By MATTHEW D. ERNST
ST. LOUIS, Mo. — The United Soybean Board (USB) approved an $8 million project in 2013 to develop high-oleic soybean varieties through partnerships with DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto. The project, approved at the USB annual meeting Dec. 6., will make a broader range of high-oleic maturity groups available more rapidly in efforts to accelerate high-oleic soy oil market development.
“These varieties will initially be released in only select parts of the country: Ohio, Indiana and Michigan,” said Vanessa Kummer, outgoing USB chair. “That is a targeted market strategy. But our partnership takes that strategy and applies it more broadly, making high-oleic soybean seed more widely available, which could lead to having more acres planted.”
The USB projected additional annual expenditures of $12 million for the project, from 2014-17, plus $4 million in 2018. Project expenditures are subject to approval each year by the USB directors.
The project aims to make high-oleic soybeans available in maturity groups for up to 80 percent of U.S. soybean acres by 2020. Without USB funding, the soy industry estimates high-oleic varieties would only be available for 5-10 percent of U.S. acres by then.
John Motter, a USB director from Jenera, Ohio, and chair of the Ohio Soybean Council Board of Trustees, grew high-oleic soybeans for delivery to a Michigan processor this year. During USB discussion on the project, Motter said these soybeans are essential to compete with high-oleic canola and sunflower oils.
“I want to regain our market share, and this is the first pathway,” he said.
High-oleic oil contains zero grams of trans fat and 20-60 percent less saturated fat than conventional soybean oil. That makes high-oleic soy oils attractive to U.S. restaurants and consumers demanding lower fat content. “The market is here,” said Jim Schriver, a USB director from Montpelier, Ind.
Monsanto’s high-oleic Vistive Gold variety, to date, has only been planted in Indiana and Ohio. DuPont Pioneer’s Plenish varieties, further along in the regulatory pipeline, have also been planted in those states, as well as in Michigan and Maryland.
“Soybean yield and agronomic performance that our farmer customers are seeing is outstanding,” said Russ Sanders, marketing director, DuPont Enhanced Oils Venture.
High-oleic soy was touted as one of the industry’s game-changers in the USB Connections industry meetings, held in the two days prior to the USB annual meeting this month. An unexpected development during the past year for high-oleic oil, said Kummer, were positive applications for industrial lubricants.
“The higher functionality (of high-oleic oil) into the industrial market is something that’s really exciting to me,” said the North Dakota soybean grower.
Monsanto’s Vice President of Industry Affairs Jim Tobin also indicated positive reception from industrial users. “As demand for high-oleic oil is increasing in food use, we’re proud to also be part of the solution in offering a renewable, biodegradable soybean-based alternative for the industrial lubricant market,” he said.
The first high-oleic soy oils reached commercialization in June 2011. A key for development was having the oil retain an “extended fry life,” referring to the amount of time that cooking oil retains its stability. High-oleic oil retains stability for at least 25 hours, with some restaurants said to have used the oil for much longer.
A survey of foodservice operators funded by the soy checkoff this year indicated active testing of high-oleic soybean oils.
“More than 40 companies are already testing high-oleic soybean oils and I’d expect that number to accelerate over (2012),” said oils expert Don Banks, president of Edible Oil Technology and consultant for USB, earlier this year.
The USB projects the high-oleic project with DuPont Pioneer and Monsanto will have substantial income effects on the soy industry. “If successful, this partnership may bring $2 billion to U.S. soybean farmers by 2023,” said Kummer.