Purdue collaborative soybean disease research could save farmers millions

phytophthora root and stem rot
Phytophthora root and stem rot — photo by Daren Mueller, Iowa State University; Bugwood.org

A collaborative research project between Purdue University and Dow/DuPont researchers has discovered a novel soybean gene that provides widespread resistance to the costly fungal disease Phytophthora root and stem rot.

The research team pinpointed a gene called Rps11 that confers strong resistance to multiple types of Phytophthora sojae, a soil-borne pathogen that causes U.S. soybean farmers to lose about $250 million per year due to soybean stem and root rot.

More than 55 races of the fungus have been identified, with many of those found in the Mississippi Delta.

This latest discovery will allow for development of molecular markers, which will speed incorporation of the resistance gene into elite soybean varieties through traditional breeding techniques, according to a university news release.

Purdue’s Jianxin Ma, professor of agronomy with West Lafayette, Indiana-based Purdue, says that as more Rps resistance genes are identified, they might be stacked to enhance the strength and endurance of soybean resistance to the pathogen.

“Discovering technology to help soybean farmers tackle tough problems is at the core of this project, and our success in collaborating with Purdue on this project illustrates the power of public/private efforts to advance agriculture,” says Oswald Crasta, global genomic breeding lead, Dow/DuPont.

Phytophthora root and stem rot can cause significant problems in wet years when cooler-than-normal temperatures, frequent rainfall and poorly-drained soil favor the disease. The pathogen also can survive for years in soil with few or no symptoms until favorable conditions occur.

The disease is controlled primarily through using resistant cultivars. In addition, improving drainage in some fields as well as using metalaxyl or mefenoxam seed treatments combined with resistant cultivars may help.

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