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High-Oleic Soybeans Have Promise

A new horizon for soybeans is on the way via high-oleic soybean oil.

If you want to eke out a profit growing soybeans in 2018, high-oleic varieties may be a way to do it.

That’s because farmers can garner a premium ranging from 20¢ to 60¢ per bushel above conventional soybeans, depending on market conditions. There’s some work involved, as farmers must segregate the crop from conventional soybeans at harvest. Farmers must also combine high-oleic soybeans at specific moistures.

Still, high-oleic varieties can give farmers an edge during tough economic times. “That can give farmers a $25- to $30-per-acre incentive to plant them,” says Russ Sanders, DuPont Pioneer food and industry markets director.

There’s another perk, too. “Vistive Gold (Monsanto’s high-oleic soybean) is one of the first biotech traits with benefits to consumers,” says Lisa Streck, Monsanto’s North American soybean launch lead.

That’s because they’re a healthier soybean for food ingredients and cooking oil.  In 2006, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) moved to label foods containing trans fats. This morphed into an FDA ruling – effective July 2018 – that bans partially hydrogenated oils that contain artificial trans fats in food products.

This negatively impacts commodity soybean oil. To create stability or lasting power, it has to be hydrogenated. Unfortunately, the process creates trans fats that are linked to heightened coronary heart disease risk.

Due to the FDA move, palm oil and high-oleic canola oil sliced soybean oil’s share of the baking and frying fats market. The United Soybean Board (USB) estimates the soybean industry lost 4 billion pounds of soy oil demand annually since the trans fat level law took effect in 2006.

Health Benefits

High-oleic soybeans can turn the tide for soybeans, though. As an example, DuPont Pioneer’s Plenish soybeans contain:

  • Zero trans fats.
  • 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil.
  • An oleic content of more than 75%. This level is similar to olive oil, which is the darling of dieticians.
  • A linoleic content of less than 3%. The lower the linoleic content, the better the oil is for cooking.

Benefits like these appeal to restaurants and food manufacturers, says Sanders. High-oleic soybean oil can also be used for nonfood industrial uses, too.

Thus, the USB estimates 18 million acres of varieties with relative maturities between Group 1 and Group 5 will be planted by 2023. That’s up from 2017 plantings of 625,000 acres. (For comparison, U.S. farmers planted 89.5 million acres to soybeans in 2017.)

This will make high-oleic soybeans the fourth-largest crop behind corn, conventional soybeans, and wheat, says Sanders.

High-oleic soybeans from Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer use transgenic technology to create high-oleic varieties. So far, though, there’s been no pushback from consumers regarding them, says Sanders.

“The consumer benefits of high-oleic soybeans have outweighed any concerns about GMOs,” he says.

Company Offerings

Companies offering the high-oleic soybeans include the following.

  • DuPont Pioneer. Company officials say Plenish soybeans have strong agronomic and defensive traits, including resistance to soybean cyst nematodes and phytophthora and tolerance to Sudden Death Syndrome within a relative maturity range of 2.0 to 4.2. They are being contracted in 13 states.
  • Monsanto. Vistive Gold soybeans are set for a full-scale launch in 2018, with varieties ranging from a 2.6 to 4.1 relateive maturity range. “The maturity ranges we offer with Vistive Gold soybeans give us the flexibility to partner with processors in different locations,” says Streck. “We believe in the nutritional benefit of Vistive Gold oil, and we are working aggressively to establish relationships with restaurants and processors.”
  • Calyxt, a New Brighton, Minnesota, firm. The company anticipates commercializing high-oleic soybeans beginning in 2018.
  • Schillinger Genetics and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council. These entities have formed a partnership to bring non-biotech high oleic soybean technologies to farmers.

Currently, more than 75 delivery locations accept high-oleic soybeans. So far, they are grown in Nebraska, Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, West Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Delaware, and Virginia. Check for regions where high-oleic soybeans are grown.

Common soybean oil

High-oleic soybean oils like DuPont Pioneer’s Plenish are lighter in color and saturated fat content than commodity soybean oils. 

Why end users like high-oleic soybeans

High-oleic soybeans are making inroads in the food service industry. “It is the clear choice for our restaurant customers,” says Mike Seidel, director of category/management for Performance Foodservice, a Richmond, Virginia, firm. Performance Foodservice picked Plenish high-oleic soybean oil to be the main component in its Brilliance Premium Oils brand.

One reason is because high-oleic soybean oil has two to three times longer the fry and shelf life that commodity soybean oil has.

“It keeps products viable longer,” says Sanders.

High-oleic soybeans also have a tasteless flavor. “Having no flavor enables the flavor of the food to come out,” says Seidel.

Premium oil like high-oleic soybean oil also reduces labor in restaurants, compared with a conventional soybean or equivalent oil, says Seidel.

Normally, fryers must be cleaned weekly with conventional soybean oil. Premium oil stretches out cleanout to a biweekly basis, says Seidel.

Restaurant owners also like high-oleic oil from a safety factor, says Sanders.

“Conventional soybean oil can break down and give a gummy feel,” he says. “That can make it slippery on surfaces. It can also reduce the likelihood of a fire, because grease is not as likely to build up as does conventional oil.”

Chicken or egg?

Niche markets have always struggled with the Which comes first? The chicken or the egg? scenario.

“Processors want enough soybeans to make the switch, and farmers question if they can grow it that much,” says Sanders. “You have to sell the farmer first.”

To do that, processors offer premiums to grow them. They can vary from year to year but can range between 20¢ to 60¢ per bushel. When more acres are pulled into a niche market, there’s always the chance premiums will go by the wayside as the product becomes a commodity. Sanders thinks that won’t occur, though, because the market basis will be higher due to the increased demand for all types of soybean oil.

“When market prices are challenging, we think high-oleic soybeans can make the difference between black and red ink for farmers,” Sanders says.

What farmers need to do

High-oleic soybeans  have no yield drag when compared with conventional ones, say Lawrence Onweller, a Delta, Ohio, farmer who plants Plenish soybeans.
To garner a premium, though, Onweller runs his combine empty when moving between conventional and high-oleic soybean fields during harvest. This helps segregate the two soybean types. He also harvests Plenish soybeans below 14% or less moisture. That’s the standard processors specify in order to gain the most oil out of soybeans.

“If Plenish soybeans are over 14% moisture, I could potentially lose the premium,” says Onweller.

The moisture limitations exist because the amount of high-oleic soybeans grown is so small that blending with higher-moisture soybeans cannot be done. Still, blending may be possible as more are grown, says Russ Sanders, DuPont Pioneer food and industry markets director.


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