The USDA/ARS National Peanut Research Laboratory in Dawson, Ga. — located in the heart of the state’s peanut belt — could see a significant portion of its work halted due to budget cuts at the federal level.

As a result of Congress eliminating earmarked funds associated with water-use reduction, the budget at the National Peanut Lab has been cut by approximately 20 percent. These reductions have eliminated four scientific positions, including two agronomists, one peanut geneticist and one plant physiologist, in addition to numerous support technicians and student workers.

The scientists affected by the budget reduction include Wilson Faircloth and Russell Nuti (agronomists), Charles Chen (breeder and geneticist), and Ling Zhang (plant physiologist).

Prior to the cutbacks, there were 12 scientists on staff at the peanut lab.

According to Research Director Marshall Lamb, The National Peanut Research Laboratory conducts research on water and energy conservation, food safety, bioenergy, peanut production, and post-harvest handling research.

The overall goals of the research, he says, are to conserve natural resources through improved irrigation scheduling and conservation methods, develop sustainable bioenergy alternatives (biodiesel), develop peanut cultivars with improved drought and pest tolerance, improve handling efficiency, and develop new methods to reduce aflatoxin contamination in peanuts.

“Over the years, research conducted at the lab has directly addressed major issues confronting the peanut farmer, handler, sheller, manufacturer and ultimately the U.S. consumer by developing technology to improve profitability and quality through research on breeding, curing, cleaning, mycotoxins, storing, shelling, and marketing peanuts and by developing production and marketing systems to reduce cost, enhance use of peanuts, and insure a safe consumer product,” says Lamb.