Establishing the National Center for Soybean Technology at MU will attract scientists from all over the world and could produce research that leads to cures for serious diseases and to more drought-resistant crops.
Dale Ludwig, executive director of the Missouri Soybean Association, made those predictions Thursday at a press conference to announce a $900,000 federal grant secured by U.S. Sen. Kit Bond, R-Mo., that will establish the center.
“We have the best soybean researchers in the world,” Ludwig said at the conference. “People knew we had a great program before, but this will attract a lot more attention. This leads to a whole lot more than a few dollars.”
“This is now the place to be for soybean research,” Bond said. “I’m very proud to get this designation.”
“With our outstanding researchers and this new center, our soybean program will be able to take a concept from gene to the field,” Bond said in a news release before the news conference. “This is great news for Missouri’s future and our efforts to feed the world.”
Scientists involved in the research are equally excited about the new center.
“We produce a lot of soybeans in Missouri, and we spend a lot of research money anyway,” said MU research geneticist Paul Beuselinck. “The increased recognition brings other people who want to be part of the excellence.”
One of the primary focuses of scientists working at the center will be to investigate ways to address prevention of serious diseases.
“We are getting closer and closer to cures for heart disease and cancer,” Ludwig said. “We’re looking at ways to prevent cancer with compounds produced in the soybeans.”
This research involves reducing or eliminating transfats, which are produced when unsaturated fats are altered to give them better frying qualities, creating a consistency similar to margarine. Scientists at MU are trying to eliminate the need to alter unsaturated fats by changing the soybean to create polyunsaturated fats that are more solid and still healthy, Beuselinck said.
“Eliminating these transfats from diets will indirectly result in better dieting, which will indirectly reduce the rate of heart disease, for instance,” he said.
Another important component of ongoing soybean research is developing a crop that resists drought, Ludwig said.
“If you plant a crop with 5-foot roots, it will withstand drought,” Bond said.
Ludwig said another benefit of establishing the center at MU is its plethora of complementary research programs.
“We have a great opportunity here to capture the expertise of other fields and have the experts weigh in on soybeans,” Ludwig said.