Soybean DNA to be Decoded

USDA and Energy Department tackle soybean sequencing to help mitigate high energy costs and develop long term solutions. Compiled by staff

Published on: Jan 17, 2006

To help farmers and ranchers mitigate the impact of high energy costs and develop long term solutions, USDA and the Department of Energy will tackle the sequencing of the soybean genome.

The two departments will share resources and coordinate the study of plant and microbial units as part of USDA's comprehensive energy strategy.

"Both agencies will leverage their expertise and synergize activities involving agricultural- and energy-related plants and microbes," says Dr. Ari Patrinos, Department of Energy associate director of science for Biological and Environmental Research. "We will enhance coordination of proposed sequencing projects through the Biological and Environmental Research Microbial Sequencing Program or the DOE Joint Genome Institute's Community Sequencing Program."

USDA and DOE will establish a framework to cooperate and coordinate agency-relevant plant and microbial genome sequencing and bioinformatics that can serve the needs of the broader scientific community and solve problems that are important to each agency's mission. This agreement could help speed the deployment of emerging technologies, such as improved methods of gene identification and sequence assembly.

The DOE Joint Genome Institute will decode the DNA of the soybean, Glycine max, the world's most valuable legume crop. Soybean is of particular interest to DOE because it is the principal source of biodiesel, a renewable alternative fuel. Soybean is also important to U.S. agriculture with more than 3.1 billion bushels grown on nearly 75 million acres in 2004, with an estimated annual value exceeding $17 billion. The soybean genome is about 1.1 billion base pairs in size, less than half the size of the maize or human genomes.