Improve Drought Tolerance in Mid-South Soybeans

Matt Wilde
By  Matthew Wilde , Progressive Farmer Crops Editor
(University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture)

Researchers with the University of Tennessee Institute of Agriculture (UTIA) have found that certain soybean varieties available in the Mid-South tolerate drought stress better than others, which can help farmers with planting decisions in water-limited areas.

Seventeen Mid-South soybean varieties were tested during four growing seasons at the West Tennessee AgResearch and Education Center, in Jackson, Tennessee. Soybeans were tested under irrigated, rainfed and simulated drought conditions.

Scientists collected soybean water loss, wilting scores, leaf maintenance and yield data through six different controlled and field experiments. One of the key findings shows a correlation to water needs in young plants versus mature plants. If a soybean used a lot of water during vegetative growth, less water would be available in the soil to support reproductive growth and pod filling when drought stress occurs.

"The information gained over time from this research project will help both soybean breeders and producers improve soybean variety selection to manage unpredictable drought conditions during the growing season," Avat Shekoofa, a crop physiologist at the UTIA Department of Plant Sciences, says in a press release.

The study, "Genotype identification for a water saving trait: Exploring early stomatal closure under soil drying among Mid-South soybeans," was published Oct. 16, 2021, in the Agronomy Journal. Find it at…

Soybean genotypes that show slow-wilting traits are being incorporated into breeding efforts to develop and improve drought-tolerant varieties. The research will expand to include a wider range of soybean maturity groups and high oleic varieties, study leaders say.


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