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Development of breeding strategies for organic soybean production systems in Canada

Principal Investigator: Istvan Rajcan

Research Institution: University of Guelph (U of G)

Timeline: April 2018 – March 2022   


  • Grow the F7, F8 and F9 breeding lines from breeding populations (crosses) that are the result of selection of organic (O) and non-O farms in replicated yield trials using two O field locations in Ontario.
  • Grow selected early maturing soybean breeding lines and cultivars from Guelph’s and Manitoba’s programs in several O locations in Manitoba.
  • Evaluate weed competitiveness, root morphology and other agronomic traits including yield in the above trails to determine the “winners” in O vs. non-O production systems.
  • Characterize the phenotypic traits that lead to the winning genotypes in contrasting production systems. Isolate the DNA and perform molecular analysis using single nucleotide polymorphism (SNP) markers by genotyping-by-sequencing (GBS) to characterize the genomic regions associated with yield, agronomic, morphological and physiological traits between the O and non-O production systems. 


  • This research will provide organic soybean growers with valuable information on the adaptation of current commercial soybean cultivars to the organic soybean production system in their fields in two provinces, Ontario and Manitoba.
  • At the end of the project, we will gain knowledge of the comparative genetic control of yield and agronomic traits in conventional and organic production systems. Plant breeders will benefit from knowing which regions (QTL) of soybean chromosomes determine high yield under O vs. non-O production system.

Scientific Summary:

The main objective of this proposal is to build knowledge on how to efficiently develop, through plant breeding, new soybean cultivars for organic (O) growers to maximize competitiveness, efficiency and volume of production. This will be achieved by growing breeding populations of soybean that have been developed from bi-parental food grade crosses and selected in previous years on contrasting O and non-organic (non-O) farms.

For the first time in Canada, a detailed description of comparative performance of soybean cultivars grown on O vs. non-O production systems over several years and locations will be made available to the O agriculture sector. This research will also be published in peer reviewed journals for use by the wider scientific research community. The differences in the phenotypes of the same soybean cultivars and RILs between the O and non-O farms will be studied and reported to improve understanding of underlying factors in agronomic performance between the two systems. Genomic regions on soybean chromosomes associated with enhanced performance on O vs. non-O farms will be determined to develop molecular markers that can be used for selection under each production system.

External Funding Partners:

Organic Science III Cluster Program  

This research is part of the national Organic Science Cluster 3 program managed by the Organic Federation of Canada in collaboration with the Organic Agricultural Centre of Canada (OACC) at Dalhousie University. In addition to GFO, funding for this program is provided by the AgriScience Program under Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada’s Canadian Agricultural Partnership..