New study suggests strategic changes in soybean testing

USAgNet - 04/12/2024

Researchers at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign have released a groundbreaking study indicating that traditional soybean testing sites may not be as effective as previously thought. Led by Nicolas Martin and doctoral student Catherine Gilbert, the study highlights the potential benefits of relocating soybean test sites to better represent diverse environmental conditions.

Traditionally, soybean breeders have set up trials near major research institutions for convenience. The Illinois team's analysis of climate data suggests that these locations may not offer the best insight into how soybeans will perform across various growing conditions. By creating two new maps—one focusing on generalist phenotypes and another on specialized phenotypes—the researchers aim to guide breeders in selecting sites that better mimic the environments encountered by most soybean farmers.

The study proposes expanding testing in regions like southern Minnesota, Iowa, and eastern South Dakota for general adaptation. For specialized conditions, additional sites in Nebraska and South Dakota are recommended. These changes could significantly affect how new soybean varieties are developed and tested, potentially leading to crops that are more resilient to environmental stresses.

The findings, which have been well received by the breeding community, could lead to major changes in how and where soybean cultivars are tested, ensuring that breeders can select the best-performing varieties more accurately. This proactive approach to cultivar development is seen as essential for adapting to a rapidly changing climate and ensuring the sustainability of soybean production.

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