Ohio Soybean Researchers Call for Support

Buckeye Farm Beat

OSU scientists foresee designer beans in the next 10 years, but funding for their work is being eroded.

Published on: August 25, 2010

Soybean leaders gathered with the state’s soybean research specialists at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center in Wooster Monday for the annual Ohio Soy 2020 Forum hosted by the Ohio Soybean Council.

It was a time to talk about what researchers foresaw for the next 5 to 10 years in the industry and much of the discussion focused on identifying the genes that would improve the crop’s health and productivity and then moving these genes into commercial varieties.

One researcher noted that it could be expected that scientists would soon understand the function of every gene in the plant’s genome and be able to make “designer beans.” Such bean varieties would be resistant to soybean aphids, frogeye leaf spot, phytophthora root/stem rot, bean pod mottle virus, soybean cyst nematode and bean beetles. Varieties would also be high yielding and contain high levels of protein.

Cross breeding with lines from South Korea leads to higher protein levels than native Ohio soybean lines. Climatic conditions already make Ohio a favorable location for higher protein levels in soybeans.

Participants toured OARDC plots where these traits are already being tested in on-going projects as part of the Soybean Breeding, Genetics and Molecular Mapping Program of OARDC and USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Researcher Rouf Mian showed plots of high protein soybeans with genetic backgrounds from Korea, Georgia and Ohio. Some plants produced as much as 49% protein without a yield drag.

“We have the potential of increasing protein up to 4% above the Ohio parent lines without losing yield,” he told the group.

Researcher Rouf Mian describes plot studies at the Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center during the Annual Soybean 2020 Forum hosted by the Ohio Soybean Council.

However, funding of the projects is dwindling, according to Anne Dorrance, plant pathologist with OARDC and OSU. “I participated at a field day in Washington Court House recently and I was so impressed with the infrastructure and food system we have in place in this country. Agriculture is the only industry that has been profitable in this country in the last 10 years. However, the support for the research that is the basis for that system has been eroded and nibbled away in the last 10 years. We need assistance at all levels. We need a network of support to keep working in the future the way we have in the past.”

At the same time they expressed concern over future funding from state and federal sources, the researchers saluted the support of the soybean check off and United Soybean Board. Funding from farmer dollars has made a major impact in making the soybean a viable candidate for a national genomics study program.