Team approach and ‘brain stage’ improve soybeans

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The science behind the Accelerated Yield Technology (AYT) system from DuPont Pioneer allows researchers to focus on the soybean traits that benefit growers the most, according to the company. Yet, with all the available technology, Pioneer soybean breeders also rely on intellect and collaboration to develop new products with improved pest resistance and yield potential.

“Growers are bombarded with diseases and insects, many of which are extremely regionalized,” said Don Schafer, DuPont Pioneer senior marketing manager. “Every area of the country has an issue that negatively affects soybean production, which is a challenge seized by DuPont Pioneer soybean breeders.” 

Continued advancements in the proprietary AYT system help Pioneer researchers mine an extensive set of germplasm to pinpoint genes that improve plant performance without hindering gains in yield. The expansive AYT system also enables researchers to consider additional innovative product development methods and evaluate more defensive trait options.

“I call this important component of soybean breeding the brain stage,” Schafer said.

Before soybean breeders begin developing a new soybean variety, they have in mind what soybean plant characteristics and disease and insect tolerances are on a growers’ wish list. The researchers are well aware of growers’ needs because they live and work in the regions they are supporting with soybean development efforts. Pioneer plant breeders spend a lot of time walking fields and working breeding plots. With the aid of the AYT system, they are able to develop products that growers need now as well as predict what traits might be necessary in the future, Schafer noted.

The “brain stage” of soybean breeding includes consulting with other Pioneer soybean researchers. A soybean breeder in north central Iowa, for instance, might be looking to develop a soybean variety with standability, soybean cyst nematode (SCN) resistance and good iron chlorosis tolerance.

“A soybean breeder focusing in northern Illinois might see a need for similar traits as north central Iowa, plus brown stem rot tolerance,” Schafer said. “There are geographies that don’t need resistance to brown stem rot, but in northern Illinois it is a mandatory trait.”

In the last five years, Pioneer reports its soybean breeders have established a revolution in technologies to more quickly develop soybean products. These new technologies, under the umbrella of the AYT system, include molecular markers, molecular breeding and precision trait assays.

Using a team approach, Pioneer soybean breeders tackle the yield-robbing pests prevalent in farmers’ fields and, more importantly, the challenge of increasing soybean yields. Comprised of members from research stations all across North America and Brazil, breeders participate on multiple teams, each with the goal of finding solutions to  specific soybean-growing challenges.

“The Pioneer product development strategy relies on understanding our customers, anticipating their needs and leveraging the know-how to develop the right product for the right acre,” Schafer explained. “Plant breeding helps us produce the right product for our customers, wherever they farm.”

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