Source: University of Florida

Artificial sweetener could help soybean plants resist rust disease, University of Florida researchers say

Saccharin, the artificial sweetener used in diet drinks and other consumer products, has an unexpected sweet agricultural benefit: It helps soybean plants ward off a disease that threatens the entire soybean industry, University of Florida researchers say.

If the sugar substitute performs as well in the field as it did in the lab, it may give farmers a cost-effective weapon in the fight against Asian soybean rust, an invasive fungal disease that appeared in the continental U.S. in 2004 and is now a major grower concern.

The 2009 U.S. soybean crop was valued at $31.8 billion, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture; Florida's crop was worth $12.3 million.

Original news release