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The peanut (Arachis hypogaea), better known worldwide as groundnut and to lesser extent as earthnut, monkeynut, and goobers is not a true nut but rather an annual legume much like the bean or a pea (Nwokolo 1996). The peanut plant is unusual because it flowers above ground and pods containing one to five seeds are produced underground. Its seeds are rich source of edible oils and contain 40 -50% fat, 20 - 50 % protein, and 10 to 20 % carbohydrate. The seeds are nutritious and contain vitamin E, niacin, folacin, calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, zinc, iron, riboflavin, thiamine, potassium etc. Peanuts, peanut oil and peanut protein meals constitute an important segment of world trade in oilseeds and products. Peanut is the fifth most important oilseed in the world. Peanut is used for different purposes: food (raw, roasted or boiled, cooking oil), animal feed (pressings, seeds, green material, straw), and industrial raw material.

Origin

The archaeological records supports its cultivation between 300 and 2500 BC in Peruvian desert oases (Weiss 2000, Smith 2002). Although no archaeological evidence of peanuts has been uncovered in the area due its tropical climate, the Gurarani region of Paraguay, eastern Bolivia, and central Bolivia showed the greatest diversity of wild varieties of Arachis species. The cultivated peanut was likely first domesticated in the valleys of the Paraguay and Prarana rivers in the Chaco region of South America (Fig 1). The plant is believed to have been originally domesticated by predecessors of the Arawak- speaking peoples who now live in its homeland.

Fig 1: Centers of origin and diversity

(Source: Weiss 2000)

The first written account of the crop is found with the Spanish entry into Hispanola in 1502, where the Arawak cultivated under the name of mani (Sauer 1993). Records from Brazil around 1550 showed the crop was known there with the name mandubi. Early Spanish and Portuguese accounts record the presence of crop through of the West Indies and South America.

Diffusion

Today groundnut is widely distributed and has adapted in various countries of the World. The most important countries for production are India, China, USA, West and Southern Africa, and Brazil.

The diffusion of crop can be traced along the varietal lines (fig 2). Peanut is usually divided into 4 varieties: 'Virginia'

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