Studying wild soybeans

Plant breeding has a long history as an effort to produce plants with certain characteristics. Soybean researchers work with soybean genes to improve yield, composition and resistance to pests. But rather than considering today’s varieties, a new study is looking at genes from wild soybeans. These lines have been growing in China for thousands of year and may hold valuable traits.

U.S. Department of Agriculture Soybean Research Geneticist Tommy Carter said, “New technology is helping us as plant breeders, and it’s very important that we’re smart in using that. But we don’t want to ignore all those genes that Mother Nature has been storing up for hundreds of thousands of years. The genes from the wild soybeans are at our fingertips, so why won’t we go ahead and take advantage of that? These wild genes that are very unique and you’d never think to look for in the laboratory.”

Learn more in this video from the United Soybean Board.

Classroom application: Your students can learn about genetic engineering with this lesson “How did they get that gene in there?”. Hands-on activities illustrate concepts which scaffold student understanding for lab activities especially focused on the use of bacteria.

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