At the request of industry, researchers are looking at increasing folate values in peanuts, according to Lamb.

“Folates are important for expectant mothers early in their pregnancies because it is actually related to birth defects. Some lines showed from a three to four-fold increase in folates, and if we could get peanuts up to these levels, we could make the claim that it would help expectant mothers reduce birth defects. We’ve still got a long way to go with this project, but we’re very excited about the possibilities.”

Researchers also are looking at RNAi technology and applying it to identify genes that can be used to prevent aflatoxin in peanuts, says Lamb. RNAi is used in the medical field to fight macular degeneration and to reduce tumor size in cancer patients.

“There are a tremendous number of applications in the medical field, and we’ve developed a system in our lab to introduce this into peanuts to reduce aflatoxin. We’re basically trying to interrupt the pathway. They have been successful in transforming plants that had the gene transfer we were looking for. We had an 80 to 95-percent reduction in aflatoxin in these plants. If we reduce the risk of aflatoxin in peanuts, it’ll really open some doors for us.”

Much of this work won’t be emerging for several years, says Lamb, but real progress is being made.