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Purdue Research Project Positions Soybeans as Leading Plant-Based Protein

Katy Martin Rainey, an associate professor, plant breeder, and director of the Purdue Soybean Center at Purdue University, has collaborated with USDA-ARS research molecular biologist Karen Hudson on a research project that strengthens soybeans as the plant-based protein of choice for consumers.

By identifying new variants in the soybean genome, Rainey was able to modify water-soluble carbohydrates in soybean meal by stopping the conversion of digestible sucrose into an indigestible carbohydrate - something that causes stomach discomfort and flatulence and depletes energy in pigs and chickens.

In soybeans, most of the plant’s genes have duplicates that step in when one gene along a certain pathway is blocked. Hudson was able to develop a block for the duplicate of the gene responsible for the synthesis of raffinose, the indigestible carbohydrate.

The researchers are hoping that this work will lead to more ways that adjustments to soybean composition can be addressed to create and combine desirable traits that will add value in downstream processing for human consumption. Rainey has already singled out traits in soybeans with economic value to consumers such as postharvest seed composition and quality, and she hopes that her work in creating a “menu” of soybean genes will present the opportunity to bring more innovations to market.

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