Mycorrhizae are beneficial soil fungi that pair up with plant roots like soybeans to get a bit of energy. In return, these fungi act as an extension of the root system to take up additional nutrients and water from the soil, supporting healthy, efficient growth. Mycorrhizal colonies exist naturally in soils and can be added as seed inoculants.

University of Illinois researchers, funded by the soy checkoff and the U.S. Department of Agriculture Agricultural Research Service, recently discovered that soybean genotypes respond differently to mycorrhizae. Understanding the genes that control how roots interact with mycorrhizae colonies could lead soybean breeders to develop varieties that work more efficiently with the fungi. That could lead to improved nutrient uptake, drought tolerance and disease resistance, ensuring an abundant, sustainable, high-quality soybean supply.