Checkoff News

New USB-FFAR Partnership Boosts Protein in Soybeans

USB and FFAR partnership provides more than $3 million in research funding to improve soybean protein content and quality.

WASHINGTON (January 16, 2020) — A $3.2 million investment between the United Soybean Board and the Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research is enhancing the U.S. soy industry’s competitive advantage, driving opportunities for American soybean farmers. This partnership specifically funds research to improve the protein content and quality of U.S. soybeans while protecting yield.

“Leveraging USB funds in this manner with other public and private collaborators extends the reach and potential impact of USB investments, as well as increases buy-in from key value chain partners,” says USB Vice President of Meal Strategy Keenan McRoberts. “USB will continue to seek and act on opportunities like this to amplify the soy checkoff’s investment reach, impact and returns through critical partnerships and leveraged funding sources.”

USB and FFAR are co-funding soybean research to support four projects:

  • Dr. George Graef, with the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, is leading an interdisciplinary team to improve genetic diversity, seed composition and yield of soybeans using highly productive soybean genetic resources, breeding, genomics, and biotechnology to identify and understand key genes involved in soybean seed protein composition. It also includes developing soybeans capable of producing a 48% protein meal and 11 pounds of oil per bushel, with good amino acid balance and yield that meet or exceed yield of elite varieties in MG 0 to V. This project received $778,078 from USB and $651,673 from FFAR for a total award of $1,429,751, with funding available through September 2021.
  • Dr. Rouf Mian, with USDA-North Carolina State University, is utilizing genetically diverse soybeans and wild relatives to develop new germplasm varieties with consistently elevated protein and yields comparable to commercial varieties. The project aims to release at least five soybean varieties capable of producing more than 48% meal protein and higher yields. The project received $810,114 from USB and $695,020 from FFAR for a total award of $1,505,134, with funding available through September 2020.

  • Dr. Doug Allen, with USDA-Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is identifying the novel amino acid composition genes in the mutant variety and taking advantage of a new analytical method to create a more nutritious soybean. Soybean meal, considered a gold standard to which most protein sources are compared, contains an inadequate amount of sulfur amino acids. Earlier research uncovered soybeans with enhanced sulfur-containing amino acids in a mutant variety. USB contributed $96,578 and FFAR invested $80,886 for a total award of $177,464, with funding available through September 2020.

  • Dr. Yong-Qiang An, with USDA-Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, is identifying the genes that result in elevated protein and using them in breeding efforts of commercial soybean varieties. The identification and validation of these genes has the potential to create both a more nutritious soybean as well as a more profitable one for farmers. The project was awarded $86,468 from USB and $72,421 from FFAR for a total award of $158,889, with funding available through September 2020.

“The protein content in soybeans, on average, is decreasing,” said Sally Rockey, Ph.D., FFAR’s executive director. “By partnering with USB, we are investing in research to increase the protein content of U.S. soybeans. This research not only helps U.S. soybean farmers remain competitive, but also adds additional protein to the food supply.”

 “Our goal is to meet the needs of U.S. soy customers around the globe who seek increased protein content and consistent, high-quality soybeans,” says USB Chair and Arkansas farmer Jim Carroll. “We also have a commitment to protect yields, which supports both environmental and financial sustainability.”

FFAR has invested $1.5 million, and with matching funding from USB, this partnership is contributing more than $3 million to this research. These projects went through USB’s competitive FY20 funding process. In looking forward to 2021, USB’s FY21 Request for Pre-Proposals can be found at

In addition to identifying ways to improve crude protein content and overall quality of U.S. soybeans, USB also anticipates the findings will help strengthen the U.S. soybean industry’s position in the marketplace, developing and expanding domestic and foreign markets.

McRoberts adds, “Protein is the fundamental building block of our food supply, and a Protein First approach, extending access to plant- and animal-based foods with this key macronutrient, is a priority for the U.S. soy community.”

Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization originally established by bipartisan Congressional support in the 2014 Farm Bill, builds unique partnerships to support innovative and actionable science addressing today’s food and agriculture challenges. FFAR leverages public and private resources to increase the scientific and technological research, innovation and partnerships critical to enhancing sustainable production of nutritious food for a growing global population. 

Connect: @FoundationFAR | @RockTalking

United Soybean Board

United Soybean Board’s 78 farmer-directors work on behalf of all U.S. soybean farmers to achieve maximum value for their soy checkoff investments. These volunteers invest and leverage checkoff funds in programs and partnerships to drive soybean innovation beyond the bushel and increase preference for U.S. soy. That preference is based on U.S. soybean meal and oil quality and the sustainability of U.S. soybean farmers. As stipulated in the federal Soybean Promotion, Research and Consumer Information Act, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service has oversight responsibilities for USB and the soy checkoff.


Media Contacts: 
Paul Murphy-Spooner at United Soybean Board, 636-681-1254 
Mace Thornton at United Soybean Board, 636-681-1263
Sarah Goldberg at Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research (FFAR), 202-624-0704

© 2020 United Soybean Board. All Rights Reserved. [59815-4 - CB]

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