Seed World

Can Weather Predict Soybean Traits? Liza Van der Laan Thinks So


Liza Van der Laan works on breeding high yield-high protein soybeans and using machine learning methods to understand how weather affects these traits and can be used to predict these traits. She’s a Ph.D student at Iowa State University and is a member of the Soynomics Research and Breeding Group.

She sat down with Marc Zienkiewicz in Ames, Iowa, last month at the National Association of Plant Breeders annual meeting to discuss her work, which also centers around developing tools to breed more climate-resilient soybeans, specifically to heat stress.

“We are trying to see if there are certain weather variables that really seem to be controlling the outcome at the end of the season. Are there certain weather parameters that are more important in other weeks of development than there are other times?” she says. “We have harvest dates, so we theoretically know approximately what stage the plant should be in. So it could be say, at 10 weeks after planting, the rainfall was very important for protein yield. We’re really trying to see what the parameters are that could potentially be affecting that.”

Van der Laan is also an active student in the Department of Agronomy at ISU, holding a leadership position in the Agronomy Graduate Student Club. Additionally, she has been on the planning committee multiple times for the RF Baker Plant Breeding Symposium.