Standing at the threshold of the 21st century, soybean breeders have a clear and unlimited view. Researchers worldwide continue to look for genetic answers to yield inhibitors of climate, disease and insects. There is much work yet to be done. And, fortunately, there's plenty of genetic material to do it with.

Countries will continue to look to the U.S. for breeding materials that can build their yields through disease resistance and increased production. But other countries have an ample supply of genetic stock to offer as well - particularly China.

Soybeans are native to China. In the National Gene Bank there, scientists have collected more than 23,000 soybean accessions, or genetically distinct populations. Among those varieties are soybeans that have high levels of the amino acids methionine and cystine, resistance to drought and resistance to diseases. At least 50 of them have shown immunity or resistance to different races of soybean cyst nematode (SCN).

"A new yield barrier, discovered in 1998, will be discussed that has the potential for having an impact on future soybean yields similar to the discovery of the lodging barrier in 1967," says Ohio State University's Dick Cooper.

American scientists continue their search for higher yields as well, and will discuss their findings at the Global Soy Forum.

The demand for more soybean varieties with more traits in the 21st century will be answered, in part, with new developments in biotechnology. As this new science becomes more sophisticated, and its products accepted more widely, potential for new soybean products becomes almost unlimited. New research has scientists ever closer to understanding the gene makeup of soybeans and how each gene affects the ultimate productivity of the plant.

Each innovation is a step closer to "designer" varieties, created through biotechnology, that allow plants to flourish where climate, soil types, disease or insects once limited production.