Office of Research

Soybean Breeding and Soybean Pests

From 1970 to 2008, there were 2242 soybean cultivars registered in North America through U.S. Plant Variety Protection, U.S. utility patent, and journal registration. Of these, 80 percent were developed through proprietary programs and 20 percent through public programs.  The most frequently used germplasm for cultivar development were the University of Illinois-released cultivar “Williams” (parent used in the last cross before inbreeding in 70 cultivars) and A3127 (Williams being a direct parent of A3127). 

For the 494 cultivars released from 1999 to 2008, the cultivar A3127 has a genetic contribution of 25 percent or greater in 117 (23 percent) and 10 percent in 247 (50 percent) of these cultivars. This shows that A3127 was not only an excellent direct parent, but its contribution has continued through multiple breeding cycles.  For example, Monsanto, with 25 percent of registered cultivars, has A3127 as the most used cultivar in their breeding program (used as parent 20 times).

Soybean breeders and plant pathologists at the University of Illinois teamed up to identify several sources of different single-genes that confer resistance to the soybean aphid. These sources have been crossed into elite soybean breeding lines. The research of Glen Hartman, Curtis Hill and Brian Diers has led to the development of aphid-resistant soybean varieties that are currently being released on a limited basis by the U of I and select companies who have licensed this technology. Soybean aphids cost growers an average of $45 million based on one year of average aphid infestation. In addition to reducing the cost of inputs for growers, the environment will also benefit from fewer insecticide applications.