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News 1558 views last update:14 Jan 2016

Salt tolerant genes in soybeans found

A collaborative research project between Australian and Chinese scientists has shown how soybean can be bred to better tolerate soil salinity, Sciencedaily reports.

The 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 soybean that has great potential for soybean crop improvement.

"Soybean is the fifth largest crop in the world in terms of both crop area planted and amount harvested," says the project's lead, University of Adelaide researcher Associate Professor Matthew Gilliham. "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."

Professor Lijuan Qiu and Dr Rongxia Guan at the Institute of Crop Sciences pinpointed a candidate salt tolerance gene after examining the genetic sequence of several hundred soybean varieties. Researchers at the ARC Centre of Excellence in Plant Energy Biology at the University of Adelaide's Waite campus then investigated the function of this gene. "We initially identified the gene by comparing two commercial cultivars," says 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.

By identifying the gene, genetic markers can now be used in breeding programmes to ensure that salt tolerance can be maintained in future cultivars of soybean that will be grown in areas prone to soil salinity.

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