Advances in soybean breeding

The soybean your grandpa planted is probably much different than what you harvested this fall. Advances in soybean breeding tools are the drivers behind new and improved varieties.

Aaron Lorenz is an associate professor of plant genetics at the University of Minnesota. He says the wide use of molecular markers and DNA sequencing technologies help soybean breeders more efficiently make selections. This includes stacking traits into a single variety such as disease resistance, herbicide resistance and then combining that with high yield.

"And then on top of that I would say there have been advances in more precise and better collection of environmental data combined with advanced statistical modeling has allowed soybean breeders to better place varieties in certain types of environments and locations. As well as prescribe certain types of varieties for certain types of stresses that a farmer may encounter in any typical year," says Lorenz."

The march toward increasing yield will always continue. The tools that breeders use will also advance, leading to future cultivars with unique compositional attributes. This can lead to new markets and opportunities.

"We’ll see what happens, but rather than the vast majority of soybeans being just a commodity-type of product, there may be more specialty markets out there where the demands for those specialty markets are met by the creation of novel soybean varieties with unique compositional profiles through gene editing and more advanced breeding technologies as well," he says. "I think getting the yield together with those unique compositional attributes will be easier than it has been in the past, I guess is the way to summarize that."

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