Checkoff researchers work to find drought-tolerant soybeans


Weather remains a constant challenge for soybean farmers, with some farmers dealing with worsening drought conditions in some areas as the summer continues.

A research team funded by the United Soybean Board (USB) keeps working to ease that worry in the future, by providing farmers with soybeans that will stand up to these weather challenges.

The research team, which includes Larry Purcell at the University of Arkansas, has already found traits in new soybean varieties that promise to do just that, starting with slow-wilting traits. Checkoff researchers have found and successfully bred this trait into higher-yielding soybean germplasm. These breeding lines have made this line available to all soybean breeders to use and breed into other varieties.

As the number one environmental stress on soybeans, drought often hits fields during a critical growth stage – when seeds fill pods. These seeds contain a large amount of protein, which requires a large amount of nitrogen that is mainly provided by bacteria residing in nodules on soybean plant roots that convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia. This process is known as nitrogen fixation and represents the second trait relating to drought tolerance that piques Purcell’s interest.

“Nitrogen fixation is more sensitive to drought than other processes in the plant like photosynthesis and leaf growth,” said Purcell. “Prolonging nitrogen fixation especially under mild drought conditions helps to prevent the plant from scavenging nitrogen from leaves, which allows seedfill to continue and increases yield.

“We strive to provide farmers with varieties able to fully use all the water they can to have the best yield possible,” said Purcell.

Source: American Soybean Association