Researchers from American Purdue University, in collaboration with Dow Agrosciences, have discovered a novel soyabean gene that could provide resistance to a fungal disease that costs farmers millions in lost crops.

The team, by screening a variety of soyabean genetic material, pinpointed a gene called Rps11 that gave soya a strong resistance against Phytohphthora sojae, a soil-borne pathogen that cost US farmers an approximate US$250M worth of losses each year, the university said in a 13 September statement.

With the discovery, scientists could rapidly develop molecular markers to allow the incorporation of the resistant gene through traditional breeding methods into elite soyabean varieties to protect against stem and root rot.

Dow Agrosciences said it intended to distribute the technology and make it broadly available to soyabean farmers.

Jianxin Ma, professor of agronomy at Purdue University, said that as more Rps resistance genes were identified, it might be possible to stack them to provide ever stronger and more enduring resistance to the fungal pathogen.

“The collaboration between Purdue and Dow Agrosciences through projects like this has created a win-win situation that enhances our capabilities to address the grand challenges that face the real world,” said Ma.