Germplasm is a collection of natural genetic diversity. The USDA Soybean Germplasm Collection housed at the University of Illinois is one of 30 germplasm collections that are part of the National Plant Germplasm System. There are five major divisions within our collection: North American varieties (700 mostly publicly developed varieties), introduced soybeans (16,600 from 92 countries), wild soybeans (1,100 from four countries), perennial Glycine species (900 lines in 16 species), and the genetic collection (900 special research lines). We acquire, maintain, and evaluate this germplasm. We also distribute more than 20,000 seed samples each year to approximately 400 soybean scientists in 35 states and 20 foreign countries. Information about the collection can be found on the USDA-ARS National Plant Germplasm System Website (see below).
The seeds in our collection come in a surprising array of colors, shapes, and sizes, but this visual diversity is only a small part of the genetic diversity in the collection. Soybeans in our collection can be grown from Canada all the way to the equator. These soybean lines are the most important source for new genes for disease resistance and seed composition modification and, in recent years, the source of new genes for high yield. Less than 1 percent of the lines in our collection have made any contribution to the commercial soybean varieties grown in the U.S., so our collection remains a vast reservoir of unknown genetic diversity to be discovered and utilized to improve soybean varieties for the future.
Esther Peregrine, Assistant Soybean Curator
(217) 244-4345; firstname.lastname@example.org