Saturday, April 13, 2024

Research: A Top NPB Priority


amanda huber
Amanda Huber,
Peanut Grower Editor

This month, I continue my talk with National Peanut Board president and CEO Ryan Lepicier.

Q: What is your philosophy on NPB-sponsored production research?

Since 2001, we’ve spent more than $45 million on production research, which is critical for the future. To help farmers grow peanuts as efficiently as possible, then we at NPB need to be plugged in to the research community to know what’s going on. For instance, researchers mapped the peanut genome so breeders can now bring in desired, valuable traits from wild species. Donald Chase, Georgia Peanut Commission vice chairman, grew a leaf spot-resistant variety for the first time, and he’s excited about the potential savings in reduced fungicides.

Cost of production is a serious challenge for growers, so anything we can do on the research side to help alleviate that and bring to the farm varieties that will help with that is good. Research will continue to be a priority, and we will fund it at the same level we have been, which is about 20% of our budget.

Q: Much progress has been made on peanut allergy. What are you excited about on that front?

It’s not unthinkable that we could eradicate peanut allergy in the next 10 to 15 years. With what I see coming down the pike, we have the ability to do that. It may be through a treatment or a cure or a combination of both.

Currently, a vaccine is in testing. There are biologics in use. Drugs used to treat asthma are being considered, and there’s also a toothpaste that can be used to desensitize people to peanut proteins. Recently, a drug used for cancer patients was found by accident when those patients who also had peanut allergy stopped having reactions. There is so much in the pipeline. My prediction is that peanuts will be the first allergen with that type of breakthrough.

We are also changing the way we fund allergy research. We are going to implement a new food allergy research funding program and seek out proposals every year for projects. We will evaluate them with the assistance of outside experts and fund the research we think is most aligned with our priorities, which currently is better diagnostics. We’ve spent more than $36 million on peanut allergy research and education since 2001.

On the consumer side, we will continue to challenge ourselves to deliver cutting-edge marketing to earn consumer attention and inspire action to purchase peanuts and peanut butter.

I think growers can have complete confidence that NPB will move forward with the passion and innovation that’s come to be expected.

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