“What’s new in soybeans?” asked Monsanto’s Bryan Dillehay, the lead-off speaker at Penn State’s 2015 Farming for Success seminar. Though he lives in Missouri, Dillehay is no stranger to Penn State, having received his Masters and Ph.D in Agronomics from the University. “I don’t want to talk about things four or five years down the road, but hopefully things you’ll be able to buy this fall and plant next spring,” he said.
In November 2013, U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) made a preliminary determination that, because of the presence of trans-fat, partially hydrogenated oils are no longer “generally recognized as safe.” If this determination is finalized, many foods sold in the country will no longer contain trans-fat added through hydrogenation, a process used to increase shelf life and give food the desired taste and texture.
As a part of what it calls its Ground Breakers program, Monsanto has debuted its Vistive® Gold soybeans, which are high oleic. “A number of years ago, we had a soybean called simply Vistive. This is kind of a new and improved biotech version of those Vistive beans. Those really were a little bit before their time. There’s talk now about a nationwide ban of trans-fats. That’s pretty important, because soybeans, the high oleics, are going to fit right into that hole where hydrogenated oils will be removed,” according to Dillehay.
Roundup Ready® 2 Xtend is the trade name of the dicamba soybeans. A lot of the science behind this has been understood; it is more related to deregulation and executing the different legal hurdles, import approvals and things like that. Pending regulatory approvals, the Roundup Ready® Xtend Crop System will be an advanced weed management tool in the fight against resistant and tough-to-control broadleaf weeds in soybeans and cotton.
Looking at a PowerPoint slide, Dillehay explained that there are “saturated fats, monounsaturated fats and polyunsaturated fats. All of those have different aspects to our health, to our taste and different aspects to shelf life. The polyunsaturates are the ones that can go bad. The reason oil is hydrogenated is to extend the shelf life. Traditional vegetable oils don’t last very long, they become rancid pretty quick, and they don’t cook very well.” Hence hydrogenation, which adds trans-fats, which are bad, and which the government is looking to ban. Enter high oleic soybeans. “We were able to increase the monounsaturated fat, which allows the high oleic soybeans. So we are seeing a healthier oil and we don’t have to hydrogenate. That is really the biggest thing driving this.”
Dillehay added that there are Plenish® beans growing in south central PA, as well as Vistive Gold. “Both are considered high oleic beans. There is a little bit of difference that will affect how it’s used in, say, a recipe. So, if one particular food company wants to use certain oil, they develop their recipe in a certain way. If you change the oil a little bit, it would change the recipe, so the beans are close but not quite interchangeable.”
Today we are looking at high oleic soybean oil available, or basically the demand. Ten years out, in 2025, we’re seeing that multiply over 100 times. What that’s going to require is upward of 20 million acres. Today it is mere fractions of that. “The demand is there according to some of these projections,” says Dillehay, “but as farmers we want to grow these things, we want the premium, and we want to grow something healthy, but it will really depend on the consumer and those food company’s demands. We will have to adapt to this market rather than create it on our own.” He added that most likely, we will not see this go away. Dillehay said that his main competitors were sunflower, canola and safflower, and that they were sparse throughout the U.S. and up into Canada. “They are not really good options for us, and when we look at acreage they pale in comparison to what we can do with soybeans. Soy is well-positioned, indeed.”
This all started in 2012 with the oils, according to the United Soybean Board. Northern Indiana, northwest Ohio and southern Michigan constitute the primary piece. “This year a lot of what we’re growing in northern Indiana and northern Ohio is seed production, which we’re actually growing for oil for the end use of these soybeans,” Dillehay explains. “This has expanded to the east. It is good for the industry but maybe not so good for us locally, seeing the Midwest really starting to adapt. That’s where they see this in the next few years. And as we look farther out, we’re seeing pretty much the entire U.S. In order to get this large acreage, it’s going to have to be across the whole U.S. in a lot of different maturity groups.”