"Scaring" soybeans into defense mode yields better plants a generation later

Image credit: Bigstock

Image credit: Bigstock


How can crop yields be enhanced as drought and extreme heat increasingly jeopardize food security?


Researchers found that by silencing the expression of a critical gene in soybeans, the plants are fooled into sensing they are under stress even though they are growing in perfect conditions. The progeny of these plants, cross-bred with the original stock, remember the stress-induced responses for generations and produce more vigorous, resilient, and productive plants.


The critical gene found in soybeans is also found across all plants and could be deployed to increase yields by simply changing the way existing genes are expressed.

  • Yields increased by as much as 14 percent.
  • Because no new genes are introduced, the plant is not considered a genetically modified organism and does not require special regulatory approval.

Related Research Area: Advanced Agricultural and Food Systems

Research Credit


  • Sally Mackenzie, Sunil Kenchanmane Raju, Mon-Ray Shao, Robersy Sanchez, Ying-Zhi Xu, Ajay Sandhu, and George Graef

Participating Departments

Competitive Funding

  • National Science Foundation; Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Emerging Discoveries

Published Research

MSH1-induced heritable enhanced growth vigor through grafting is associated with the RdDM pathway in plants

Segregation of an MSH1 RNAi transgene produces heritable non-genetic memory in association with methylome reprogramming

An epigenetic breeding system in soybean for increased yield and stability