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Articles from 1999 In June

Corn+Soybean Digest

Teamwork Tackles Biotech

Believing that indeed two heads are better than one, the United Soybean Board (USB) took the idea a step further to create the Soybean Tissue Culture and Genetic Engineering Center. The center includes scientists from the University of Kentucky, the University of Georgia, the University of Illinois and Ohio State University.

The four university soybean tissue culture-transformation laboratories were brought together to develop efficient genetic engineering systems to be shared with other university and private company soybean scientists. The center has been successful in improving soybean tissue culture and transformation efficiency and in establishing uniformly applicable protocols.

The center developed improved tissue culture and transformation protocols that have shortened the time required and improved the efficiency of moving useful foreign genes into soybeans. It has also patented two technologies. The center is ready to make the systems for gene transfer into soybeans available to U.S. soybean scientists through an application procedure with USB. Its protocols are updated regularly on its Web site (

(Glenn Collins, University of Kentucky)

Corn+Soybean Digest

Cut White Mold Losses

Managing sclerotinia stem rot, or white mold, takes more than just the right variety, tillage system, rotation or even the right weather. It takes all four.

So say researchers studying the potential for lowering white mold losses by variety selection, crop rotation and tillage.

Three Wisconsin plot sites, Sharon, Janesville and Waunakee, were moldboard plowed, chisel plowed or no-tilled. Subplots were planted to: 1) continuous soybeans, 2) a one-year planting of a non-host crop followed by two years of soybeans, 3) a three-year rotation of soybeans/non-host crop/soybeans and 4) a non-host/non-host/soybean rotation.

Three varieties were planted within those subplots: the moderately resistant Novartis S19-90, the moderately susceptible BSR101 and Sturdy, a susceptible variety.

In the third year, rainfall during the growing season was above normal in Waunakee, near normal at Janesville and below normal at Sharon. No white mold was observed at Sharon, resulting in the highest yields, 55 bu/acre. But rainfall timing and amount favored white mold development at the other two sites. Yields were 32 bu/acre at Waunakee and 46 bu/acre at Janesville.

Variety selection was the most important management factor influencing crop yield and white mold incidence. S19-90 produced the highest yield, at 43 bu/acre, while sustaining the lowest white mold infestation of 14%. Both BSR101 and Sturdy yielded 37 bu/acre and sustained an average disease incidence of 62%.

No-till plots produced the highest yield, at 41 bu/acre and 30% disease severity. Moldboard-plowed beans gave the lowest yields and sustained the most severe disease (36 bu/acre and 58%).

Differing plant populations and canopy density among tillage systems affected disease severity. Moldboard-plowing resulted in significantly higher plant populations (172,000 ppa) than did no-till (145,000 ppa). Greater plant populations and canopy density favored disease development.

Yields and disease severity of the susceptible variety, Sturdy, were highly variable compared to the more resistant variety, S19-90. Averaged over crop sequences, S19-90's yield was 49 bu/acre; its disease severity, 11%.

(J.E. Kurle, University of Minnesota; C.R. Grau and E.S. Oplinger, University of Wisconsin)

Corn+Soybean Digest

Processing & Utilization

Within the next 20 years world population is expected to reach eight billion - up from about six billion today. An ever-increasing population - and the need to boost prices - pushes researchers, processors and others to find new uses for soybeans.

The potential for this "miracle crop" is immense. Soybeans and their derivatives already provide everything from building materials to livestock feed and protein-rich foods for human consumption, and other new products are on the horizon.

One of the newest soy uses will perhaps present the biggest market opportunity yet - nutraceuticals. Simply put, these are foods, or their ingredients, that provide medicinal benefits.

"Natural food shoppers have always been aware of this connection and the importance of 'pharmafoods,' " says Peter Golbitz, president of Soyatech, Inc., publisher of the Soya & Oilseed Bluebook.

"Mainstream consumers are just now becoming aware of this, as more mainstream food companies introduce these new 'functional' foods," Golbitz notes.

Martin Andreas, senior vice president at Archer Daniels Midland, agrees: "The 'miracle bean' will in many cases come to be looked upon as a source of medicine," he says.

Soybeans are often talked about in terms of their protein and oil content. But they also have other useful components - lecithin, glycerol and sterols, to name a few.

"Additional steps will be taken in soy processing to break out more components of the soybean," Andreas predicts.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Breaking The Yield Barrier

As recently as the late 1960s, scientists believed that soybean yields maxed out at around 70 bu/acre. They had to adjust their thinking when yield contest winners started to log yields up to 100 bu/acre.

High-yielding producer plots convinced university researchers they needed to start their own maximum yield trials. Lodging proved to be an initial yield barrier, which led to the development of semidwarf varieties and shorter, more lodge-resistant, indeterminate varieties.

Row spacing and seeding-rate trials increased yields as well. "Consistent yield increases of 20% were obtained when the row spacing was reduced from 75 cm (30") to 17 cm (7") and the seeding rate adjusted to prevent lodging," says Ohio State University's Dick Cooper. "At lower yields the yield response to narrow rows is smaller and less consistent. Testing in a maximum yield environment revealed the potential for solid-seeding to increase soybean yields."

That's the real value of maximum yield research, says Cooper. "It permits the identification of yield-limiting factors that may be masked by other yield-limiting factors in traditional experiments conducted at lower yield levels," he says.

(Richard Cooper, Ohio State University)

Corn+Soybean Digest

Genetic Improvement

Standing at the threshold of the 21st century, soybean breeders have a clear and unlimited view. Researchers worldwide continue to look for genetic answers to yield inhibitors of climate, disease and insects. There is much work yet to be done. And, fortunately, there's plenty of genetic material to do it with.

Countries will continue to look to the U.S. for breeding materials that can build their yields through disease resistance and increased production. But other countries have an ample supply of genetic stock to offer as well - particularly China.

Soybeans are native to China. In the National Gene Bank there, scientists have collected more than 23,000 soybean accessions, or genetically distinct populations. Among those varieties are soybeans that have high levels of the amino acids methionine and cystine, resistance to drought and resistance to diseases. At least 50 of them have shown immunity or resistance to different races of soybean cyst nematode (SCN).

"A new yield barrier, discovered in 1998, will be discussed that has the potential for having an impact on future soybean yields similar to the discovery of the lodging barrier in 1967," says Ohio State University's Dick Cooper.

American scientists continue their search for higher yields as well, and will discuss their findings at the Global Soy Forum.

The demand for more soybean varieties with more traits in the 21st century will be answered, in part, with new developments in biotechnology. As this new science becomes more sophisticated, and its products accepted more widely, potential for new soybean products becomes almost unlimited. New research has scientists ever closer to understanding the gene makeup of soybeans and how each gene affects the ultimate productivity of the plant.

Each innovation is a step closer to "designer" varieties, created through biotechnology, that allow plants to flourish where climate, soil types, disease or insects once limited production.

Corn+Soybean Digest

Hike Specialty Soybean Yields

Plant population and row spacing are important factors for improving yields of specialty soybean varieties, according to University of Nebraska researchers.

In a four-year study, they compared production practices for large- and small-seeded soybeans, most of which are grown under contract and exported to Japan for food uses. Four large-seeded and three small-seeded varieties were grown in 10" and 30" rows at 75,000,150,000 and 225,000 seeds/acre.

The large- and small-seeded varieties averaged 18.5% and 27.6% less yield, respectively, than conventional varieties used as checks. Soybeans grown in 10" rows outyielded 30"-row beans by an average 7.2 bu/acre.

Yield gains from higher seeding rates were less consistent. Increasing seeding rates from 75,000 to 150,000 seeds/acre raised yields in two of the four years, and 225,000 seeds/acre outyielded 150,000 seeds/acre only one out of the four years.

Increasing seeding rates from 75,000 to 150,000 seeds/acre increased the average seed weight all four years. But in no case did the weight change enough to disqualify seed from its size category.

(George Hoffmeister Jr. and Roger Elmore, University of Nebraska)

Corn+Soybean Digest

Narrow Rows Don't Always Pay

Although narrow rows and high plant populations brought significant yield gains in several Midwestern states (see above), Iowa State University researchers were unable to duplicate those results.

In three years of research at five locations, no consistent yield response was reported from narrow rows or established stands of more than 160,000 plants per acre.

Adapted, high-yielding varieties were planted in 7.5" or 10" rows with a no-till drill, and in 30" rows with a planter.

"We could find one location one year that showed a yield response to narrow rows, but another location showed a better response to wide rows," reports agronomist Keith Whigham. "And when we averaged across locations and years, we saw no difference."

He figures differences in weather, intensity of soybean production and other factors may explain why he and his colleagues weren't able to duplicate the narrow-row yield gains reported in other Midwestern states.

"If a farmer tells me he can do better with narrow rows, there's no doubt he probably can," says Whigham. "But that doesn't mean he can afford to buy a new planter to change row spacing. I get the question every year, 'If I buy a new drill for narrow rows, can I pay for it with the extra yield?' I have to tell them no, they better have another reason to buy the drill."

The Iowans also compared five seeding rates within the narrow and wide row widths, with the goal of establishing 80,000, 120,000, 160,000, 200,000 or 240,000 plants/acre. Higher seeding rates didn't produce higher yields. So they recommend that growers aim for established stands of 150,000-170,000 plants/acre to optimize yield potential vs. seed cost.

In three years of planting-date comparisons, they planted varieties with a range of relative maturities at six planting dates from late April to mid-July. They found that late April to mid-May plantings usually yielded best, with yields declining sharply with later plantings.

(John Lundvall, Keith Whigham and Dale Farnham, Iowa State University)

Corn+Soybean Digest

New Phytophthora Root Rot Resistance Discovered

New genes resistant to phytophthora root rot (PRR) have been identified by Ohio researchers.

In the past, single-dominant resistance genes (Rps) have successfully managed the disease. But in Ohio, the soilborne, yield-robbing disease has been known to defeat Rps genes, says Anne Dorrance, an Ohio State University plant pathologist.

"We've actually received many calls over the years where soybean fields that have Rps-1k, the most recently utilized of all the Rps genes, have had a lot of phytophthora root rot damage," Dorrance says.

At least 10% of Ohio's soybean fields had to be replanted in 1997, a wet year, she adds, because the disease can defeat Rps genes. Single-dominant resistant genes only have a useful life of eight to 15 years. That's because the phytophthora organism can adapt and develop new ways to survive, Dorrance explains.

In the study, Dorrance and other researchers evaluated over 1,000 soybean plant introductions for phytophthora root rot resistance. Of those, 120 were resistant to Race 7, 17, 25, 31 and an undesignated race. Further screening is in progress with race 28 and 33 strains.

The earliest that growers might see varieties with the new phytophthora resistance will be six to eight years from now, Dorrance estimates.

(A.F. Schmitthenner, A.E. Dorrance, et al, Ohio State University)

Corn+Soybean Digest

Computers Are Effective At Nutrition Education

Computers can be a cost-effective way to deliver information about the benefits of soy consumption in elderly populations around the world.

Although elderly consumers are health-conscious, many are unfamiliar with soy products that may benefit them, say University of Illinois researchers. They theorized that education would affect familiarity with, attitudes toward, taste perception of, and selection of soy foods.

They focused on a small group of elderly who demonstrated their ability to use an Internet-based computer program. This group used an interactive computer program to learn about soy foods and their health benefits. A second group got its information through a traditional lecture.

Subjects age 55+ completed surveys before and after the educational efforts. Beforehand, the elderly consumed soy slightly less than once per week. They didn't have strong opinions about the taste of soy. They felt that soy was healthy, but didn't link the health benefits with cancer or heart disease prevention.

Both approaches significantly increased the connection between soy and reductions in the risk of cancer and heart disease. Those in the computer group were more affected.

The computer program was superior at increasing familiarity with and improving attitudes toward soy products. Traditional lectures were better at enhancing the taste perception of soy.

(James Painter, Barbara Klein and Robert Reber, University of Illinois)