Two drought-tolerant soybean traits that perform well in U.S. soybean varieties under moderate drought and normal conditions have been identified through United Soybean Board and checkoff-funded research.
According to Larry Purcell, University of Arkansas professor and soybean researcher, previous research into drought-tolerant plants has tended to produce the same result: drought-tolerant plants grow better than most plants during drought conditions, but they grow poorly under optimal growing conditions.
“For the two traits we have worked with, we have sidestepped this problem,” Purcell notes. “This is a significant project that has produced many important discoveries for finding soybeans with agronomic advantages under moderate drought conditions.”
Purcell says one of the traits allows the soybean plant to continue to accumulate nitrogen during moderate drought conditions while the other allows the plant to conserve water before the onset of a drought, which delays wilt when the weather turns dry. Packaging these two traits in the same variety could be one of the more significant advances in drought-tolerant soybean research.
According to Ken Bartlett, a soybean producer from La Grange, N.C., who has experienced low yields due to drought conditions for the past three years, these traits represent a hopeful development.
“We have very light, sandy soil here on the southern East Coast,” Bartlett notes, a member of USB's production research program. “We will benefit from this research every year, even in the presence of good rainfall, because the water won’t stand in this soil. This research will bring huge benefits to southeastern soybean farmers.”
The two traits are now available to public and private soybean breeders; Purcell has already received strong interest.
USB will continue to support this project as the team continues to look for the optimal combination of traits for new U.S. soybean varieties that perform even better during drought conditions. “USB has been willing to provide long-term support, which has been very important as we’ve continued to build on past successes,” Purcell adds.