For nearly two decades, U.S. soybean farmers have invested millions of Checkoff dollars in research aimed at protecting and improving U.S. soybean yields. These research advances helped U.S. soybean farmers grow a 3.3 billion-bushel crop last year.
The current national soybean yield average is 44 bushels per acre, but to meet world demand, that figure needs to be boosted to 59.5 bushels per acre by the year 2030. The Checkoff's Production Research Program is funding research utilizing soybean genomics to help meet this goal. Missouri soybean farmer Jason Bean, Chair of the United Soybean Board's Production Research Program, says the Checkoff supports research that utilizes the mapped soybean genome to identify and evaluate specific soybean genes that increase yields. The Checkoff recently invested $4.8 million in a project to go back through and re-map the soybean genome.
Bean says the Soybean Checkoff wants to fully benefit from the mapped genome by knowing the role of each gene. This three-year project will use the genome to accelerate the process of developing and introducing new traits that could lead to high-yielding varieties.
"We mapped the soybean genome a few years ago and since we've done that there's new techniques out there, new ways to map these genes," Bean said. "So now we're going to back up and go back through it with these new techniques and see what kind of new yield things that we can find out there now. We might be able to find stuff like drought tolerance, flood tolerance, maybe new resistance to soybean cyst nematode, which we definitely need."
All of which, this farmer who grows soybeans in southeast Missouri notes, will allow U.S. soybean breeders to rapidly develop high-yielding, stress-tolerant soybean lines that could significantly benefit U.S. soybean yields.
"They can look it specifically for whatever part of the country; whether it be aphid resistance, stinkbug resistance, soybean cyst nematode resistance they can take that information and those breeders can hit specifically the areas that need it," Bean said. "With these new varieties coming out with this new research coming out, we're trying to hit 59.5 bushels by 2030, we might hit 60 or 61, who knows."
Land-grant-university researchers throughout soybean-growing regions of the United States will conduct the research. And all of the research from this project will remain in the public domain.