FeaturesHonors & AwardsAg Announcements

Calendar, Ag News Elsewhere  (fresh daily from the Web)


Chinese soybean germplasm could
hold key to future yield increases

[AUG. 12, 2002]  URBANA — The soybeans grown today in Illinois are descended from Chinese varieties that were introduced into the United States between 1910 and 1930. Eight of those varieties contribute 75 percent of the genes in the current varieties grown here.

And, according to Randy Nelson, curator of the USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection at the University of Illinois, that narrow genetic base could well limit future progress to increase yields.

"In recent years, we have seen new diseases develop, such as sudden death syndrome and white mold," he said. "We also have found changes in the pathogen populations of other diseases, such as Phytophthora rot and soybean cyst nematode. Finding new genes for resistance to those diseases is critically important for health of soybean production in Illinois."

He notes that the maximum genetic diversity for any trait is most likely to occur in varieties from China because the soybean originated there.

"During the time that the soybean became a major crop in Illinois, we had no opportunity to exchange germplasm with China," Nelson said. "In 1992, the Illinois Soybean Checkoff Board, the Illinois Agricultural Experiment Station and the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service finally established a major germplasm exchange with the Chinese Ministry of Agriculture. Over the following eight years, this collaboration increased the number of Chinese varieties in our collection from 2,900 to nearly 6,100."


Those new additions came from 27 provinces in China, representing all the soybean growing areas in the country. Prior to 1992, nearly 80 percent of the Chinese varieties in the collection came from only three provinces in northeast China, and many provinces were not represented at all.

"Extensive research supported by the United Soybean Board has now demonstrated the genetic uniqueness of those exotic Chinese varieties and the value of that diversity," Nelson said. "Improved resistance has been found for nearly all the diseases that have been evaluated."

For example, the highest known level of resistance to sudden death syndrome was found among those varieties, as well as new sources of resistance to soybean cyst nematode, white mold, brown stem rot, Phytophthora rot and leaf-feeding insects. Preliminary data also indicates that tolerance to drought may exist in varieties from the area adjacent to the Gobi Desert.


[to top of second column in this article]

"Ongoing genetic research is aimed at determining how those new genes can be incorporated into the commercial varieties grown in Illinois and across the country," he said. "This exotic germplasm clearly has the potential to improve the yield of the varieties that growers in our state will use in the future."

During the last six years, 14 experimental lines have been released for use by universities and private companies to develop improved varieties.

"By making comparisons at the DNA level, we can estimate how closely soybean lines are related, even when we have no pedigree information," Nelson said. "Based on DNA similarities, the major ancestral lines of the U.S. varieties have been placed into six genetic groups. The new exotic parents represent nine genetic groups that are distinct from those contained in the major U.S. ancestral lines."

Nelson points out that the most recent releases from this research were evaluated at nine regional locations in 2001.

"One line derived from 25 percent exotic germplasm exceeded the yield of the best commercial variety by nearly 12 percent and was the highest yielding entry in the test," he said. "Another experimental line derived solely from the exotic Chinese lines equaled the yield of the best commercial variety we tested. Those results indicate that the use of this exotic germplasm from China has the potential to enhance disease resistance, increase yield, and improve seed composition in the future."

Details on Chinese germplasm and other research projects will be featured at Agronomy Day 2002 on Aug. 22 at the Crop Sciences Research Education Center, located south of the University of Illinois’ main Urbana campus.

For more information, including directions and a listing of all of the research projects to be presented at Agronomy Day 2002 visit www.cropsci.uiuc.edu/agronomyday or call (217) 333-4424.

[U of I news release]

U of I Lambing School set
Mary not in attendance, sources say

[AUG. 9, 2002]  URBANA — Reservations are due by Sept. 2 for the University of Illinois Lambing School. The event will be from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Sept. 21 at the U of I sheep barn on St. Mary’s Road, directly south of the Assembly Hall. A maximum of 30 participants will be accepted for the school.

"This is an educational event for new, beginning and experienced shepherds interested in learning more about lambing and the events leading up to and following it," said Richard Cobb, U of I Extension sheep specialist.

Topics covered include nutrition of the ewe, lambing barn preparation and obstetrics, grafting methods, raising orphan lambs, docking, and identification.

"The school is designed for maximum ‘hands-on’ experience and informal questions and answers," said Cobb.

Joining Cobb as an instructor will be Cliff Shipley, a clinical practitioner specialist with the U of I College of Veterinary Medicine.

The cost is $30 per person ($20 for each additional family member) and includes morning coffee and donuts, noon meal, and educational materials.

Registration information is available by contacting Cobb at 128 ASL, 1207 West Gregory Drive, Urbana, IL 61801; phone (217) 333-7351; e-mail arcobb@uiuc.edu.

Information is also available on the Web at Illini SheepNet: http://sheepnet.outreach.uiuc.edu.

[U of I news release]

Weekly outlook

Crop size

[AUG. 6, 2002]  URBANA — Price stability will not likely return until the market is comfortable with production prospects, said a University of Illinois Extension marketing specialist.

"The USDA’s August Crop Production report will provide the starting point for refining these expectations, but confidence in production prospects may be delayed until the September or October report," said Darrel Good.

"History for those years when a small crop occurs, or is expected, suggests that prices will experience an early peak this year. The high may have already occurred, or it could come as late as November, underscoring the difficulty of making pricing decisions.

"I have advocated the use of an averaging strategy on a portion of expected production to ensure that at least some of the crop gets priced in the window of opportunity for high prices."

Good’s comments came as he reviewed the commodity markets and the potential size of the 2002 crops. Weather conditions, weather forecast and production prospects continue to dominate the corn and soybean markets. Last week’s price action was dominated by talk of "irreversible" damage to the corn crop and prospects for continued hot, dry weather over a large part of the Midwest.

December 2002 corn futures traded to the highest level for the summer and within 65 cents of the contract high. November soybean futures regained much of the loss experienced between July 23 and July 29 but remained well below the contract high of $5.65 established on July 23. Weekend precipitation in Iowa and parts of the upper Midwest, along with forecasts of cooler temperatures, suggested that prices would start this week on a weaker tone.

"Summer weather conditions often provide volatility to the corn and soybean market, but the almost daily ‘yo-yo’ pattern of prices this year is a little unusual," said Good. "There are at least two fundamental reasons for the pattern of quick price reversals experienced this year. First, there is a significant difference of opinion about yield potential for the 2002 crop."

Good said that forecasts by those quoted in the press vary by as much as 15 bushels per acre for corn and four bushels per acre for soybeans. For corn, the difference in yield expectation represents about one billion bushels of production. For soybeans, the range in expectations represents about 360 million bushels of production. The wide range of expectation reflects the fact that crop stress had continued into the reproductive stage of crop development.


[to top of second column in this article]

"A second reason for the large daily price changes is that U.S. and world stocks of grains and oilseeds are small enough that changes in 2002 production prospects have significant implications for the magnitude of price that is necessary to clear the market during the year ahead," said Good. "Year-ending stocks of U.S. soybeans will be especially small, and corn inventories will represent less than a two-month supply.

"There is little cushion for a shortfall in production in 2002. The current situation is one that has been anticipated for several years. Markets have become accustomed to small inventories, and production has been large for six consecutive years. However, market analysts have generally warned that low inventories would translate into volatile prices if and when production was threatened."

For corn, harvested acreage for grain is expected to be near 72 million acres this year. At the low end of yield expectations, about 120 bushels, the crop would total 8.64 billion bushels. Last month, the USDA projected a market for 9.96 billion bushels of corn during the 2002-03 marketing year if prices averaged near $2.

"That combination of production and consumption would project to year-ending stocks of about 300 million bushels," said Good. "Inventories cannot be reduced to such a low level, so prices would have to increase enough to reduce consumption by 300 to 400 million bushels. The strength of demand would determine how high prices would have to be to accomplish the reduction.

"At the high end of yield expectations, about 135 bushels, the crop would total about 9.72 billon bushels, resulting in ample carryover stocks of about 1.4 billion bushels. Under this scenario, the average price would not likely be much above the $1.90 average of the current year."

Harvested acreage of soybeans is also expected to be near 72 million acres. A yield near the low end of expectations, about 35 bushels, would produce a crop of 2.52 billion bushels. A crop of that size would require consumption to be about 250 million bushels less than projected by the USDA last month.

"An average yield of 39 bushels would produce a crop of just over 2.8 billion bushels," said Good. "A crop of that size would result in further reduction in inventories, but would allow use to be at the level projected by the USDA. These two scenarios have very different price implications."

[U of I news release]

Honors & Awards

Ag Announcements

Back to top


News | Sports | Business | Rural Review | Teaching & Learning | Home and Family | Tourism | Obituaries

Community | Perspectives | Law & Courts | Leisure Time | Spiritual Life | Health & Fitness | Calendar

Letters to the Editor