New research out of U of I could change the future of farming

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URBANA--It took 13 long years for Ram Singh's research to take root, but once it did, he knew he was on to a major breakthrough for the future of farming.

"Nobody in the world has been doing this kind of research," said Singh, a research geneticist at the USDA ARS.

That research to develop a strain of soybeans resistant to harmful pathogens, like soybean rust and soybean cyst nematode, that can kill the plant.

Others have tried since 1979, but all have failed. Until Singh crossed a popular variety of soybeans nicknamed "Dwight" with a wild perennial weed found in Australia and got the chromosome count just right.

"I have no words to tell how excited I was when I got 40-chromosome plants," said Singh.

That's when he partnered with Randall Nelson to get his sprouts out of their pots in the soybean lab at the University of Illinois and into fields for testing, where they learned about another advantage that these new hybrids have over their ancestors.

"We're seeing lines now that are, you know, anywhere from three to seven bushels an acre higher yielding than the soybean parent," said Nelson, a research leader at the USDA ARS.

Thereby, proving that Singh's persistence will likely pay off for those who grow these crops for a living.

"Always I thought that, it is possible," said Singh.

Singh and Nelson are working to make it possible for these plants to be in farmer's fields within the next five to ten years.
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