DuPont business Pioneer Hi-Bred reports it has identified and incorporated new proprietary molecular markers into its soybean research program. The company says the new markers significantly enhance its ability to bring to market soybeans resistant to three common destructive soybean pests — Asian soybean rust, soybean aphids and frogeye leaf spot.

“These molecular markers will help us boost soybean yields by 40 percent within the next 10 years,” said William S. Niebur, vice-president, DuPont Crop Genetics Research and Development.

“These markers are part of our Accelerated Yield Technology that harnesses the power of our germplasm collection, strong bioassays, computing power and molecular breeding tools to drive genetic gain at unprecedented rates.”

If left untreated, Asian soybean rust, soybean aphids and frogeye leaf spot can cause significant damage and yield loss to soybeans.

• Asian soybean rust: Without fungicide applications, Asian soybean rust has the potential to eliminate soybean yield. Pioneer plans to commercialize soybean varieties carrying multiple sources of Asian soybean rust resistance by 2012 in Brazil and by 2013 in the United States. Asian soybean rust must currently be controlled with fungicide. The new Asian soybean rust resistant varieties will add another tool farmers can use to combat Asian soybean rust. In addition, Pioneer is also pursuing transgenic modes of resistance.

• Frogeye leaf spot: If left untreated, frogeye leaf spot can cause up to a 15 percent yield loss. Pioneer plans to commercialize soybean varieties with frogeye leaf spot resistance by 2011 in North America. The new resistant varieties will be another option in addition to fungicides to combat this disease.

• Soybean aphids: Soybean aphids can cause up to 100 percent soybean yield loss if left untreated. Pioneer plans to commercialize soybean varieties with soybean aphid resistance by 2011. The new resistant varieties will reduce or eliminate the need for soybean aphid insecticide application.

“The addition of these novel markers to our soybean product development approach will build and extend our No. 1 brand position in soybeans,” Niebur said.

Pioneer soybean breeders are using the new technologies to produce better products as quickly as possible. The markers are non-transgenic and are not subject to additional regulatory approvals, the company says.

Pioneer is seeking patent protection on resulting improved soybean varieties, as well as the tools and techniques used to develop them.

Molecular markers act as genetic road signs, indicating where scientists should look on a segment of DNA for genes related to a specific trait. Once molecular markers are identified, researchers can use DNA analysis early in product development to screen for the presence of these specific traits. This ability to screen complements extensive trait-specific field testing, for complex traits, driving greater success in research programs.