Monsanto said in a statement that is hopes the research will create new technology capable of more accurate and efficient plant breeding.
The project is intended, according to the participants, to map single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) DNA markers in soybeans, creating a detailed molecular genetic map of the soybean that includes a large number of SNP DNA markers along with pre-existing SSR (simple sequence repeat) markers.
A SNP is a specific location along a chromosome where there is a variation in the genetic sequence. This variation can be used as a genetic marker.
Scientists often use genetic markers as a tag to identify the specific location of a genetic trait on a chromosome. By tagging the desired trait, plant breeders will be able, according to the researchers, to breed plants more efficiently and more accurately.
The collaborators plan to make the information available in Soybase, the USDA soybean genome database, and dbSNP, the national center for biotechnology information SNP database. In addition, they hope to publish the information in scientific journals, thereby opening up the data to the widest audience and encouraging plant breeders to use biotechnology.
"Because all of the SNPs are located in genes, the result of the work will be a genetic map that defines 'gene-rich regions' of the soybean genome," said Perry Cregan, a USDA-ARS researcher. "It is the gene-containing regions that are of greatest interest to soybean breeders and geneticists who want to develop genetically superior soybean varieties with enhanced seed quality, greater disease resistance and superior drought tolerance and yield."
Gerald Vovis, executive vice president of Genaissance Pharmaceuticals told FoodNavigatorUSA.com: "This is just step one. We expect to get a set of very good markers, making this a highly useful tool, which is why we want to get it done in the first half of this year so that Monsanto and others can begin to use the technology."
The soybean SNPs were discovered by ARS scientists in Beltsville, Maryland and Genaissance - no stranger to working in the agricultural domain having worked on finding genetic evidence for the first case of mad cow disease and currently involved in the program to eradicate scrapie - will carry out the mapping. Monsanto, always keen to encourage the use of biotechnology, will provide the funding.
Genaissance has already started work on the project and hopes to have the information in the public domain in the next three to six months.