Soy natural: Genetic resistance against aphids

August 29, 2018

A tiny pest can cause huge losses to soybean farmers.

Several top soybean producing states in the U.S. are in the Upper Midwest. In these states, an insect-the soybean aphid-is a damaging pest. Each year, soybean aphids cause billions of dollars in crop losses.

In a recent study, researchers have taken a big step toward identifying new soybean genes associated with aphid resistance.

"Discovering new resistance genes will help develop soybean varieties with more robust aphid resistance," says lead author Aaron Lorenz. "There are very few commercially-available varieties of soybean with aphid resistance genes. Newly-identified genes can serve as backup sources of resistance if the ones currently used are no longer useful." Lorenz is an agronomist and plant geneticist at the University of Minnesota.

Currently, insecticides are used to control aphid populations to reduce damage. But aphid populations that are resistant to widely-used insecticides have been found. Environmental issues with insecticide use can also be a concern. These issues may limit insecticide use in the future.

Using soybean varieties that are naturally resistant to aphids is an alternative to using insecticides. "But the soybean aphid is a genetically diverse species. It is capable of quickly overcoming plant resistance," says Lorenz. "So we need to identify new sources of soybean aphid resistance."

To find previously unknown aphid resistance genes, researchers used already-published research. Thousands of varieties of soybean have been tested for aphid resistance. Genetic information also exists for many of these soybean varieties.

Lorenz and colleagues combined data on existing aphid resistance and genetics. "Our goal was to find which parts of the soybean genome contain genes related to aphid resistance," says Lorenz.

To do so, the researchers scanned the soybean genome for small genetic landmarks, called SNPs (pronounced "snips"). Then they tested if any of these landmarks were present more often in soybean varieties that are resistant to aphids. If so, "we can infer that a gene associated with aphid resistance may be near that landmark," says Lorenz.

Researchers have to be careful, though. "There are many reasons-beyond physical proximity-that could cause these associations," says Lorenz. "We build statistical models to account for the other reasons."

Lorenz and colleagues found several genetic landmarks that were more common in aphid-resistant soybean varieties. Some of these landmarks were in genetic regions near aphid resistance genes. But many others were in genetic regions not previously associated with aphid resistance.

That's exciting, says Lorenz. "These results can help guide researchers toward discovering new aphid resistance genes. That could be key for developing new aphid-resistant varieties of soybean."

Also encouraging is that the researchers found genetic landmarks associated with aphid resistance in several different soybean varieties. "That means a broad range of genetic backgrounds can be used for breeding purposes," says Lorenz.

There is still work to do, though. Ultimately, multiple resistance genes can be bred into single soybean varieties. These varieties will then have highly robust resistance to aphids.

"I think resistance to aphids will become increasingly important to maintain soybean production," says Lorenz. "Soybean farmers should know about them. Demanding soybean aphid resistance in the varieties they use will help their development and availability."

Read more about this research in The Plant Genome. Funding for this research was provided by Minnesota Department of Agriculture, Minnesota Soybean Research and Promotion Council, and Minnesota Invasive Terrestrial Plants and Pests Center.
-end-


American Society of Agronomy

Related Soybean Articles from Brightsurf:

Isoflavones in soybean help protect pigs against viral infections
Pigs that eat soybean as a regular part of their diet may be better protected against viral pathogens, a new study from University of Illinois shows.

Soybean seeding rates and risk
Broad study helps define optimal soybean seeding rates in North America.

Researchers find significant economic losses due to soybean diseases
Economic losses due to soybean diseases in the United States from 1996 to 2016 amounted to more than $95 billion, according to a team of researchers in Penn State's College of Agricultural Sciences who examined the long-term impact of soybean diseases on production in the U.S.

Soybean Innovation Lab provides knowledge that assists soybean production in Africa
The Soybean Innovation Lab (SIL), housed in the College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences at the University of Illinois, is funded by USAID's Feed the Future initiative to help bring research-based innovation and technology to develop soybean production in Sub-Saharan Africa.

Fungus application thwarts major soybean pest, study finds
The soybean cyst nematode sucks the nutrients out of soybean roots, causing more than $1 billion in soybean yield losses in the U.S. each year.

Organic soybean producers can be competitive using little or no tillage
Organic soybean producers using no-till and reduced-tillage production methods that incorporate cover crops -- strategies that protect soil health and water quality -- can achieve similar yields at competitive costs compared to tillage-based production.

Genes controlling mycorrhizal colonization discovered in soybean
Like most plants, soybeans pair up with soil fungi in a symbiotic mycorrhizal relationship.

Complete genome of devastating soybean pathogen assembled
An international research collaboration has successfully assembled the complete genome sequence of the pathogen that causes the devastating disease Asian soybean rust.

Chinese scientists update soybean genome to a golden reference
Soybean is one of the most important crops worldwide. A high-quality reference genome will facilitate its functional analysis and molecular breeding.

Illinois study identifies a key to soybean cyst nematode growth
The soybean cyst nematode, one of the crop's most destructive pests, isn't like most of its wormy relatives.

Read More: Soybean News and Soybean Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.