Researchers at Iowa State University recently discovered a gene they say can be added to soybeans to make them more protein-rich.
I.S.U. plant genetics professors Eve Wurtele and Ling Li noticed a unique-looking gene in a common weed. Li says they thought the a gene in the plant might have something to do with how it creates nutrients and decided to test it by putting the gene in a soybean plant.
“This gene is very small, the coding sequence is only 180 nucleotides,” Li says. The weed Arabdopsis is one geneticists love to study because it’s entire genome has been sequenced. Li the gene caused the soybean plant to increase the amount of protein in the beans by 30% to 60%. They named the gene after Li’s daughter.
“This gene is so small and my daughter, she was so little at that time, so we started to call this gene Ching Ching.
Li says the gene still needs to be further tested, but it could significantly boost the nutritional value of soybeans – and possibly other crops, too.
She and Wurtele are testing to see if the gene would work in corn, rice and potatoes. They have also applied for a patent for the gene, hoping that the discovery could help people in areas who survive on protein-deficient diets.