Scientists from two universities are working to develop varieties that are more resilient to heat
By Diego Flammini
University scientists are working on developing soybean varieties that can better withstand some of the stressors of a growing season.
Dr. Bill Schapaugh, an agronomy professor and soybean breeder from Kansas State University (KSU), is leading work on a three-year project to develop varieties that can tolerate heat stress in the post-flowering development stage.
Krishna Jagadish, a crop physiologist from KSU, and Henry Nguyen and Tri Vuong, geneticists from the University of Missouri, are also contributing to the research. The work is funded through a $500,000 award from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
High daytime temperatures during the post-flowering stage of development can reduce yield and quality, which affects a farmer’s ability to market the crop.
“The long-term goal of this research is to strengthen the development of commercial soybean varieties with improved tolerance to heat stress,” Schapaugh said in a release. “We are focusing on post-flowering because environmental stresses, such as heat, tend to have the largest impact on seed yield and seed composition during this period of growth.”
Additionally, research from Penn State University projects that if warming trends continue, the best corn and soybean growing conditions could shift from Iowa and Illinois to Minnesota and the Dakotas.
To develop new cultivars, Schapaugh’s research team will monitor different cultivars’ yield and composition during heat stress through a process called phenotyping, map genomic regions for sustaining yield and validate haplotypes. A haplotype is a group of DNA characteristics that tend to be inherited together.
The researchers will also grow soybeans in custom tents placed over test plots. The sun will heat the tents, the air inside will be controlled, and electronic panels will help regulate the temperature.
Farms.com has reached out to KSU and farm groups for comment.