. The accessions represent all six botanical varieties of peanuts: hirsuta, hypogaea, fastigiata, peruviana, aequatoriana and vulgaris.
After germplasm is collected, seeds must be multiplied and characterized for plant, pod and seed properties before they can be distributed to plant breeders. This work was performed in Ecuador under contract to USDA. The increased seeds were divided between the U.S. and Ecuadorian national collections. Ecuador also gained from other collaborative activities that resulted fromand reached beyondthe peanut explorations.
Scientific contact: Karen A. Williams, Plant Exchange Office, ARS National Germplasm Resources Laboratory, Beltsville Agricultural Research Center, Beltsville, Md., phone (301) 504- 5421, fax (301) 504-6305, firstname.lastname@example.org.