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Soyagen: Improving yield and disease resistance in short-season soybean

Principal Investigator

François Belzile

Research Institution

Université Laval

External Funding Partners

Genome Canada; Genome Québec; Western Grains Research Foundation; Saskatchewan Pulse Crop Development Board; Manitoba Pulse & Soybean Growers (MPSG); Ministère de l’ Économie, Innovation et Exportation du Québec; Fédération des producteurs de grandes cultures du Québec; Industrial Partners (Sevita Genetics, La Coop Fédérée, Semences Prograin and Syngenta)

Project Start

September 2015

Project End

December 2019


  • Develop a novel platform for rapid and cost-effective genotyping in soybean.
  • Develop new selection tools to enable breeders to more rapidly select lines with improved yield and disease resistance in early maturing soybeans.
  • Develop diagnostic tools to rapidly and precisely screen for and identify races of Phytophthora root rot (PRR; Phytophthora sojae) and pathotypes of soybean cyst nematode (SCN; Heterodera glycines).
  • Build a data-informed outreach strategy targeted toward accelerated producer adoption of soybean in Canada.


  • The introduction of short-season soybeans in areas where they were not grown previously to diversify crop-rotation.
  • The development of on-farm diagnostic tools to allow a farmer to test for the presence of some diseases/pests.
  • The improvements made to soybean varieties could allow for increased economic return by allowing farmers to be more efficient in applying fertilizer and pesticides used in production.

Scientific Summary

Soybean is a rapidly growing crop that offers many potential benefits to Canadian growers. It is a multipurpose crop whose seeds are an extremely valuable source of both protein and oil. From an environmental point of view, it is also highly attractive, as it does not need any chemical fertilizer to provide it with nitrogen. There are three important challenges for developing high yielding soybean varieties that are well-suited to Canadian conditions: short growing season, varieties resistant to pests and diseases, and farmer adoption. Genomics offers essential new tools to aid in these important challenges.

The spectacular progress in sequencing technologies has made it possible to characterize the genetic makeup of crops. By probing deep into the genetic code of soybeans, it is possible to identify DNA markers that control key aspects of plant growth, such as the time needed to reach maturity and resistance to diseases and pests. Once we have identified such DNA markers, breeders will be able to use them to develop improved varieties more rapidly and easily. Economic and social research will complement the genomics research by focusing on institutions and policies that will maximize the growth potential of the soybean industry. We have assembled an exceptional team of research scientists to take on this task and have gained wide support from grower groups and key players in the seed industry.

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