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Salt Tolerance Genes Discovered in Soybeans

First Posted: Jan 09, 2015 11:19 PM EST
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Researchers at the University of Adelaide in Australia and the Institute of Crop Sciences in the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing have identified a specific gene in soybeans that may carry the potential for soybean crop improvement.

"Soybean is the fifth largest crop in the world in terms of both crop area planted and amount harvested," said lead researcher University of Adelaide Associate Professor Matthew Gilliham, in a news release. "But many commercial crops are sensitive to soil salinity and this can cause major losses to crop yields.

"On top of that, the area of salt-affected agricultural land is rapidly increasing and is predicted to double in the next 35 years. The identification of genes that improve crop salt tolerance will be essential to our efforts to improve global food security."

For the study, researchers pinpointed a candidate for salt tolerance gene after examining the genetic sequence of several hundred soybean varieties.

"We initially identified the gene by comparing two commercial cultivars," added Professor Qiu. "We were surprised and pleased to see that this gene also conferred salt tolerance in some other commercial cultivars, old domesticated soybean varieties and even wild soybean.

"It appears that this gene was lost when breeding new cultivars of soybean in areas without salinity. This has left many new cultivars susceptible to the rapid increases we are currently seeing in soil salinity around the world."

By examining the gene, genetic markers can be used in breeding programs that work to ensure that salt tolerance is maintained in future cultivars of soybean that will be grown in areas that are prone to soil salinity.

More information regarding the findings can be seen via Plant Journal

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