Recent soybean checkoff-sponsored research may give U.S. soybean farmers another tool to manage one of the weather challenges that plague them — drought.

The discovery of two new lines of drought-resistant soybeans “is more than just an insurance policy against drought conditions,” says Tom Sinclair, University of Florida researcher. “These lines will help increase yields even in years with no obvious drought. These genes could be yield enhancers in most every year.”

The lines yielded higher than commercial lines during tests in Arkansas, so seed companies may begin incorporating them into breeding programs soon. Research is being conducted comparing 3,500 samples of soybean lines collected around the world with another 12 lines initially identified as being drought-resistant.

It is part of a larger project, with drought research field plots at five universities and several industry partner sites across the country. “What we have is good, and we hope to find lines that are even better,” says Sinclair.

The 12-year research project is unique in that it combined physiology research with breeding efforts. Such an approach is unique due to the complexity and long-term commitment required.

According to Sinclair, farmer checkoff funds were crucial to the research. He noted that most projects with such a lengthy time frame; that integrate multiple disciplines, such as plant physiology and breeding; and that take place at multiple universities usually struggle to find funding.

“The soybean checkoff supports research that helps soybean farmers increase yields and become more productive as a result,” says Ken Dalenberg, United Soybean Board (USB) production chair and a soybean farmer from Mansfield, Ill.