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World gathers at soybean conference in China

The World Soybean Research Conference VIII was held on August 10-15, 2009, in Beijing, China. This conference, held every four to five years, brought together more than 2000 participants from around the world to discuss all facets of soybean research, from genomics to marketing.


September 30, 2009
By Dr. Gary Ablett

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 An exhibit hosted by the Canadian Soybean Export Council was indicative of the importance of this conference on a global basis. All photos courtesy of Dr. Gary Ablett, University of Guelph.


 

The World Soybean Research Conference VIII was held on August 10-15, 2009, in Beijing, China. This conference, held every four to five years, brought together more than 2000 participants from around the world to discuss all facets of soybean research, from genomics to marketing.

More than 450 oral presentations were given and 688 posters were displayed. In addition there was a trade show that included a Canadian Soybean Booth, hosted by the Canadian Soybean Export Council.

It is quite challenging to pick out a few highlights but here is my synopsis of some of the more important and insightful presentations.

A session that I co-chaired with Dr. Junyi Gai of China and Eric Kueneman of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), who is based in Italy, focused on developing a safe, secure and sustainable supply of soybeans for the world. The premise of his presentation was that Africa, which is severely vegetable-protein deficient and where soybean production now is very limited, should be targeted for rapid expansion in soybean production. Since soybeans there are eaten as vegetable soybeans, Africans would consume all that they grow and since Canada does not export soybeans to Africa, this would appear to be a “win-win” for soybean production worldwide. The ability to help feed the African continent with high-quality, high-protein soybeans is very compelling.

There were many presentations on genomics and molecular breeding at the conference. These are enabling technologies, and clearly very significant progress is being made in developing huge numbers of single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) and single sequence repeat (SSR) markers. The names are not that important, it is what they enable you to do that is. These two technologies allow you to identify a particular SNP or SSR marker closely associated with a gene you are interested in. By selecting for the marker in the lab, you also select for the gene.

The closer the marker is to the gene, the more successful you will be. Now, why not just select for the gene itself? The basic premise is that markers are not affected by the environment and so you can select them in the lab without fear that environmental conditions will mask the expression of the gene. For instance, let’s say you wish to select for aphid resistant in the field.

12a 
Zhonghuang 13 is the leading soybean variety in China.  
12b 
 While some see just soybeans, others see protein, isoflavones, tocopherols, sphingolipids, lipoxygenase, and a wealth of opportunity.


 

That year, there are no aphids or at least only a few. Under that scenario you cannot tell the resistant plants from the susceptible plants. But in the lab, the markers associated with aphid resistance are always expressed. Many breeding programs use this technology quite routinely to select for SCN resistance. At the conference, reports on the identification of more than 40,000 individual markers covering most of the entire soybean genome were reported. This will allow breeders to use markers to select for many more traits than is currently possible.

Several new approaches were discussed in terms of disease and insect management. The use of wild soybeans as sources of novel resistant genes for aphids, soybean cyst nematode and Asian rust was discussed. Several new genes or alleles for aphid resistance were reported, broadening the arsenal to battle this pest. The inheritance of soybean aphid resistance in PI 243540 was characterized and it was determined that the resistance in this PI was controlled by a single dominant gene. This gene was molecularly mapped on soybean molecular linkage group F with flanking SSR markers and this gene was named Rag2. Rag2 provides resistance against both Ohio and Illinois biotypes of soybean aphids. In Ontario we have both biotypes and so this source of resistance may prove invaluable.  New sources of resistance were reported for several other pests of soybean as well, including SCN and soybean rust.

The end-use of soybeans also received considerable attention, including presentations on soybean protein, isoflavones, tocopherols, sphingolipids, lipoxygenase nulls, edamame and many others. As well, many presentations were made on industrial uses of soybeans for lubricants, polyols, composites, biofuels, etc. It seems like the uses for soybeans just keep on growing.   

Overall it was a great conference and there was time for a bit of sightseeing, as well. I am pleased to report that the World Soybean Research Conference IX will be held in Durban, South Africa in 2013.


*Dr. Gary Ablett is an associate professor of soybean breeding and genetics at the University of Guelph’s Ridgetown College.  We are grateful he offered Top Crop Manager this exclusive report on the eighth World Soybean Research Conference, held in Beijing, China, in
August 2009.


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