A Better Soybean From Tennessee

 Dr. Vince Pantalone, project leader for the University of Tennessee’s Soybean
 Breeding and Genetics program, speaks about some recently developed 
 soybean varieties that are very good production varieties for farmers.  

 Photo by John LaRose, Jr.

Breeder Works With Grad Students To Rid Trans Fats In Soybean

MidAmerica Farmer Grower

   Genetics are being used not only to develop new lines of soybean, but also to improve yield, seed composition traits and disease resistance, according to Dr. Vince Pantalone, project leader for the University of Tennessee’s Soybean Breeding and Genetics program.
   Pantalone spoke recently at the Milan No-Till Field Day about some of the UT soybeans that were developed recently that are very good production varieties for farmers. He also discussed the graduate student research that’s ongoing to find ways to improve the genetics for higher yield, seed composition traits and disease resistance.
   “Our newest variety is called Ellis and it’s a conventional variety, it’s a 4.9 in maturity, and it has resistance to stem canker,” he began. “It also has excellent resistance to southern root knot nematode and frogeye leaf spot that we’ve seen in the fields. It came from a cross of two varieties we produced in Tennessee, 5601T and 5002T. The remarkable thing about Ellis is that in the past three years it has been the number one yielding variety in many tests, including the Tennessee State Variety Test, the Arkansas State Variety Test, the Tennessee Kentucky County Test, the USDA Southern Uniform Test, the UniSouth Genetics Test and others.”
   In the Arkansas State Variety test all soybean technology traits are tested together. The 2014 the late Group IV soybean test included Ellis among 72 varieties of  Roundup Ready®, Liberty Link®, or conventional soybeans. Ellis variety was number one for yield. Even though it’s conventional, it beat the best Roundup Ready2® yield, and the best Liberty Link, showing that it has the strong genetic background that produces high yield.
   “So we can work with commercial companies to add a particular technology trait to it,” Pantalone continued. “We’re already working on developing the Roundup Ready® version of Ellis. We’ve completed five cycles of crossing to capture the high yielding genome of Ellis. We have that material here for its first year of field trials at Milan, so we hope to get the Roundup Ready® version of Ellis out in the next couple of years. With the 2015 expiration of the gene patent, the seed costs should be lower in our new glyphosate herbicide resistant Ellis variety.”
   Pantalone also has a new variety offered by UniSouth Genetics, called USG 75T40; it’s a Group V, it has excellent resistance to SCN Race 2, and it’s very difficult to breed resistance against that race of nematodes into seed.
   “This material was in the Tennessee State Variety Test in 2014 and it’s actually a blend of two highly related sister lines,” he said. “One of those lines was number one in the variety trials, the other was number three in the variety trials. We have seedstock being produced this year to be offered to farmers next year. I should mention that new variety has a strong resistance to sudden death syndrome. In the variety trials the sudden death syndrome disease index score in this material was 10 times lower than the commercial average.”
   This location at Milan is notorious for heavy pressure of SDS. Some years are worse than others.
   “When we had our seedstock increase in 2014 at this station, the varieties in the state variety test that were susceptible to SDS really got terribly diseased. The leaves fell off, all you saw was petioles and stems, and it definitely destroyed the yield. So we looked at our two seed increases of this USG 75T40, and they were remarkably clean and free from disease and we had excellent yields produced from them.”
   Pantalone next discussed the need to improve protein in soybean while maintaining seed health. Soybean protein is under tremendous demand worldwide. It’s the most commonly used protein. It’s a source of feed for chickens and hogs worldwide. The problem is when you increase protein you’re going to reduce the seed oil, and you’re going to reduce yield.
   “We are working with a variety out of Korea that’s called Danbaekkong, which was bred for the tofu market,” he said. “It happens to have a particular gene on chromosome number 20 and we have crossed that material with a Tennessee line and developeds what are called near isogenic lines. These lines are genetically the same one to another with the exception of that particular chromosome 20 region. So one of my graduate students, Mia Cunicelli, has that material in three field Research and Education Centers (East Tennessee, Highland Rim, and Milan) in Tennessee and we are testing the hypothesis that if we have the positive form of that gene we’re probably going to increase protein without changing the oil or seed yield and that’s what we hope to find.
   “In another project, a graduate student of mine, Alison Willette, is working on the oil side of the equation of soybeans, She is looking at trying to increase the oleic acid composition and lower the linolenic acid composition of the oil, to improve soybean oil that is used domestically in the food industry. Soybean is a very prominent oil. But soybean oil has to be hydrogenated because it contains linolenic acid. And when you hydrogenate you create partially hydrogenated oils and the chemistry changes so part of that becomes trans fats.”
   In 2006 the Food and Drug Administration created a mandate that food labels must now include trans fats as part of the food label and that created a lot of competition in the food industry. As a consequence, about 5 billion pounds of soybean oil was lost domestically within the first six years, much of that replaced with heart unhealthy imported Indonesian palm oil. This past year in 2015, the FDA came out with a final ruling that now says partially hydrogenated oils are no longer considered safe in the U.S. food supply. You can’t buy them, you can’t sell them, you can’t put them in food ingredients. They’re giving companies two more years to comply until 2018. 
   “So, in response, we are creating high oleic soybeans, low linolenic soybeans that will not need any hydrogenation, they’ll be oxidatively stable; and we will create the equivalent of extra virgin olive oil in a domestic crop,” Pantalone said. This can meet the food processors need. It’s going to take some breeding effort, it’s going to require four recessive genes.
   “So far, we’ve shown that two genes will create oleic acid that’s four times the normal level, so it’s 80 percent oleic acid,” he explained. “That has not been seen before in natural mutations. That level is equivalent to oil produced from the DuPont trans gene where they genetically engineered the construct to make high oleic acid.
   “We’re real excited about all of our projects. Our take-home message is that what we do in our soybean breeding and genetics program is basic and applied research that gives us new knowledge,” Pantalone said. “We take that new knowledge and apply it to find ways to improve seed yield for farmers, find ways to improve resistance to diseases to maintain and support that seed yield; and to understand seed protein and amino acid traits, oil, and oil quality traits, so that we can make a soybean that has better value for the processor, better value for the industry, and improve farmers’ livelihood by maintaining the high demand for soybean." ∆
   BETTY VALLE GEGG-NAEGER: Senior Staff Writer, MidAmerica Farmer Grower

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