Researchers Credit Soybean Group for Genome Support

United Soybean Board provided research funding that got the ball rolling.

Published on: Feb 27, 2009

Researchers have mapped the soybean genome, a complicated data pile that will help speed innovation to market, got a good base of support from the soybean checkoff. At the Commodity Classic in Grapevine, Texas, today, the United Soybean Board offered information about its investment in the project.

The soybean checkoff funded early work that Dr. Gary Stacey says helped support the effort. Stacey is endowed professor of plant sciences, director of the Center for Sustainable Energy and associate director of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology at the University of Missouri-Columbia.

About eight years ago the checkoff funded work to discover "express sequence tags" which Stacey says laid the groundwork for the genome project. "It was the beginning of that work that got the work started on the physical map of the genome," Stacey says.

Understanding the genome opens the door for plant breeders to find key traits from soybean cyst nematode resistance to disease resistance to higher yield.

Stacey explains that when researchers went to the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute, the early research "allowed us to provide a cohesive commitment of our willingness to use the information for breeding."

Rick Stern, a USB director of the production committee and a Cream Ridge, N.J., farmer adds that he eventually hopes "to see substantially increased yields from new varieties that are resistant to disease and can withstand drought better than the varieties we have today."

Stern notes that USDA's Agricultural Research Service is working on a drought tolerant soybean and a public release of that variety is in the works.

USB funded the early research to the tune of about $7 million. Stacey adds that those funds were leveraged by DOE funding and National Science Foundation support that "heavily leveraged USB support."