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Virginia Tech Gets $9.2M for Soy Studies

By a GenomeWeb Staff Reporter

NEW YORK (GenomeWeb News) – Researchers at Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University have won a $9.2 million grant from the US government to study genes and diagnostic technologies in pathogens that affect soybean production and cost US growers as much as $300 million per year.

Aimed at improving yield and sustainability in soybeans, and for other crops affected by similar bugs, the researchers at the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute and Virginia Tech's College of Agriculture and Life Sciences will seek to identify genes that restrict the potential for certain pathogens to cause disease.

These studies, funded through USDA's National Institute of Food and Agriculture, will focus on oomycete pathogens of soybean, including Phytophthora sojae, a soil-borne plant pathogen that causes root and stem rot in soybeans. Other oomycete pathogens affect crops such as potato, tomato, peppers, squash, cucumbers, grapes, fruit and nut trees, and ornamental nursery plants.

Outcomes of this research may also lead to applications that impact animal and human diseases caused by similar fungi.

"Today soybeans are the largest source of protein and the second largest source of vegetable oil in the world, so improving soybean production has important implications for food security," NIFA Director Roger Beachy said in a statement.

"The main goal of this project is to improve the sustainability of crop production by mitigating several major diseases. This will benefit small farmers as well as larger commercial producers, and will strengthen our nation's food security system by keeping food prices down," Brett Tyler, a professor at VBI and in Virginia Tech's department of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science, said in a statement.