Wherever he's producing, Ted Higginbottom realizes his ace in the hole is research.

“I have benefited a lot from research conducted from folks right here in this room,” Higginbottom said as he addressed the annual meeting of the American Peanut Research and Education Society recently in San Antonio, Texas.

The Gaines County, Texas, producer moved to West Texas 20 years ago to grow peanuts. “I had a research plot around 30 years ago with Chip Lee in central Texas,” Higginbottom says.

LEPA irrigation, fertility changes, inoculants are just some of the major benefits that have come directly from peanut researchers — practices that he's benefited from. “The magic bullet, if there is one, will be from production research,” Higginbottom says.

In the future, research will play an even more important role than it has in the past.

“In the Southwest, we're looking at a water supply that's falling off,” Higginbottom says. “We need a variety that's a little bit quicker and all that depends on researchers.

“Ask any farmer in the U.S. and they'll say we produce the best peanuts in the world, but we need to keep in mind that research is what got us there and research will continue to keep us there,” Higginbottom says.

Foreign competition

In the bigger picture, Higginbottom says his competition is not within the United States, but comes from countries such as China, Argentina, Brazil and South Africa.

“When the trade agreements kick in, it will be worse,” Higginbottom says. “We can't afford to lose our competitive edge.”

Through state and national checkoffs, peanut farmers are funding research in the field and the marketplace, Higginbottom says. “Strategic marketing and promotions raise us above our competition.”

The National Peanut Board has funded more than $8 million toward production research since its inception.

“We depend on researchers,” Higginbottom says.

e-mail: cyancy@primediabusiness.com