COLUMBIA, Mo. -- The Soybean Genome Mapping Facility, an expansion of the National Center for Soybean Biotechnology, opened at the University of Missouri-Columbia this week.

The University of Missouri-Columbia was recently designated by U.S. Congress as the site for the NCSB. Its foundation was the Center for Soybean Genomics and Biotechnology, previously formed at MU in support of interdisciplinary research on the genomic structure and function of soybean genes.

NCSB scientists play a national leadership role in developing improved soybean varieties to keep U.S. producers competitive in the marketplace. The ultimate goal of the NCSB is to provide innovative molecular approaches that can be applied toward soybean improvement.

Renovations supported by Sen. Christopher Bond and the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources gave $2 million toward the crop genomics laboratories in the Agriculture Building. Also, a National Science Foundation grant and matching funds program provided more than $1 million for genome mapping equipment.

The NCSB is a collaborative program among scientists at MU, the USDA's Agricultural Research Service Plant Genetics Unit in Columbia and the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center in St. Louis. There are currently more than 25 researchers working together from diverse fields including agronomy, microbiology and plant pathology, biochemistry, animal science, food science, molecular biology and agricultural economics.

In addition to receiving the NCSB support, scientists working in the center continue to be highly competitive for other funding from a variety of sources, including the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, federal agencies and private industry.

Strategically located in the heart of the nation, the NCSB aims to foster research partnerships with institutions in the Midwestern and Southern states -- regions where soybeans are a major crop. Research within the NCSB focuses on major problems that affect soybean production and use. The center also provides educational opportunities for students and outreach services to producers, public agencies and consumers.

SOURCE: News release from the Missouri Soybean Association.