Skip to Main Content

Discovery may lead to new gene targets to boost soybean oil

Purdue University scientists have discovered that a single nucleotide mutation and the characteristics it created may be critical for the domestication of soybeans. Understanding that mutation today could help scientists improve seed oil content in one of the world’s most important crops.

Jianxin Ma, a professor at Purdue’s Department of Agronomy, led a study that found that a gene called B1 is responsible for producing bloom, a powdery substance produced in the soybean pod that coats the plant’s seeds. Bloom is helpful for wild soybeans because it makes the plant less visible and contains allergens that are harmful to animals and humans if ingested.

A single nucleotide mutation in the B1 gene eliminates the bloom, and farmers thousands of years ago likely planted “shiny” soybeans they were able to safely consume. Interestingly those bloom-less soybeans also had another advantage.

“We found that the mutation within the B1 gene resulted in substantial increases of seed oil content in cultivated soybeans compared with the wild type,” said Ma, whose findings were published in the journal Nature Plants. “It seems like the selection of this mutation by farmers was essential for making soybean an important oilseed crop that we have now.”

The B1 gene doesn’t affect oil biosynthesis in seeds at all, but the mutation that causes loss of bloom heightens the activity of genes promoting oil biosynthesis in pods that result in an increase of oil accumulation in seeds. The findings show that there may be genetic targets outside those responsible for seed traits that could affect soybean seed oil content.

Featured Stories

a tractor spreads gypsum across a field and a soil probe has a sample of six inches of a dark brown soil in the metal tube
How Purdue researchers and the USDA are finding ways to bury carbon beneath our feet

Soils are a rare win-win when it comes to burying the carbon released from burning fossil fuels....

Read More
Wilford tends to Gracie the cow.
Fields of Discovery: From track to trough— leaping into research

This summer, Rieko Wilford is making big leaps researching methane emissions; on the track,...

Read More
Songlin Fei, director of Purdue’s Institute for Digital Forestry and professor in the Department of Forestry and Natural Resources, standing among the trees in Martell Forest.
The Society of American Foresters honors Purdue professor with Award in Forest Science

The Society of American Foresters (SAF) annually recognizes individuals for their outstanding...

Read More
Drone over canopy
Digital forestry can help mitigate and prevent wildfires

The National Interagency Fire Center reports as of this writing that 19,444 fires have burned...

Read More
Purdue College of Agriculture.
Farmer Sentiment Drifts Lower on Weaker Future Expectations

Download report (pdf) Farmer sentiment drifted lower in June as the Purdue University-CME...

Read More
Produce and farm shots from Four Seasons Local Market
Bridging the gap from local farms to neighbors’ tables

Stepping into the Four Seasons Local Market t takes you back in time as the vibrant array of...

Read More
To Top