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ARS Home » Southeast Area » Raleigh, North Carolina » Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research » Research » Research Project #434574

Research Project: Exploiting Genetic Diversity through Genomics, Plant Physiology, and Plant Breeding to Increase Competitiveness of U.S. Soybeans in Global Markets

Location: Soybean and Nitrogen Fixation Research

Project Number: 6070-21220-069-000-D
Project Type: In-House Appropriated

Start Date: Apr 11, 2018
End Date: Apr 10, 2023

Objective 1: Use genomics, physiology and plant breeding approaches to identify novel genetic variation for various yield-enhancing traits in the USDA germplasm collection, transfer the traits to adapted backgrounds, and release germplasm or cultivars with improved yield potential. Sub-obj. 1a: Identify desirable genetic diversity for seed yield in exotic Asian soybean cultivars. Sub-obj. 1b: Identify desirable genetic diversity for improved seed yield in wild soybean. Sub-obj. 1c: Develop improved breeding methods and approaches for incorporation of genetic diversity from wild soybean to applied breeding programs. Sub-obj. 1d: Identify genomic differences between F1 hybrids and inbred parents that can be exploited as the basis for new breeding methodologies to augment existing applied breeding pipelines. Objective 2: Identify and characterize genetic variation for soybean oil and protein in the USDA germplasm collection, transfer the traits to adapted germplasm, and release improved germplasm or cultivars. Sub-obj. 2a: Elucidate physiological processes by which seed composition is improved without a yield penalty and connect these to the underlying genes. Sub-obj. 2b: Introgress desirable combinations of protein genes/QTL into MG V-VII high yielding conventional elite backgrounds. Sub-obj. 2c: Identify new genetic resources with high seed protein that lack the DBK high protein allele on chromosome 20 and identify QTL in those sources. Sub-obj. 2d: Determine if alterations of N metabolism and expression of asparagine synthase (AS) genes in vegetative tissues are associated with improved N content in progeny derived from the backcross of NMS4-44-329 to its parent N7103. Sub-obj. 2e: Determine if variation in a small RNA reported to regulate S uptake in Arabidopsis plays a similar role in soybean and characterize its mechanism of action. Sub-obj. 2f: Introgress desirable combinations of oil genes/QTL into MG V-VII high yielding conventional elite background to develop and release high performing germplasm with improved oil quantity and quality. Sub-obj. 2g: Combine high seed protein with drought tolerance in high yielding soybean backgrounds. Sub-obj. 2h: Improve soybean seed oil content and composition using wild soybean. Objective 3: Screen the USDA soybean germplasm collection to discover and elucidate traits governing genetic variation for molecular and physiological mechanisms that preserve yield under dry conditions, and use the information to develop and release soybeans with improved drought and heat tolerance. Sub-obj. 3a: Develop adapted drought tolerant breeding lines from exotic soybean germplasm. Sub-obj. 3b: Quantify the yield impact of the slow-wilting trait on yield in diverse environments. Sub-obj. 3c: Determine the impact of limited transpiration on leaf gas exchange and seed yield during drought. Sub-obj. 3d: Identify physiological and molecular traits that underlie successful nitrogen fixation response to drought. Sub-obj. 3e: Determine the ability of wild soybean accessions to germinate and grow at suboptimal temperatures and identify inheritance.

The USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection is one of the greatest biological resources in the world and a premier source of new genes for key soybean traits. Our team of experts genetically mines the Collection through breeding, genomics and plant physiology to provide novel customer-ready breeding stocks and production know-how to the soybean industry and society. The three objectives use wild and domesticated soybean germplasm from around the globe as a genetic basis for improving the yield potential and economic value of the U.S. soybean crop, while protecting crop production from the ravages of weather extremes, especially drought. A common approach in all three objectives is to blend cutting-edge field and lab research to transfer novel alleles and traits from the Collection into adapted, high-yielding, publicly-available USDA cultivars and breeding lines. Innovative plant breeding teams up with physiological and genomic research to make breeding advances and determine the mechanistic and molecular basis for them. These discoveries guide and refine future mining of the Collection, improving overall efficiency in utilizing the Collection and amplifying its impact. Because more than 90% of U.S. soybean acreage is grown in private varieties, private industry, rather than the public sector, will be the most immediate user of the novel USDA-ARS breeding stocks developed in this project. However, because all our products are non-GMO, they will also be used directly in the small but fast-growing conventional and organic soybean markets. To ensure the successful transfer of USDA products to the farm (either directly or more indirectly as breeding stock for private industry) it is essential that our USDA-ARS germplasm releases be ‘user ready’. In other words, germplasm released from the project must yield within 5% of current commercial cultivars, deliver stable traits and, when possible, include associated genetic markers. Integration of genomics, molecular biology and plant physiology with the top-notch ARS field breeding program makes this goal achievable.