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Study Works Towards Rust-resistant Soybeans

A study of molecular changes that occur in a plant infected by soybean rust could lead to a broadly resistant variety.

Researchers at Iowa State University say that information revealed in their extensive analysis of molecular changes that occur in a plant infected by soybean rust could lead to a soybean variety with broad-spectrum resistance.

The three-year study took place in Brazil, where Asian soybean rust is endemic. Researchers profiled the gene expression of over 30,000 genes in each sample.

The two soybean varieties studied responded immediately to the fungus in their gene expression activity. Then, after a lull for about two days, activity increased again as the plants launched a second attack. That second wave appears to have been a real resistance response, the scientists say, and it has helped them narrow their list of "genes of interest" to only a few hundred.

A new resistant variety is still years down the road. "It's not something that can be solved overnight, but it will work out," says ISU plant pathologist Thomas Baum. "You have to put in the time, resources and manpower to get a grip on the biology. And then you can start doing other approaches to control the disease. But first we need to understand what we're trying to control."

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