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By Emily Thompson U of A System Division of AgricultureOct. 12, 2018
(408 words)(Download this story in MS Word format here.)
LITTLE ROCK— Recent research conducted by University of Arkansas System Division of
Agriculture researchers has found genetic markers in soybeans that could help improve
“Drought causes tremendous variability in soybean yield from year to year,” said Avjinder
Kaler, post doctoral associate with the Division of Agriculture, the Dale Bumpers
College of Agricultural, Food and Life Sciences and the Department of Crop, Soil and
Environmental Sciences. “Every year, drought impacts soybean yield in some part of
Kaler is working with Dr. Larry Purcell who is the lead scientist on this large regional
project funded by the United Soybean Board. Purcell is the Altheimer Chair for soybean
research with the Division of Agriculture.
Soybean is one of the most widely grown crops in the world. Soybean production had
over a $1.4 million economic impact in Arkansas in 2016, according to the 2017 Arkansas
Agriculture Profile. Drought stress can lead to potential soybean yield loss in rain-fed
areas. This variation in soybean yields due to drought is projected to get worse with
global climate change.
“The goal of our research is to improve the drought tolerance in soybean using genomic
and physiological mechanisms,” Kaler said.
The study, Genome-wide association mapping of canopy wilting in diverse soybean genotypes, used association mapping to locate alleles associated with slow canopy wilting.
Slow canopy wilting is a trait that has been directly related to yield improvement
under drought conditions.
Slow canopy wilting also has a high heritability and is a relatively inexpensive trait
for drought tolerance, Kaler said.
Kaler said the alleles he has identified in his research associated with slow canopy
wilting can help improve soybean drought tolerance by transferring those alleles to
high-yielding, drought-sensitive cultivars using non-transgenic breeding methods.
The breeding process is accelerated because molecular markers are used to identify
the favorable alleles during the breeding process. The first crosses to move the slow-wilting
alleles to a high-yield line were initiated this summer.
Kaler’s began this research in 2013 for his PhD dissertation project. In addition
to Dr. Kaler and Dr. Purcell, other investigators in the study include Jeffery Ray,
USDA research geneticist; Jason Gillman, USDA research geneticist; Rusty Smith, USDA
soybean breeder; Hussein Abdel-Haleem, USDA research geneticist; Felix Fritschi, University
of Missouri crop scientist; William Schapaugh, soybean breeder at Kansas State University;
Andy King, program director for Crop, Soil and Environmental Sciences at the University
For more information about soybeans and drought tolerance, visit, https://www.uaex.uada.edu/environment-nature/disaster/drought-resource-center.aspx.
About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen
agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption
of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative
Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work
within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas
System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension
and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex,
gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital
or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and
is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.
# # #
Media Contact: Mary HightowerDir. of Communication ServicesU of A System Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service(501) email@example.com