Washington, Dec 9 (ANI): The U.S. Department of Energy Joint Genome Institute (DOE JGI) has released a complete draft assembly of the soybean genetic code, making it widely available to the research community to advance new breeding strategies for one of the world's most valuable plant commodities.
Soybean not only accounts for 70 percent of the world's edible protein, but also is an emerging feedstock for biodiesel production.
Soybean is second only to corn as an agricultural commodity and is the leading U.S. agricultural export.
DOE JGI's interest in sequencing the soybean centers on its use for biodiesel, a renewable, alternative fuel with the highest energy content of any alternative fuel.
According to 2007 U.S. Census data, soybean is estimated to be responsible for more than 80 percent of biodiesel production.
"The genome sequence is the direct result of a memorandum of understanding between DOE and USDA to increase interagency collaboration in plant genomics," said DOE Under Secretary for Science Dr. Raymond L. Orbach.
"We are proud to support this major scientific breakthrough that will not only advance our knowledge of a key agricultural commodity but also lead to new insights into biodiesel production," he added.
According to USDA Chief Scientist and Under Secretary for Research, Education, and Economics Dr. Gale A. Buchanan, soybeans have been an important food plant providing essential protein to people for hundreds of years.
"Now, with the new knowledge available through this joint DOE/USDA genome sequencing project, researchers everywhere will be able to further enhance important traits that make the soybean such a valuable plant. It's a great day for agriculture and people everywhere," he added.
Jeremy Schmutz of the DOE JGI and colleagues have begun to analyze the soybean genome, which at one billion nucleotides is roughly one-third the size of the human genome.
Preliminary studies suggest as many as 66,000 genesm, which is more than twice the number identified in the human genome sequence.
"We have ordered and localized about 5,500 genetic markers on the sequence, which promise to be of particular importance to those researchers seeking to optimize certain qualities in soybean," said Schmutz.
"It's tremendous that the soybean genome is out in the public's hands," Said Rick Stern, a New Jersey soybean farmer and chair of the Production Research program for the United Soybean Board (USB).
"Now, every breeder can go into this valuable library for the information that will help speed up the breeding process. It should cut traditional breeding time by half from the typical 15 years," he added. (ANI)