Chinese scientists create soyabean variety for warmer climates

Chinese agricultural scientists have created a soyabean variety via gene editing which may be better suited in warm climates such as southern China or countries near the equator.

Research teams from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences used the gene editing tool CRISPR-Cas9 to knock out two genes from the soyabean plant, research fellow Hou Wensheng told the Global Times on 3 July.

Experiments showed that the mutated soyabeans flowered 31 days later and produced significantly more pods and seeds per plant than those planted in the south.

Soyabean crops planted in warmer climates had lower yields due to a shorter time period when they can mature, Global Times wrote.

The research team believed their mutated soyabean had a high yield potential at low latitudes and the tropics and planned to further modify the plants to be pest-resistant and adaptable to environments at lower latitudes.

Soyabeans in China were mostly grown in the northeast of the country, and the eastern provinces of Henan and Anhui, Global Times said.

Hou said the research could help the country increase its soyabean production, although it may not immediately reduce the country’s dependence on imports due to limited cultivatable land for planting.

China was the world’s largest consumer of soyabeans, over 80% of which were imported from countries including the USA and Brazil, the Global Times wrote.

The Chinese State Council said in February that China would step up efforts to expand cultivation of soyabeans, accelerate research on nurturing high-yield crops and improve management of soyabean production to rejuvenate the industry.

The country’s cultivation area was expected to increase to 9.3M ha by 2020, while the soyabean self-sufficiency rate would rise 1% by 2020.