The first trait-specific high oleic groundnut varietal trial conducted under the All India Co-ordinated Research Project on Groundnut (AICRP-G) in 2017 has paved the way for the testing and release of high oleic groundnut varieties in India. High oleic groundnuts are preferred by the food processing industry due to their long shelf life and health benefits to consumers. Since they meet important industry and export criteria, they command a premium price that increases the profitability for farmers.

High oleic groundnut has a higher proportion of oleic acid (>80%) compared to normal groundnut (40-50%). Oleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid (MUFA) which together with linoleic acid (polyunsaturated fatty acid, PUFA) accounts for up to 80% of the groundnut oil. Palmitic, stearic, arachidic, gadoleic, behenic and lignoceric acids constitute the remaining 20%, with palmitic acid, an saturated fatty acid alone contributing 10%. High oleic groundnut oil is less prone to oxidation and can be used in confectionery, to make flour, cake and butter with extended shelf life. It is considered a healthy oil as it reduces the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases by reducing the level of serum low density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol and maintaining the level of high-density lipoproteins (HDL).

Australia, USA, China, Argentina and other countries have developed high oleic groundnuts and successfully harnessed its potential in domestic and international markets. Despite having the second largest area under groundnut after China, India has yet to reap these benefits as no commercially released varieties are available. Consequently, multinational companies often source high oleic groundnuts from outside India.

Considering emerging market needs, the development of high oleic groundnut varieties was initiated with support from the National Mission on Oilseed and Oil Palm (NMOOP) of the Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Development, Government of India. The two key elements that the donor considered were the emerging domestic market demand for it and the increasing use of groundnuts in food and confectionery in India. The partners in this initiative are the International Crops Research Institute for the Semi-Arid Tropics (ICRISAT); Indian Council of Agricultural Research – Directorate of Groundnut Research (ICAR-DGR), Junagadh, Main Oilseeds Research Station; Junagadh Agricultural University (JAU), Junagadh; Tamil Nadu Agricultural University (TNAU), Coimbatore; Regional Agricultural Research Station, Acharya N G Ranga Agricultural University (ANGRAU), Tirupati and Regional Agricultural Research Station, Professor Jayashankar Telangana State Agricultural University (PJTSAU), Palem.

The comparison of fatty acid profile for different vegetable oils with normal and high oleic groundnut oil.

The comparison of fatty acid profile for different vegetable oils with normal and high oleic groundnut oil.

New tools such as genotyping for FAD mutant alleles and robust phenotyping using Near Infrared Reflectance Spectroscopy (NIRS) enabled the development of high oleic groundnut lines in Spanish and Virginia Bunch background. The fast-track development, testing and advancements were possible because of low-cost controlled conditions to reduce generation interval, early generation and multi-location testing. The first set of 65 high oleic lines were evaluated in a multi-location trial conducted at DGR, JAU, TNAU, ANGRAU and PJTSAU. Each participating institute proposed the best lines from their trials, and subsequently 16 best performing high oleic lines were recommended for national testing in AICRP-G during rainy season 2017. A special trial to evaluate the performance of high oleic lines was constituted at six AICRP centers — Junagadh, Durgapura, Dharwad, Palem, Tirupati and Tindivanam. Two years of evaluation under AICRP-G are complete. The best performing high oleic line is expected to be identified for release during the AICRP-G workshop to be held later this month.

The initiative will result in the release of the first high oleic groundnut variety in India for commercial cultivation to meet the needs of the food industry. High oleic groundnuts have huge export value and are expected to open up new domestic market opportunities. In terms of fatty acid profile, high oleic groundnut oil is similar to olive oil. This opens up the potential to capture the million dollar olive oil market.

Going forward, there is a need for active public and private seed producer’s partnership to scale-up the seed chain of high oleic lines after their release. Efforts in developing high oleic groundnuts are not limited to India; so far, ICRISAT has shared about 100 high oleic lines with NARS partners in nine countries of Asia and Africa.

Donors

  • Department of Agriculture, Cooperation and Farmer Development (DoAC&FD), Government of India
  • CGIAR Research Program on Grain Legumes and Dryland Cereals (CRP-GLDC)

About the author

Dr Radhakrishnan, Director,
ICAR-Directorate of Groundnut Research

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