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. This research is much needed in order to have a more knowledge in terms of groundnut resistance to aflatoxin contamination. We need to promote food safety for consumers at all cost

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    1. This is a very dynamic research which should be sailed even to the public health sector,for the realisation of unanswer diseases and strange health conditions which i believe are connected to aflatoxins…this research should be thoroughly presented to varous stake holders to help supress the aflatoxin vulnerable groundnuts breeds.big up to the researcher this will help in food security .

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  2. Aflatoxins are a silence killer to mankind. Any efforts made to detect and reduce its prevalence is a welcome move. Food nutrition and safety is a number one thing for every nation. Well done for taking up this step, its an excellent idea . Looking forward to its implementation

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  3. Food safety ad security is very vital for sustainable developed. Screening and control of aflotoxins is very important for the safety of humanity

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  4. Groundnuts are a potential cash crop especially in the Eastern part of our country. Any works to improve it’s Heath and production is a welcome move. Go for it

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  5. Currently aflatoxin is an issue global wise but with this kind of innovation it needs to be supported at cost to curb the contamination levels. Who knows maybe the challenges of cancer being experienced in the world could be attributed to this. All the best!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Studies have shown that aflatoxin cause cancer. With such innovation in place, there is no need to worry about getting the disease. Go for it and save humanity

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  7. Aflatoxin is a very serious fungal diseases which have in Africa in particular Zambia. Coming up with genetic resistance seed to reduce level of aflatoxin will go a long way in the sense that the groundnuts can be consumed without any side effects and the international trade will be open especially European union countries .I strongly recommend.

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  8. This research has the potential to save and improve the lives of countless people in rural areas, especially that groundnuts are the second most widely grown small holder crop in Zambia (according to the 2017 Zambia Agriculture Status Report by IAPRI).
    I am excited to see the results of this study and i hope that it may serve as a foundation on which more research in combating afflatoxin contamination in groundnuts may be carried out, considering it’s adverse effects on human beings when consumed.

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  9. This is a very good and progressive innovation. We needs such researchers who are determined to contribute not only towards food security but a health population. Groundnuts are a very important part of our diet. It’s a health substitute for cooking oil. It’s also a sure source of income for our smallholder farmers, especially the women. Back in my village every woman is expected to plant at least a Lima of Groundnuts. Proceeds from the sale of Groundnuts go direct into women’s pockects.
    With a growing industry of processing groundnuts, this research is timely as we need Aflatoxin free nuts. To fight a silent killer, like Aflatoxin, we need serious research. We need efforts of young scientists like yourself.
    While the majority of young men are busy complaining about the failure of Government to empower them, you spend time in the lab trying to find a solution for global problems. Keep up with the spirit.
    I wish you the best in your quest for a better tomorrow.

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  10. this study is important not only for the knowledgeable zambian but also for the pro poor policies that the zambian government in working tirelessly to implement. it goes without saying that food security and a healthy people is the pinnacle of every economy as they are the source of production and stability of an economy thus this study will greatly improve the lives of many and not only small scale farmers.

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  11. A well thought out paper with potential to prevent the hazardous aflatoxin contamination and poisoning. success of the project will surely have significant positive healthy, social and economic impact in Zambia.

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  12. cancer is a serious issue that has claimed a lot of lives because of carcinogen compounds that are being consumed in our food. with this type of knowledge we should be able to reduce such related diseases. job well done owen

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  13. Brilliant innovation…if we are to make progress regarding groundnut production and increase the yields per lima or hectare then the quality of the nuts has to good to fetch a higher value at the market. With this idea I believe our nuts can be free from contamination.

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  14. This is really interesting, it would definitely reduce health problems related to consumption of aflatoxin contaminated groundnuts as well as help farmers in having more yields.

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  15. Aflatoxins are a family of toxins produced by certain fungi that are found on agricultural crops.

    Aflatoxin-producing fungi can contaminate crops in the field, at harvest, and during storage.

    People can be exposed to aflatoxins by eating contaminated plant products in this case groundnuts.

    Some cancers are associated with exposure to aflatoxins such as liver cancer .

    In the advent that aflatoxin is eliminated in field crops ,it will greatly benefit both the farmers and consumers from.contracting dreadful diseases that have caused the death of many especially in developing countries like ours.

    This move is more than welcome and once implemented I urge you to unfold it to other countries especially developing countries.

    All the best and may the Good Lord continue Blessing you through this journey.

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  16. The project will assist to know the levels of contamination in groundout accessions. This it is known, it will lead into new research to reduce the aflatoxins. When levels of aflatovins are reduced, it will improve the consumption of ground and at the same improve trade. This will eventually increase income and nutrition of small-scale farmers and general population.
    Great project

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  17. I like the idea Owen. I hope we can breed resistant groundnut varieties to solve the challenge of contamination among our farmers. Groundnuts are so important in Zambia therefore we need such ideologies to sustain agriculture sector.

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  18. Screening of accessions against aflatoxin will help to know the levels of contamination. Knowing the levels of contamination will lead new research to reduce the levels. Once levels are reduced through research will increase trade and nutrition for smallholder farmers

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  19. The problem of aflatoxins can not be over emphasised.Its quite an issue because the farmers tend to lose out on the value of their produce which affects their income generation.Such innovation should be highly recommended.

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  20. Great progressive innovation as food safety and security is vital for human safety and sustainable development…

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  21. This is very welcome to the ever changing agro ecosystem that is changing with a great impact emanating from climate change related human activities. Pleased also to note that you’re going to work from the three Zambian agro ecological regimes, meaning the groundnut test varieties will be tested across varying environmental conditions of temperature and precipitation (humidity ). It could be another good addition or benefit if you could target the frequently grown or consumed varieties of local ground nuts thereby not only promoting out local industry but also international trade of aflatoxin-free ground nuts.
    Another method to promote the technology is to grow the crop on farmers’ fields and after completion of data collection, You could empower them with the harvest so that they continue growing and benefiting whilst increasing aflatoxin-free groundnut in those respective agroecological systems where the crop is grown. This will also contribute to the health of individuals and the environment in which we live. I congratulate you on this good social thought. All the best my friend.

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  22. Wishing you the best of luck as you venture into this innovation. I believe it will be of great benefit to Farmers.

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  23. Great mind and initiative in the agriculture sector that seeks to improve the lives of our people. The preservation of these nuts will go a long way too as they are also rich in protein, fat, and different healthy nutrients. Studies show that peanuts may be useful for weight loss, and are linked to reduced risk of cardiovascular disease. This can be a breakthrough both economic and health wise for our population in rural and urban settings.

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  24. This is good innovation. For sure small scale farmers will benefit greatly. This is the way to go. All the very best.

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  25. If we consider advancing food safety and food security at both small scale and national level, then there is need to breed cultivars that can resist such problems. As we fight climate change such ideas should be promoted.

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  26. Peanuts play a vital role in our country especially in eastern province of Zambia where it’s mainly cultivated. But the issues of contaminations make our farmers lose out. Such innovation can solve the problem. Keep it Machuku for the idea

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  27. The world population keeps increasing and by 2050 it’s estimated the world population will be around 10 billion. Therefore, there is need to secure food for humanity through promotion of food safety. This idea is one of the brilliant ones and require support.

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  28. As a health practitioner, the cancer levels have actually up than it was in the past. Some of these cases can be linked to contamination by aflatoxins which is known as one of the most carcinogenic compounds by World Health Organization. With this technology, it can help in mitigating some of these cases.

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  29. Aflatoxins are a serious issue that needs a combined effort to mitigate like using resistant varieties.

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  30. Good work, Owen. This much-needed research undertaking is long, long overdue as it adds real value to the economy! You deserve all the support you can get. All the very best.

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  31. Aflatoxins are a real threat to both the survival of the crop and to human beings as consumers of the crop. Therefore, it is imperative that this research receives the much needed attention in order to create safety in terms of consumption of groundnut and continuity in the life of this nutritious and cash earning crop.

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  32. The problem of Aflatoxins cannot be overly emphasized. There is great need to support this research and create safety for consumers of this crop and the continued existence of this plant that provides enormous benefits to the world.

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  33. Hey Owen this is indeed a great thing to do. This innovation really need to come to reality. Great work

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  34. I did some research on aflatoxin and hybrid maize varieties some time back and am excited that this work is on groundnuts that are even more susceptible. I applaud you for this initiative and pray that you get all the support you need as this research is of national interest.

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  35. Much needed research in order to add value and some how have sustainable development in our agriculture systems, especially when it comes to food safety and preservation.

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  36. we all love groundnuts. We consume them with fear of aflatoxins. All the effects of aflatoxins of aflatoxins ranging from death to illnesses and impairments are much dreaded. If this research can be successful it will be great indeedt

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  37. Groundnuts consitutes about 80 % of daily Household consumption esp in rural areas therefore this kind of study will result in quality household nutrition a key componet to health nations .

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  38. Great and interesting research area as well timely. Aflatoxin contamination especially in crops such groundnuts has been a challenge among farmers in Zambia. We need to find solutions.

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  39. This research is very important and has my full support. it will help us have a full insight on how best we can mitigate the aflatoxine in groundnut by doing so will reduce healthy hazards like Cancer which is on of the major diseases the world is facing today..

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