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Seeds of Trade


Region: The Americas

Other regions: 

Product: Peanut

Other products from this region: 
   Peanut belongs to the category Food crops
   and originated in The Americas


Origins of cultivation

The cultivated peanut is the third most important legume crop grown for a grain or nut harvest in the world in terms of production tonnage. The origin of cultivation is probably in the western Amazon basin, in the region of southern Bolivia and northern Argentina, and peanuts are now cultivated in over 80 countries. The first archaeological records reveal cultivated peanuts in southern Bolivia at 800 BC and in tombs on the Peruvian coast between 1200 and 1500 BC. This coastal region, however, could not have been the centre of diversity, as none of the related wild species occur here. There have been several secondary centres of genetic diversity in the domesticated peanut, derived from the south Bolivia-north Argentina primary centre. These secondary centres are found in Brazil, Bolivia and Peru.

Peanuts appear to have been traded and disseminated throughout the New World before the advent of Europeans in the late 15th century. The first North American record is from a cave in Mexico in the first century AD. Peanuts were widely distributed in the West Indies in pre-Colombian times, but there is no record of them in the present USA before that time.