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Soybean cultivar & germplasm development: Focusing on seed yield & quality and disease resistance

Principal Investigator: Milad Eskandari

Research Institution: University of Guelph (U of G)

Timeline: April 2018 – March 2023   


  • Developing new high-yielding full-season soybeans with ≥2% per year yield increase until 2023 for food-grade and oil crush markets using classical, genetic, and genomic approaches. To achieve these goals, modern soybean cultivars from Canada, Japan, China, as well as the US high-yielding modern and exotic-derived experimental lines will be used for incorporating new yield-related favorable genes/alleles into new Canadian cultivars.
  • Developing food-grade and specialty soybeans with improved value-added characteristics such as, protein content, seed size, isoflavones, sucrose content, and altered fatty acids and amino acids for niche end use markets. The genetic control of the above traits will be studied to discover molecular markers and develop genomic tools that will facilitate improvement of the target traits.           
  • Enhancing Canadian soybean germplasm for seed yield and composition traits as well as resistance to biotic stresses by incorporating durable disease resistance and new favourable alleles for the target traits from the US, Chinese, and Japanese germplasm.
  • Developing new soybean cultivars with resistance to soybean cyst nematode (SCN) and expanding the genetic diversity of SCN resistance. In addition to using the most common source of SCN (i.e., PI 88788) for the continuation of developing SCN-resistant soybeans, one of the best sources of SCN resistance, PI 437654 (a.k.a. Hartwig), will be used to expand the genetic diversity and improve the resistance in Canadian soybeans. 


  • Canadian soybean growers and industries will benefit from the development of new high-yielding full-season soybeans with value-added traits (e.g., high protein, sucrose and oil content, modified fatty and amino acids, and seed size) that are resistant to the most important biotic stress in Canada (i.e., SCN). These new superior soybeans with value-added traits will help Canadian soybean growers remain globally competitive and will allow the food-grade soybean industry to maintain its global leadership.
  • The new germplasm and high-throughput genetic and genomic tools that will be developed through this project will be beneficial to this breeding program, as well as other Canadian soybean breeders, for pyramiding new favourable genes into the available or new cultivars that are adapted for Ontario.

Scientific Summary:

Demand for both GMO and non-GMO food-grade soybeans continues to increase worldwide.  Canada accounts for only 2% of the world’s soybean production; however, it is a global leader in producing specialty, high-seed-quality soybeans. The value of soybeans to the Canadian economy is continuing to increase as production trends higher. Over the last decade, Canadian production of soybeans has increased over 55%.

The University of Guelph soybean breeding and genetics program at Ridgetown Campus is a public breeding program focusing on developing new full-season soybean cultivars and germplasm adapted to southwestern Ontario (maturity groups (MG) ranging from MG1 to early MG3). This breeding program is committed to developing new high-yielding high-quality cultivars that will maximize farm gate value to the Canadian soybean growers and also meet the demands of domestic and international end users.

Through this proposed project, we aim to develop new high-yielding food-grade soybean elite cultivars with improved value-added traits by identification and introgression of favourable genes / alleles from exotic germplasm, including North American, Chinese and Japanese modern cultivars and PI-derived experimental lines, using classical and modern genetic and genomic tools. In addition to providing the knowledge and technology that is important for the continued development of superior food-grade soybeans adapted to Canada, the outcome is also expected to have significant impact on the Canadian soybean growers’ productivity and the soybean export industry through the development and commercial release of new value-added high-yielding soybeans.

External Funding Partners: