CHAMPAIGN, Ill. (WCIA) — University of Illinois genomic biologist Dr. Stephen Long recently achieved a 25% increase in soybean yields through genetic manipulation.

But he said it will likely be a decade before farmers will benefit from his research.

“Given that this is a transgenic trait, it would have to be deregulated, it would have to be back-crossed into local cultivars,” Long said. “So the best would be 10 years from now.”

As we are looking at food security around the world right now, this is something that could address those food security challenges fairly quickly.

On average, conventional breeding is improving one or one-and-a-half percent per year, assuming we don’t get hit by climate change impact,” Long said. “You will be adding this big increase on top of what breeders are already achieving.”

The Gates Foundation funded Long’s research, but U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said that shows there is more needed for USDA-funded research.

“First and foremost, it underscores the continued investment in agricultural research, and I think what we have learned recently: there has been somewhat of a flat-lining in publicly funded agricultural research,” Vilsack said. “And I think, frankly, as we learn more about the role that agriculture is going to play in climate, the role that agriculture and food is going to play in health and disease prevention, the cancer moonshot, all of that, I think you’re going to find the need for us to see an increase in research. It doesn’t surprise me that as we learn more about photosynthesis, the efficiencies that can be created will result in increased productivity.”

Illinois Soybean Association CEO John Lumpe underscored that on behalf of farmers.

“The way I would look at this Stu is if we can get a 25% yield increase based on his work with photosynthesis, that’s only a benefit to the soybean farmer and the soybean industry to get more crop out of the same acre of land,” Lumpe said.

That also has impact on world hunger as well, because he is feeding 25% more people.

“Exactly,” Lumpe responded. “25% more people, that means more is available for use not only in human consumption, livestock consumption, but exports.