Global Agriculture

Chinese Scientists Develop Gene-Edited Soybean Lines to Boost Yield and Protein

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17 May 2024, China: Researchers in China have made a significant breakthrough in soybean breeding, utilizing gene editing technology to develop new soybean lines with improved yield and protein content. Soybeans are a critical crop, serving as the world’s leading source of plant protein for both food and animal feed, as well as the second-largest source of vegetable oil.

China, a major consumer of soybeans, has historically relied heavily on imports due to its relatively low domestic soybean yields. The research, details of which were published in the journal Nature Plants, aimed to address this challenge.

The scientists employed gene editing to create soybean mutants with enhanced “nodulation ability,” a crucial factor in the plants’ nitrogen fixation from the air. This allows the soybeans to capture more nitrogen, a vital nutrient for growth and protein production.

One promising mutant, ric1a/2a, demonstrated a balanced allocation of carbon resources and enhanced carbon and nitrogen acquisition. Field trials conducted over three years showed that the ric1a/2a lines produced 10 to 20 percent higher yields and slightly more protein compared to a leading Chinese soybean variety, Hua Chun-6, while maintaining oil content.

“This demonstrates that gene editing toward optimal nodulation improves soybean yield and quality,” said Guan Yuefeng, one of the study’s authors and a professor at Guangzhou University.

While the research shows promising results, larger-scale testing is still needed, as the trials to date have been conducted on plots no larger than 100 square meters. The team’s work adheres to China’s 2022 guidelines for assessing the safety of gene-edited crops, which require the use of experimental sites and the acquisition of safety certificates before wider cultivation.

The researchers aim to apply this technology to other soybean varieties domestically and, in the long run, to crops like peanuts and alfalfa. This development offers a potential solution for increasing domestic soybean production and protein availability in China, which could reduce the country’s reliance on imports and contribute to global food security.

Also Read: Farmer Associations’ Report reveals 300 percent surge in Agriculture Budget Allocation over past 9 Years

(For Latest Agriculture News & Updates, follow Krishak Jagat on Google News)

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