From Lab Yields to Fields

October 16, 2019

Research at Prograin

You have probably heard about our research centre located in Saint-Césaire and may even have visited it. On several occasions, we have referred to the state-of-the-art, high-performance tools used in laboratories. This time, we will go a little further and explain how the varieties of the coming years will meet your needs and those of customers in the processing industry.

Advances in genetics are very rapid in terms of equipment, bioinformatics, laboratory manipulation, and understanding of the genes. Obviously, these advances make it possible to be more efficient by genetically evaluating more soybean plants. The work performed in the lab consists of associating a gene with a marker. Once this is done, it is possible to quickly and unambiguously confirm the presence of the desired traits. With the sequenced soybean genome now complete, there is great interest in developing new technologies to identify new genes. A technology called GBS (genotyping by sequencing) offers the ability to associate phenotypes (visual characteristics) with the genotype (the gene or genes on the genome). It is now possible to quickly find traits controlled by a single gene. A simple example would be to identify the gene responsible for the colour in flowers. By making a group of white flowering varieties and a group of purple flowering varieties, GBS could be used to easily find the location of the gene responsible for this trait. Once the methodology is in place to identify traits associated with a single gene, the next step will be to work on traits that depend on multiple genes (e.g. Sclerotinia, yield, protein).

Another advantage of the GBS technology is the ability to precisely determine the genetic characterization of parental cell lines in order to discover the one that carries the genes for resistance or tolerance to Sclerotinia, Phytophthora, brown stem rot, stem canker, bacterial blight, soybean cyst nematode, and Phomopsis. By understanding the genetics of the parents, we can ensure that we develop soybean varieties that carry the gene(s) conferring resistance or a high level of tolerance to a specific problem encountered in the field. The same process can also be used to develop conventional varieties that will carry the gene(s) associated with specific desired traits sought by food manufacturers (e.g. tofu, soy beverages).

Within a few years, the new tools we will have at our disposal will make it possible to predict the performance of new varieties even before we crossbreed them. Only hybrids with a high potential to produce a good variety of soybeans will actually be created. That is how we will be able to market high-performance varieties adapted to our conditions in the coming years.