Anthropocene’s Emma Bryce has summarized the science of Building a better soybean:
What will it take to build crops that can withstand future climate changes? A group of plant biologists think they might be on to a solution for soybeans. Using genetic engineering, they’ve created a plant whose yields remain unaffected by high-stress conditions. The key lies in a genetic tweak that makes the plant overexpress a particular enzyme, which is thought to boost the efficiency of their photosynthesis cycle and enhance seed production.
Soybeans are the world’s most widely-farmed legume. But like several other staple crops—including rice and wheat—their optimum growing conditions are threatened by the uncertain effects of predicted temperature and CO2 increases in the coming decades. It follows that if there is reduced productivity and rising food need globally, crops might have to colonize more land in order to keep up. That, in turn, will threaten forests and other habitat. Already, this is a big problem for soy…
…For now, the finding is a step towards making soy yields more predictable, and possibly limiting the land required to farm this crop. But it’s just one option in a fleet of potential solutions that scientists around the world are exploring by experimentally tweaking soy genes, the researchers say.“When we’re trying to meet our food needs for the future, this specific modification is one of the many tools that we’re going to need to rely upon.”
Kohler et. al. “Expression of cyanobacterial FBP/SBPase in soybean prevents yield depression under future climate conditions.” Journal of Experimental Botany. 2017.