Growing a legacy: Leading the way in soybean breeding

Researchers in the Division of Plant Science and Technology have emerged as leaders in the field of soybean breeding.

Over the past several decades, the soybean breeding program at Mizzou, which is part of the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources’ (CAFNR) Division of Plant Science and Technology, has emerged as a leader in the field.

“The breeding programs at MU both here in Columbia and at the Fisher Delta Research Center are really known as the leaders in conventional and herbicide resistant cultivar development as well as understanding the genetic architecture of seed composition traits, soybean cyst nematode resistance, and abiotic stress tolerance among others” said Andrew Scaboo, assistant professor and soybean breeder in the Division of Plant Science and Technology. “We are also known for our high-oleic (SOYLEIC) soybean varieties and research on improving seed protein content.”

Scaboo is credited with the creation of high oleic, low linolenic soybean varieties and currently oversees the soybean breading program in central and northern Missouri, while another team of soybean breeders is based at the Fisher Delta Research, Extension and Education Center in the Missouri bootheel where they can address issues specific to that region.

A light-skinned man with short blonde hair smiles. He is wearing a white, button-up shirt against a light grey background.
Andrew Scaboo

The primary goal of the soybean breeding program is to create soybean varieties that improve yield for Missouri farmers, but they also look at the qualities of the beans they are producing in an attempt to add value to the crops in other ways.

Scaboo’s high oleic, low linolenic varieties and more recent soybean cyst nematode resistant discoveries are prime examples of this, and he is now working on a variety that will have increased protein content without compromising oil content of the beans or yield of the crop utilizing genetics found only in wild soybean.

“The problem is when you improve the protein content in the seed, what you typically see is a reduction in the oil content and a reduced crop yield,” he said.

To solve this problem, Scaboo is utilizing another hallmark of Mizzou’s breeding program — wild soybeans. He explained that wild soybeans contain far more diversity in their genetics because they has not been subject to intense selective breeding, and this makes them perfect for examining genetic traits.

Partnerships are also an integral part of the soybean breeding program at CAFNR. It depends on interdisciplinary expertise from faculty at other universities to fill in knowledge gaps of its plant breeders and financial support from partners like the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council, The United Soybean Board, and the North Central Soybean Research Programs.