Researchers from 18 US institutions gathered in an interesting project to break the genetic code of the most important source of protein and oil: the soybean. This research included scientists from the U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI), the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), Purdue University and the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

The genome sequence was published in the journal Nature, and its main purpose was to better understand the plant’s capacity to turn sunlight, carbon dioxide, nitrogen and water, into concentrated energy, protein, and nutrients for human and animal use. This helps the energy industry on the one hand by introducing a better crop for biofuel production and as well the food production industry for humans and animals.

The soybean genome sequence is very important to biodiesel production as new species can now be created with an improved level of protein and oil content. By analyzing the sequence, scientists have identified more that 46,000 genes of which 1,110 are involved in lipid metabolism. These genes and their associated pathways are blocking the oil content of the soybean, but now this can be modified, thus making the soybean the best pretender for biodiesel production. The changes made to the genes can improve soybean oil production up to 40%.

Soybean’s genetic code will further help to determine another important fact in the crop production: the nitrogen-fixing symbiosis which is very important to crop rotation.

Using the sequence to zero on a mutation, scientists have been able to lower the levels of the sugar stachyose, fact which will improve the ability of animals and humans to digest soybeans. As well, farmers can be very happy of getting a soybean plant that is resistant to Asian Soybean Rust (ASR), that can destroy a crop up to even 80%.

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