There is interest in increasing production of protein crops in Europe, with soybean being a prime candidate. However, soybean is currently not widely cultivated in Northern Europe, so there is little information to guide management and line selection.
A new study published in in silico Plants by researchers from Institut Polytechnique UniLaSalle in France evaluated soybean adaptation to Northern European regions using crop growth modeling.
First, they grew soybean in northern France so growth and development data could be gathered. This data was used to calibrate the existing CROPGRO-soybean model. CROPGRO simulations were performed for two sites representing contrasting environments representative of maritime European climate under different water regimes and planting dates. This stimulation allowed them to identify the main yield-limiting factors.
Soybean is sensitive to water deficit from vegetative to grain filling period. Accordingly, adding irrigation at grain filling period was predicted to increase yield potential to the level of non-water limited scenarios. Additionally, low daytime temperatures during the growing season were predicted to have a negative impact on yield.
The researchers found additional variability in yield that was not attributable to water availability. “A tentative explanation is proposed by deriving environmental covariates from the model. The analysis confirmed the importance of precipitation amount (optimum around 200 mm) and duration (optimum around 60 days) of the flowering to physiological maturity period under rainfed conditions,” says lead author Professor Guénolé Boulch.
This research can help develop management strategies to maximize yields and help identify traits of importance for breeding, which will improve crop adaptation for Northern Europe.