Seed World

New Soybean a Reality

Ram Singh - research geneticist (USDA - Agricultural Research Service) Soybean research - crosses wild soybeans to create resistant variety to multiple pests, etc.

It took decades of painstaking work, but University of Illinois research geneticist Ram Singh has managed to cross a popular soybean variety with a related wild perennial plant, producing the first fertile soybean plants that are resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode and other pathogens.
Singh works in the Soybean/Maize Germplasm, Pathology and Genetics Research unit in the department of crop sciences at the University of Illinois. The unit is a division of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agricultural Research program. His effort to introduce the desirable attributes of wild, perennial Glycine species into soybean plants began at the university in 1983 and followed a path that involved thousands of experiments, the development of a hormone treatment that “rescued” immature hybrid seeds from sterility, and multiple backcrosses of hybrid plants with their “recurrent parent,” Dwight.
Singh’s collaborator, Randall Nelson, the research leader of the ARS soybean/maize research unit, plants seeds from Singh’s most promising experiments, grows the plants and distributes their seeds to other scientists, who screen them for desirable traits and conduct their own breeding experiments.
This work appears in the journal Theoretical and Applied Genetics.
So far, the effort has yielded plants that are resistant to soybean rust, soybean cyst nematode or Phytophthora root rot. Some of the new plants produce more soybeans per plant than Dwight, and some have higher protein content than Dwight.
The research means soybean breeders now have access to dozens of new soybean lineages, each with some of the traits of the wild Australian plants, and the research continues.
The Illinois Soybean Association, the Soybean Disease Biotechnology Center at the University of Illinois and the United Soybean Board provided partial funding for this work.
For details about the process and experiments, visit