Soybean Breeding Research

(Bill) My name is Bill Schapaugh. I’m a soybean breeder with the Agronomy Department at Kansas State University. I work along with Tim Todd, who is a nematologist in the Plant Pathology Department and Harold Trick who is a plant transformationist in the Plant Pathology Department. We work on a project funded by the Kansas Soybean Commission that has elements of plant breeding, soybean breeding and genetics, and also on management. In terms of the plant breeding and genetics we’re interested in developing new genotypes identifying desirable germplasm in the germplasm collection that can be useful to develop new germplasm, new varieties. We are interested in using the latest genetic engineering techniques to improve resistance to various types of pests or pathogens and the focus now is and has been on soybean cyst nematode, in developing better resistance, better resistance than we can get from using native genes that are in the germplasm and looking at unique ways to deal with that. We’re also interested in SCN soybean cyst nematode management. It’s a challenge for many of our producers and it’s a very diverse pathogen and so we are interested in developing new varieties that are resistance to soybean cyst nematodes. But we also want to have our pulse on the characterization of level resistance in the commercial varieties that producers are growing. And then also understand what’s going on dynamically in the SCN populations in the field, as producers grow cyst resistant varieties, or susceptible varieties in the field to understand the population dynamics of how that impacts and all works together. I’ve received funding from the Soybean Commission since I started. I started in 1979 and I believe about 1980 or ’81 was the year the Soybean Commission was created and got started and we received funding and the funding grew and the project dynamics grew over time. But variety development, soybean variety development is a continual process. We continuously look for new gene combinations that result in varieties that better fit our needs. In general we are seeing about a third of a bushel per acre per year increase in yield over time in Kansas. That’s due to new varieties. There’s also increases due to production and better weed control and so on. But in terms of the genetic contribution, now that’s from everybody. That’s the private companies and public breeders. We see our role as a public breeder is we’re developing new germplasm. Some of that could be utilized directly by producers, but we see our primary value of developing new germplasm, new information, new genetic material that can be captured by breeders around the country including the private breeders and then they can use that to build upon, use that as a foundation to build new varieties that would go to producers. We are also very interested in understanding or developing ways to improve the breeding process. One of the areas that we’ve been working on the last several years, again funded by the Soybean Commission, is using remote sensing. I think everybody is familiar with the drone technology that’s out there and being developed. A lot of that technology is going to be applied to agriculture. It is being applied to agriculture. We want to apply that type of technology to plant breeding. So we are very interested in capturing information, informative information through remote sensing, learning more about yield, learning more about drought stress, learning more about adaptation, about plant introductions, learning more about soybean sudden death syndrome, capturing this information that is more informative, can either complement the data we are already capturing or it may even take the place of that in some cases to make the breeding process more efficient.

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