The new high oleic peanut varieties offer a real potential for smallholder groundnut farmers to supply new markets, like the confectionary industry.
Photo: © ICRISAT

Oil rich groundnut ready to quench India’s thirst for peanut oil

Indian smallholder farmers could soon benefit from the growing confectionary peanut market, as the first-ever high oleic groundnut varieties adapted to India are ready for release.

To respond to the growing demands for high oleic peanuts, groundnut scientists from the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT) and partners across India have developed the first-ever oleic-rich peanuts in Spanish and Virginia bunch types, adapted to Indian farm conditions.

Until now, Indian groundnut farmers have not benefited from the rapidly growing global confectionary market, as they have been unable to supply high oleic content peanuts as required by the confectionary industry. High oleic peanuts have tenfold lower oxidation compared to normal peanuts, giving them a shelf-life of two to nine months. This avoids rancidity, and high oleic peanuts also have much better flavour. Oleic acid or omega-9 fatty acid, which can be found in olives and nuts like almonds, also have important health benefits.
“Six years ago, we foresaw this new market demand for high oleic content and we wanted to incorporate this market trait into popular local varieties grown by Indian farmers, by crossing with an American runner type variety rich in oleic acid (Sunoleic 95R),” explains groundnut breeder Dr Janila, who has led this demand-driven breeding programme since 2011. Thanks to new advancements in molecular research and crop improvement tools, we have rapidly and cost-effectively identified a handful of very promising lines adapted to Indian agro-ecologies. These high oleic varieties have the quality the industry wants and have shown excellent performance in the fields.”

Growing demand for high oleic peanuts could benefit smallholders

At present, multinational confectionary companies are sourcing tons of high oleic peanuts from Australia for their Asian processing units, in order to respond to the growing Asian market of peanut-based confectionary products like chocolate bars and breakfast cereals.
Knowing the cost of importing peanuts and rising global groundnut prices, leading food companies are seeking opportunities to locally source high oleic peanuts from India and other countries in Asia and Africa, where they operate. Such market pull for high oleic groundnut varieties would improve incomes of many smallholder groundnut farmers.

Speeding up crop selection

Breeders were able to cut down costs and crop selection time from hybridisation to national testing trials from ten to six years, thanks to several innovations including rapid-generation advancement, the use of single nucleotide platform marker-assisted selection to screen oleic acid-rich fatty acid desaturase mutants among thousands candidate lines and near-infrared reflectance spectroscopy for robust and non-destructive phenol-typing.
Since 2016, best-bet lines have been tested across India and shared with partners in the Asia-Pacific region and African countries that include Tanzania, Uganda, Ghana, Mali, Nigeria, Myanmar and Australia. The improved lines show productivity similar or even superior to the current check varieties grown by local farmers.
Sixteen high oleic lines were tested in a national multi-location trial, for their agronomic performance and market quality under the All India Coordinated Research Programme on Groundnut during 2017. This was the first “specialty” trial for groundnuts ever to be held in India. Results from 2016 multi-location testing show well-adapted lines for the major groundnut producing States of India (Gujarat, Tamil Nadu, Telangana and Andhra Pradesh) that perform better than farmer-preferred local varieties (from 5-15% up to 84% yield increase) and have an oleic content of over 80 per cent.
Now that a nation-wide trial has been conducted with all the major national research partners, scientists are recommending a fast-track official release to start certified seed production from this year. “With such results, there is now a real potential for smallholder groundnut farmers from India, but also from other Asian and African countries, to supply new markets, like the confectionary industry, with locally produced high oleic peanuts,” says Dr Janila. “We have to be ready for scaling up this innovation.”


More information:

Original publication:
P. Janila, et al. (2016): Molecular breeding for introgression of fatty acid desaturase mutant alleles (ahFAD2A and ahFAD2B) enhances oil quality in high and low oil containing peanut genotypes,
Plant Science.

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