Soybeans were domesticated in China more than 3 000 years ago. After being introduced in the United States during the 18th century, they developed into an important cash crop worldwide due to their high nutritional and health value. However, soybeans have caused a near food crisis in their homeland, China, where owing to insufficient supply the country spends tens of billions of US dollars each year importing them, accounting for more than half of total global soybean exports. In order to encourage further studies and research into soybeans, local scientists have launched a large-scale soybean genomic project, which focuses on the biodiversity of wild soybeans and has uncovered useful genomic information about the plant.
To enable the public to learn more about the research and breeding of soybeans, Hong Kong Science Museum's Science News Corner presents a new exhibition, "Soybean Homecoming", which runs from tomorrow (April 13) to July 31. The exhibition introduces the findings of Professor Lam Hon-ming, professor of the School of Life Sciences, Faculty of Science of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, and his project team from the Center for Soybean Research at the Chinese University of Hong Kong.
At present, China's annual soybean crop accounts for less than 10 per cent of global production, while the United States, Brazil and Argentina together account for over 80 per cent. China has become the world's largest importer of soybeans.
However, China faces challenges in its soybean production. With a population close to 1.3 billion, per capita arable land and fresh water resources in China are far below the world's average and thus it is hard to expand the acreage devoted to soybeans. Experts are consequently looking to use advanced scientific research and growth technology to increase crop production levels and quality.
China has a rich resource of wild soybeans, but the country's soybean farmers and breeders have focused mainly on selecting cultivars that offer maximum productivity. As a result, the genetic diversity of China's cultivated soybeans has become very limited and they may have lost their ability to adapt to adverse environments.
To foster the study and breeding of soybeans in China, Professor Lam Hon-ming's team are leading a joint soybean genomic project along with researchers from Shenzhen to apply advanced deoxyribonucleic acid (DNA) sequencing technology to reveal the biodiversity of wild soybean genomes and unlock the essential genomic data contained in soybeans. The ultimate goal is to strengthen both research and sustainable cultivation of soybeans in China. The exhibition introduces visitors to the current achievements of this study project.
The exhibition opened today (April 12). Officiating at the opening ceremony were the Pro-Vice-Chancellor of the Chinese University of Hong Kong, Professor Cheung Mui-ching; Professor Lam Hon-ming; Vice-President for Administration and Business of the Hong Kong University of Science and Technology and Expert Advisor of Hong Kong Science Museum, Professor Wong Yuk-shan; and acting Chief Curator of the Hong Kong Science Museum, Ms Karen Sit.
The Hong Kong Science Museum is located at 2 Science Museum Road, Tsim Sha Tsui East. It is open from 10am to 7pm on weekdays, and from 10am to 9pm on weekends and public holidays. It is closed on Thursdays (except public holidays). Admission is $25 with half-price concessions for full-time students, people with disabilities and senior citizens aged 60 or above. Admission is free on Wednesdays.
For details of the exhibition and related programmes, visit the webpage on the Science Museum's website at www.hk.science.museum/en_US/web/scm/se/snc.html. For enquiries, please call 2732 3232.
Ends/Friday, April 12, 2013