Using new emerging genomic tools to improve soybean yield and seed compositions in Ontario


Agriculture & Food


Soybean (Glycine max) is an important source of high-quality dietary protein throughout the world and a major crop grown in Ontario with just over 3.0 million acres planted in 2018 and farm revenue exceeding $1.6 billion. The food-grade soybean industry in Ontario is globally recognized for its high quality seeds. In an increasingly competitive market, the key factor for continuing the success and further expansion of food-grade soybean production in Ontario is to increase seed yield in new food-grade cultivars while improving or maintaining important seed composition traits such as protein concentration.

Despite the success in developing high-yielding soybean cultivars using conventional breeding methods in last two decades, the average protein concentration, in general, has been declining in commercial cultivars over the time due mainly to the negative phenotypic relationship between seed yield and protein content. Current genomics-based innovations and technologies, fortunately, provide opportunities to shift this negative correlation resulting in further improvement in profitability of food-grade soybean industry in Ontario.

This collaboration between the soybean breeding program at the University of Guelph, Ridgetown Campus, and SeCan will accelerate the development of high-yielding soybean cultivars with value-added traits and improve the genetic gain for these target traits. This will be accomplished through the development and implementation of genetic and genomics-assisted tools and an unprecedented eight-parent MAGIC (Mutli-parent Advanced Generation Inter-Cross) soybean population. The specific deliverables to be achieved within 2 years of the completion of the project are: 

  • Ontario-adapted food-grade soybean cultivars and germplasm with increased yield and improved seed quality
  • Genetic and genomics-assisted breeding tools for accelerating the development of new cultivars

The aim of this project and the team is to translate these deliverables into commercial food-grade soybean cultivars by the year of 2024.