Scientists with the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and USDA's Agricultural Research Service have developed seven new types of edamame soybeans that are resistant to diseases and insects. 

Edamame, gaining appeal in U.S. markets for its potential health benefits, is typically imported from China and other East Asian countries. Unlike conventional soybeans, the nation's second-largest cash crop, edamame currently isn't grown by many U.S. farmers due to a lack of disease- and pesticide-resistant varieties of the plant.

Nearly 90% of the grain-type soybean varieties have genes that provide resistance to diseases and pests. Two genes present in these soybeans were at the center of the research, being used by scientists to protect the experimental edamame plants from soybean aphid and Phytophthora sojae, a fungus that can cause stems and seeds to rot. 

Phytophthora stem and seed rot can cause up to 100% losses on seedling stands, according to a USDA release. 

The team — which includes ARIS researchers Glen Hartman and Charles "Roger" Bowen, as well as University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign scientists Sara Schultz and Amanda Bardeau — used conventional breeding to pass the genes to the edamame plants, the release said.

Hartman said the development of pest- and disease-resistant crop varieties "provides growers with a kind of safety net in that they don't have to worry about getting chemical products for insect and disease control and they don't have to suffer as much yield due to stand losses."

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