The United Soybean Board (USB) and the soybean checkoff invested in research that led to scientists mapping the soybean genome. Once mapped, the soybean genome opened the doors for countless other research projects to expand on the initial project and learn more about soybeans than in the past.

 A recent National Science Foundation (NSF) grant awarded to Scott Jackson, Purdue University, will study genetic diversity of soybeans. Genetic diversity refers to the total number of genetic characteristics in the genetic makeup of the species, in this case a soybean plant. Jackson says a lack of genetic diversity represents one of the main challenges for soybeans, and that makes finding new traits that could lead to genetic improvement difficult. But this work could continue to help find ways to genetically improve soybeans.

“This research builds directly on the soybean genome work that the soybean checkoff helped fund,” says Jackson. “If it weren’t for the soybean genome, we wouldn’t be able to discover and define genetic variability, which describes the tendency of genetic characteristics to vary.”  

 The soybean checkoff funded the early work on the soybean genome, which established the foundation for mapping the genome and allowed the U.S. Department of Energy to finalize the research, says Rick Stern, USB Production Research program chair and a soybean farmer from Cream Ridge, N.J.  

“We’re just seeing the tip of the iceberg as far as developments from the soybean genome,” says Stern.