Peanut Lab in Uganda

Researchers in Uganda and the U.S. are breeding improved peanut varieties to enhance productivity, quality, and marketability of peanuts in the country. For example, varieties are being developed for resistance against disease and pests, such as groundnut rosette disease and leaf miners. At the same time, projects are looking at the nutritional and social impacts of peanuts, including how consuming peanuts impacts the gut.

Improving genetic potential
The project will use molecular markers to dissect specific traits and identify favorable alleles/genomic regions within diverse varieties across Eastern and Southern Africa for use in breeding programs.

Novel peanut diversity
Wild relatives of peanut will be tapped to provide new alleles that will give cultivated species resistance to groundnut rosette disease, leaf spots and other diseases. Synthetic, induced allotetraploid lines containing some of these wild species are available at UGA and will be tested and used in crosses in Uganda. 

High-throughput phenotyping
The project will use relatively inexpensive, high-throughput technologies – such as heat sensors, photometers/cameras and color analysis software – to gauge the health of plants in the field in order to more quickly evaluate large numbers of plants in breeding trials, with the goal to more accurately phenotype germplasm and speed up variety improvement.

Mapping resistance to groundnut rosette disease
Various segregating populations will be evaluated in the field and lab to identify the genes involved in resistance to groundnut rosette disease, a major cause of yield loss across many countries of Africa.

Groundnut rosette disease virus alternative host
The goal is to find the alternate host(s) of groundnut rosette disease (where the virus lives when it’s not attacking peanut) to develop more sustainable control strategies.

Peanuts and the gut microbiome
The project explores the effects of peanut consumption on the gut microbiota of Ugandan youth to determine the benefits of peanut consumption on health.

Using photovoice to improve youth involvement in the peanut value chain
The project team will use photos taken by youth to determine reasons why youth are/are not interested in becoming involved in the peanut value chain activities and determine possible methods to increase their involvement.


About Uganda

Uganda is a landlocked country in East Africa. The official languages are Swahili and English but many local languages are spoken including Luganda, Southern Luo, and Runyankore. Uganda is about the size of the US state of Michigan.


This sub-Saharan African country has 38 million people. Poverty rates are dropping yearly and primary school enrollment for both boys and girls is much higher than the sub-Saharan average. About 78% of people 15 years or older are literate. However, life expectancy is similar to the sub-Saharan average at 58 years old, still a rather low figure.


Uganda has a steady climate with temperatures ranging from 21-25° C (70- 77° F), with cooler temperatures in the mountains. This tropical country has a wet and dry season with average yearly rainfall at 100-200 cm (39-79 in). Uganda is unique with its bimodal rainfall, especially in the peanut areas.


The Ugandan diet relies mainly on starch roots (cassava and sweet potatoes), cereal crops (maize, millet, and sorghum), and plantains. Rice is growing in popularity, especially in urban areas.

While pulses, nuts, and leafy greens are eaten as well, micronutrient intake is lacking overall, as 15% of the population is undernourished. Child stunting affects around 38% of the population, with particularly high rates in the southwestern region.

Peanut Production

Peanuts are primarily grown in the eastern and northern regions of Uganda. Groundnut production collapsed during the 1979 war but has been recovering to pre-war production levels through the introduction of improved seed varieties and improved crop management practices.

Challenges remain for Ugandan farmers, who are primarily small-scale. These include radical weather variations, pests and diseases, and limited mechanization.

Country Area Harvested Yield Production
  Acres Hectares Lb/Acre Kg/Hectare Tons Metric Tonnes
Uganda 1,043,526 422,300 625 700 295,601 268,165
United States 1,040,313 421,000 4,011 4,496 2,086,675 1,893,000
Table Data Source (FAOSTAT, 2013)          

Improving the yield Ugandan farmers get from their land would help the smallholder farmers’ bottom line and provide nutritious food for malnourished children.

Local Peanut Facts

  • Peanuts provide important nutrients to the primarily cereal-based diet of Ugandans.
  • After the common bean, peanuts are the most important legume.
  • Peanut cake (after oil extraction) and foliage are used as livestock feed.
  • Peanut sauces are used with a variety of fish and meat dishes.