Soybean is a promising crop for Canadian farmers, already the thirdmost important field crop in Canada and generating more than $2.5 billion annually. Its seeds are a valuable source of protein and oil for both human and animal consumption. It does not need chemical fertilizer to provide it with nitrogen as it naturally extracts it from the air with the help of bacteria in the soil, making it environmentally friendly. However, there are challenges involved in developing highyielding soybean varieties suited to Canadian conditions: First, they need to reach maturity quickly, within the short Canadian summer; second, they need to be made more resistant to pests and diseases, to prevent losses in yield or require the use of pesticides; and third, because it is a novel crop in many regions of Canada, there are impediments to its adoption by farmers that need to be addressed.
Dr. François Belzile and Dr. Richard Bélanger of Université Laval, are leading a team that will probe deeply into the genetic code of soybeans to identify DNA markers that control key aspects of plant growth such as time to maturity and resistance to diseases and pests. Breeders will be able to use these markers to develop improved soybean varieties best suited to Canadian conditions. The team will also breed soybean varieties resistant to certain prevailing pests and diseases. As well, they will conduct research focused on maximizing the growth potential of the soybean industry in Canada to accelerate producer adoption of soybeans in western Canada. Economic benefits of this research have the potential to reach $278 million annually, based on increasing the yield potential of soybean crops, increasing their resistance against diseases and pests and reducing the use of pesticides.
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