Value-Added Research: Early Stress Detection

April 26, 2018

Farmers work to increase yields, improve efficiency and perfect their management in the search for greater profitability. Soybean checkoff-supported research is an important component of improvement as scientists identify factors that can limit yield or cause management challenges.

The South Dakota Soybean Research and Promotion Council (SDSRPC) supports a wide range of research efforts designed to improve the state’s soybean production. SDSRPC-supported research goes beyond production challenges to include value-added soybean uses.

Photo by: United Soybean Board

Molecular Markers Can Identify Yield Robbers

SDSU research funded by the SDSRPC is working to minimize the effects of soybean stress through timely detection and identification. Factors like drought, soil salinity, nutrient deficiency, diseases and root pests can cause the stress. Once properly identified, the stresses can be managed appropriately.

“We would like to enable growers to accurately detect plant stresses at the earliest possible time,” says Senthil Subramanian, associate professor in SDSU’s Agronomy, Horticulture & Plant Science department.

“Many stresses cause significant yield loss. Early detection is crucial for management responses or other decision.”

Some stresses such as soybean cyst nematode (SCN) produce no visible symptoms, while others produce visible symptoms that appear very similar to each other.

Molecular Markers

Based on prior SDSRPC-funded research, SDSU researchers Subramanian, Wanlong Li and Xing-You Gu identified several genes whose expressions change in response to
different stresses.

“In this research, we evaluated if we could develop a molecular stress diagnostic tool, somewhat like a blood test or pregnancy test kit for people,” Subramanian says. “The idea was that samples submitted by farmers could be screened for the expression of these genes to determine the type and potentially the level of stress faced by their soybean crop.”

Through their testing, the SDSU researcher team has identified a gene panel for drought, salinity, SCN and iron deficiency chlorosis. “We hope that the pattern of expression of genes in the panel would determine potential stresses faced by the plant,” Subramanian adds.

Tissue Tests

Subramanian says the expectation is that farmers could submit leaf samples from their fields for stress diagnosis. Researchers will provide vials with special sample collection liquid and would likely request both a healthy sample and a sample for testing, as well as pictures of the leaves if possible.

“In essence, the tools will enable farmers to make informed management responses through accurate detection of the stresses,” Subramanian says.

The finalized process won’t be ready for 2018, but testing will hopefully be in place for future growing seasons.

To read more about SDSRPC-funded research projects, click here.

This blog post is brought to you by the South Dakota Soybean Research & Promotion Council.