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New partnership aims to boost soybean meal protein levels

USB and FFAR provide more than $3 million in research funding to improve soybean protein content and quality.

A $3.2 million investment between the United Soybean Board (USB) and the Foundation for Food & Agriculture Research (FFAR) is enhancing the U.S. soybean industry’s competitive advantage by funding research to improve the protein content and quality of U.S. soybeans while protecting yield.

“Leveraging USB funds in this manner with other public and private collaborators extends the reach and potential impact of USB investments as well as increases buy-in from key value chain partners,” USB vice president of meal strategy Keenan McRoberts said. “USB will continue to seek and act on opportunities like this to amplify the soy checkoff’s investment reach, impact and returns through critical partnerships and leveraged funding sources.”

USB and FFAR are co-funding soybean research to support four projects:

1. George Graef, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is leading an interdisciplinary team to improve the genetic diversity, seed composition and yield of soybeans using highly productive soybean genetic resources, breeding, genomics and biotechnology to identify and understand key genes involved in soybean seed protein composition.

The project also includes developing soybeans capable of producing a 48% protein meal and 11 lb. of oil per bushel, with good amino acid balance and yields that meet or exceed the yield of elite varieties, FFAR said.

This project received $778,078 from USB and $651,673 from FFAR, for a total award of almost $1.43 million, with funding available through September 2021.

2. Rouf Mian, U.S. Department of Agriculture and North Carolina State University, is utilizing genetically diverse soybeans and wild relatives to develop new germplasm varieties with consistently elevated protein levels and yields comparable to commercial varieties. The project aims to release at least five soybean varieties capable of producing soybean meal with more than 48% protein and higher yields, FFAR said.

The project received $810,114 from USB and $695,020 from FFAR for a total award of almost $1.51 million, with funding available through September 2020.

3. Doug Allen, USDA and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is identifying the novel amino acid composition genes in the mutant variety and taking advantage of a new analytical method to create a more nutritious soybean.

FFAR noted that soybean meal, considered a gold standard to which most protein sources are compared, contains an inadequate amount of sulfur amino acids. Earlier research uncovered soybeans with enhanced sulfur-containing amino acids in a mutant variety.

USB contributed $96,578, and FFAR invested $80,886, for a total award of $177,464, with funding available through September 2020.

4. Yong-Qiang An, USDA and Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is identifying the genes that result in elevated protein and using them in breeding efforts for commercial soybean varieties. The identification and validation of these genes has the potential to create both a more nutritious soybean as well as a more profitable one for farmers, FFAR said.

The project was awarded $86,468 from USB and $72,421 from FFAR, for a total award of $158,889, with funding available through September 2020.

“The protein content in soybeans, on average, is decreasing,” FFAR executive director Sally Rockey said. “By partnering with USB, we are investing in research to increase the protein content of U.S. soybeans. This research not only helps U.S. soybean farmers remain competitive but also adds additional protein to the food supply.”

USB chair Jim Carroll, a farmer from Arkansas, added, “Our goal is to meet the needs of U.S. soy customers around the globe who seek increased protein content and consistent, high-quality soybeans. We also have a commitment to protect yields, which supports both environmental and financial sustainability.”

FFAR has invested $1.5 million, and with matching funding from USB, this partnership is contributing more than $3 million to this research.

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