2012 Annual Report
The Drought Tolerance project seeks to unlock the rich store of drought tolerance genes that exist in the USDA’s preserve of soybean germplasm. This preserve was formed by scientists through decades of work, combing the globe to find exotic soybean. This reservoir of exotic diversity, although collected by scientists, was produced originally by over 3000 years of ‘on-farm breeding’ in Asia, in which farmers adapted the soybean to a range of climate conditions. Special genes for drought tolerance, bred into soybean so long ago by these ancient farmers, are key to coping with the problem of drought in the USA today. The drought problem is so severe for our farmers in the USA because U.S. varieties do not presently contain these special drought genes from Asia. The central theme of our drought tolerance work is that we can ‘turn the tables’ on drought in the USA by putting the world’s genetic resources in soybean to work on U.S. farms. To that end, the United Soybean Board's drought tolerance project coordinates the research activities of 8 scientists and 7 research institutions in the Midwest and South. This effort is aimed at transferring drought genes from exotic Asian material into adapted genetic materials which will protect agriculture from damaging droughts.
In the first years of the project, novel genetic drought tolerant resources were found in later maturing southern types. As this research matured, the drought tolerance trait was transferred first to Southern breeding lines and then moved north to Midwestern breeding lines. More recently, new discoveries have occurred in exotic materials of Midwestern maturity. Drought tolerance from these Midwestern maturity types is being transferred to Midwestern breeding lines now and will soon be transferred to Southern breeding lines as well. This national, rather than regional, approach to drought has ensured a great cross fertilization of science, using advances in one region to spur advances in the other. An important aspect of the drought tolerance project in Minnesota is to identify new Asian plant introductions carrying the slow wilting trait and develop advanced breeding lines also carrying the slow wilting trait. Ten new Asian types were identified which possessed the slow wilting trait. The new Asian sources of slow wilting have been crossed to U.S. varieties adapted to Minnesota and development of breeding lines has begun. Slow-wilting breeding lines from previous drought tolerance breeding efforts were entered into regional USDA trials in the upper Midwest to evaluate their agronomic desirability. Additionally, more than 200 new breeding lines are being tested in replicated trials, 85 breeding lines are being retested at multiple locations, and 1000 plant rows are being evaluated in 2012.