A group of scientists from the University of Missouri, the University of Georgia and the Beijing Genome Institute are using next-generation sequencing to combat a deadly soybean parasite. The team has identified two genes, out of approximately 50,000 possibilities, that defend soybeans from damage caused by the root-knot nematode (RKN) parasite. Each year in the United States the RKN parasite destroys $50 million of soybean crops.
In addition to soybeans, the RKN also destroys potato, sugar beet, rice, coconut palm, banana, pepper, tobacco, watermelon, tomato and peanut crops. RKN is one of the three most economically damaging plant parasites worldwide, causing an average worldwide yield loss of five percent.
For soybean research, this is the first time next-generation sequencing has been used. The research team is also using a number of different genetic techniques; the goal is to determine the specific gene that prevents RKN from infecting the soybean. Once this is determined, scientists will be able to breed resistant soybean varieties or cultivars.
The research was funded by the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council.