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Corn+Soybean Digest

Gene Markers Help Develop better U.S. Soybeans

Soybean researchers now have more genetic information that could assist in the creation of higher quality soybeans for U.S. farmers. Monsanto Company has announced its intent to release approximately 200 simple-sequence-repeat (SSR) markers to the checkoff-funded Better Bean Initiative (BBI). The markers were jointly-developed by Monsanto and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS) and will be released into the public sector through the BBI's Technology Utilization Center (TUC).

"USB established the TUC to serve as a virtual center to access, combine and provide new traits for commodity soybeans," says USB Production Chair Jim Sallstrom, a soybean farmer from Winthrop, MN. "The TUC brings together the public and private sectors to achieve the BBI goals of improving the protein and oil content of U.S. soybeans. Improving the quality of U.S. soybeans is essential to our competitiveness."

Scientists use genetic markers as a flag to identify a specific trait of interest on a chromosome. By flagging the desired trait, scientists can breed plants more efficiently and accurately.

"These markers should cut costs and shorten the timeline for development of higher quality varieties for U.S. farmers," says Rich Wilson, USDA-ARS National Program Leader for Oilseed Research and former BBI research leader. "Hopefully, as we continue this research, more information like the SSR markers will become publicly available."

"Monsanto has been a valuable partner with the soybean checkoff through their contributions in support of the BBI," says USB Vice Chairman David Durham, a soybean farmer from Hardin, MO, and Chair of USB's BBI Advisory Panel. "This is a good example of how U.S. soybean farmers, through their checkoff, are working with the public and private sector to improve U.S. soybeans and build their competitive advantage."

This is the third contribution from Monsanto to the checkoff-funded BBI. Last summer, Monsanto contributed a SSR marker for a trait that helps select soybeans with low saturated fat content and a library of BAC-end gene sequences that may span the entire soybean genome. Both of these genetic tools also provide plant breeders with a means to accelerate the development of soybean seed with enhanced seed composition.

"The public release of these 200 SSR markers is another example of Monsanto's commitment to bring new value to U.S. soybean farmers," says Monsanto's Director of Soybean Quality Traits Joe Byrum. "Providing BBI researchers with this important and valuable information, the markers will benefit the BBI and, ultimately, U.S. soybean farmers."

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