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Soybean aphid resistance on the way

Packaging pest protection in the seed will soon apply to soybean aphids. The first varieties resistant to this prolific pest are first slated for market by 2009.

"We had some good experimental lines in the field in 2006, but it probably will be 2009 before any quantity of seed is available to farmers," says Brian Diers, a University of Illinois (U of I) soybean breeder.

The resistant gene Diers and other U of I researchers are working on originates from a Group VIII soybean variety called Dowling. Breeders released this variety in Texas in the 1970s. They mapped this gene in collaboration with the research program of Glen Hartman, USDA-ARS research plant pathologist. The Illinois Soybean Association and the United Soybean Board funded both research programs.

"One challenge was to backcross this gene into soybean varieties that are adapted to northern climates," says Diers.

After doing this, the resistance looks promising. "The resistance is qualitative, meaning that it is controlled by a single gene," says Diers "This makes breeding easier. We've also used genetic markers in the breeding program to speed up the process."

One drawback of single-gene resistance is it could be overcome under extreme aphid pressure. However, multiple-gene resistance that some breeders are working on could deter this.

Breeders are using a type of resistance called antibiosis, where aphids survive for a shorter period of time and produce fewer offspring on resistant plants than they do on susceptible ones.

Soybean varieties specifically bred for aphid resistance still will have aphids. "It's nothing compared to the susceptible types, though," says Diers. "At the end of the year, the susceptible plants were essentially killed by aphids, while the resistant ones did fine."

Industry also is gearing up for aphid-resistant soybeans. Syngenta has pegged 2009 for bringing its aphid-resistant soybeans to market. Pioneer Hi-Bred International, Inc., is set to market soybeans resistant to aphids by 2010. Monsanto is also working on aphid resistance in its breeding program.

Packaging pest protection in the seed will soon apply to soybean aphids. The first varieties resistant to this prolific pest are first slated for market by 2009.

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