Screening of groundnut accessions and hybrids for resistance to aflatoxin contamination in Zambia

Groundnut (Arachis hypogaea) is an indispensable and income-generating crop particularly for women who traditionally manage the crop in Zambia. It is produced by more than 90 percent of the smallholder farmers and the second typically cultivated crop after maize.

Conversely, over the years there has been a drop in groundnut yields for instance, in 2012 the production declined by approximately 60% (from 278,775 metric tonnes to 113,026 metric tonnes). This is attributed to a number of dynamics such as diseases and pest attacks, availability of markets, markets and prices of competing crops, degradation of soil fertility and droughts. Additionally, groundnut is one of the most susceptible crop to Aspergillus group of fungi infection and subsequent aflatoxin contamination either in the field (pre-harvest) or during storage (post-harvest). Apparently, the main entry for fungal invasion is direct contact of developing groundnut pods with fungal mycelium in the soil. Another suggested route of entry is through the flowers.  Aspergillus species can survive through harsh weather conditions in the soil by means of conidia and sclerotia production.

Consumption of aflatoxin contaminated groundnuts is known to have side effects on humans as well as animals. Some of the detrimental effects include impaired immune system, stunted growth and cognitive developmental challenges in children, liver cancer in adults and death in severe cases. For instance, a case in Kenya where more than 100 persons died. In addition, the contaminated crop generally affects the livelihood of the small holder farmers because of declined income generation as a result of crop rejection, reduced crop market worth or inability to gain access to the higher-value global trade markets.

Bearing in mind that food safety is a fundamental public health concern, mitigating aflatoxin contamination using resistant groundnut genotype as one of the cost-effective and sustainable tactic cannot be over stressed. Genetic resistance can therefore be used as one of the integrated management approaches apart from soil water management, soil amendments, bio-control, soil pest control, proper drying and curing and storage in solving the problem of aflatoxin contamination in Zambia.

The steps I intend to take to develop my idea in sustainable crop protection are as follows; Firstly, I intend to secure groundnut 15 landraces from the National Plant Genetic Resource Centre (NPGR) and multiply the seed on-station. The same will be done for the hybrid seed which will be collected from different seed companies and agricultural research stations in Zambia. Secondly, the harvested seed will then be subjected to three diverse agro-ecological zones of Zambia by planting both on-farm and on-station (multi-locational) and screened for genetic resistance to seed infection and aflatoxin production. The promising resistant lines will further be assessed before finally incorporating them in the national breeding program.

The key stakeholders and beneficiaries in this innovation are the commercial and small scale farmers in particular who mainly grow the crop as a source of income. The actors in the value chain of groundnuts such as the peanut butter producing companies. This will be a plus if the end product is aflatoxin-free. Other beneficiaries are the consumers because they have a basic right to food safety. The plant breeders also are key stakeholders in this idea because they will bring on board the necessary breeding skills and knowledge to make this innovation a successful research. Various agricultural research institutions engaged in research and development and non-governmental organization that promote food safety and security would be potential stakeholders.

The proposed outcome of this innovation is that we will have bred and released groundnut genotype(s) on the market that will provide resistance and reduce aflatoxin contamination levels. Consequently, this will not only promote international trade with the European markets who have stringent measures when it comes to aflatoxin contamination but increase income for the farmers thus improving their livelihoods. 

One of the social positive impacts the innovation will create is the reduction of health related risks such as liver cancer and mentally impaired children.  It will promote healthier communities as a result of consuming safe food. This idea will immensely also give a wider insight with regard to genetic resistance in groundnuts to contamination. The farmers will be encouraged to supply their produce to the available markets at an attractive price thus increasing their income base and ultimately reduce the poverty levels. They will afford to take their children to school and meet other socio-economic responsibilities. Overall, people will consume groundnuts without uncertainties for fear of aflatoxicosis especially in the rural setup which is one of the main source of proteins.

My motivation in carrying out this innovation is based on the fact that groundnuts plays an important role in the livelihoods of many smallholder farmers in the country. Not only as an income generating activity but also as the source of proteins. My enthusiasm is to advance the agenda of food safety and promote a country that will be food secure rather food insecure. Being a cash crop, it also earns the country foreign exchange that helps to stabilize the economy.

Taking part in the Next Generation Agri-Summit will be a life changing experience. Networking with other young innovators and linking with seasoned researchers and practitioners will be a major milestone of my career in science.  My aim would be to accomplish the task at hand and contribute to the pool of knowledge with regard to aflatoxin ‘the silent killer’.

Owen Machuku, Zambia

97 comments

  1. It is important to produce quality health food to increase demand from the importing countries. That can be only archived by reducing the level of Aflatoxin in groundout production. This is the right time to do the research.

    Like

  2. Afflatoxin is a threat to human lives.
    People can be exposed to aflatoxins by eating contaminated plant products (such as peanuts) or by consuming meat or dairy products from animals that ate contaminated feed.

    Farmers and other agricultural workers may be exposed by inhaling dust generated during the handling and processing of contaminated crops and feeds.

    Afflatoxin causes retarded growth in children etc therefore this innovation should be highly recommended in order to save lives

    Like

  3. We need to be food secure as a country and this is the kind of research we need as a country to achieve this objective. Interesting work and i look forward to its implementation.

    Like

  4. This is great work that needs to be escalated without delay. All stakeholders must rise to support such long overdue innovations.

    Like

  5. This idea needs a combined effort with other stakeholders because it will save lives from getting related cancer diseases. It can help in reducing deaths as result of such problems.

    Like

  6. I have been eating groundnuts for some time but never knew about this aflatoxin which by now i understand causes liver cancer. I strongly recommend it to be implemented for people to benefit.

    Like

  7. The world needs to consume food that is health and free from contamination. So I recommend such initiatives to save humanity through promotion of food security.

    Like

  8. Good work! It’s not only about grabbing local & International market but most importantly it secures the lives of both consumers & producers. Cardinal research!

    Like

  9. Ground nuts are a potential for increased income for our peasants farmers. This innovation will surely increase potential for export. Best of luck brother man.

    Like

  10. This project is truly a blessing as its positve results ll encourage alot of farmers small scale or large scale to venture in groundnut growing. .

    Like

  11. There are a lot of health and financial benefits attached to peanut production, as a fundamental source of food protein I would definitely vouch for this great innovative idea as it will not only provide seed for the next generation but also solve eminent hunger in the whole of Southern Africa and possibly the whole continent. As a lasting solution to the problem of aflatoxins, I think it is only right that opportunity and support be rendered to such brilliant ideas.

    Like

  12. What a good initiative young researcher. Your work will not only help in reducing aflatoxin levels in groundnuts but also increase income for the small scale farmers.

    Like

  13. It’s better to put health in the food than in the minds of people, hence it is essential to develop new varieties that will promote good health to reduce diseases like cancer.

    Like

    1. looking forward to a time when the good we consume especially peanuts which are consumed nearly on a daily basis will be free from toxins….tumbs up boss

      Like

  14. The research work will go a long way in improving nutrition and thereby contributing to the realisation of the UN’s SDGs 1,2,3

    Like

  15. The groundnut sector can really improve if this idea is implemented. It can also improve international trade with South Africa and the European markets.

    Like

    1. I love the passion you have to see a healthy Zambian nation, This research has come at a time where groundnut production among the small scale farmers is very low and i hope this brilliant research will address the problems our farmers are facing.

      Like

  16. This type of research has to be worked on in order to have a baseline on aflatoxin resistance in ground nut varieties in Zambia

    Like

  17. Groundnuts is one of the most important oil crops in our country. Not only is its quality comprised by aflatoxins, but its marketability is as well. This research is a step forward to address this problem in groundnut production and ensure our farmers grow aflatoxin free varieties.

    Like

  18. Great research worth implementing, we are talking about the lives of people, groundnuts are highly consumed and it may open up the export market.

    Like

  19. We should encourage farmers to start growing crops that are safe for human health. We have so many health complications because of some contaminants or aflatoxin found in the agricultural produce.

    Like

  20. I think it is imperative to reiterate strongly, how detrimental these aflatoxins are on a Zambian scale, healthwise, in your research !, Undoubtedly an interesting research!

    Like

  21. There couldn’t have been a better time for such research work, Groundnuts are a very important component of our diets. It is such research that will make a difference. A game changer!

    Like

Leave a Reply to Monde Musesha Cancel reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s