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A Better Bean

December 10, 2011
A Better Bean   1
The future for soybeans is loaded with potential. Traits that increase yield, fight stressors, manage pests and bestow new healthy attributes are all headed to the field within the next decade.  
 
 

New traits take oilseeds beyond ordinary

Cool beans. The product pipeline is starting to fill with new soybean traits that benefit both farmers and consumers.

"We’re calling the years ahead ‘the decade of the bean,’" says Roy Fuchs, Monsanto Company’s global oilseed technology lead. "Growers are going to see the soybean get a makeover."

These magic beans won’t reach skyward as in "Jack and the Beanstalk," but they will offer new traits that boost intrinsic yield, resist drought, fight nematodes, help manage aphids and provide multiple over-the-top herbicide options. Varieties containing a trait that bestows new heart-healthy oil attributes head to the field this year too.

University of Wisconsin soybean specialist Shawn Conley says soybean growers will need to sharpen their management skills to take advantage of all this innovation.

"The Roundup Ready trait has made growing soybeans simple since 1996. We’re entering a much more complex era that will require attention to detail that hasn’t traditionally been applied to soybean production," he says.

Conley notes that variety selection becomes especially important as traits get stacked and growers have more choices. Prices are likely to edge up as more value gets placed into the seed.

"Yield is still the main driver," Conley says. "Once you have selected a group of high-yielding varieties, it is time to choose those that have disease, weed or insect tolerances that meet your specific needs."

He notes that in Wisconsin, soybean cyst nematode (SCN), brown stem rot and white mold are the largest annual concerns. On the other hand, controlling pigweed likely tops the list in Southern states.

Game changers. While much of the spotlight is focused on new biotech events, Fuchs notes that molecular markers continue to help improve soybeans through conventional breeding efforts too. Traditional breeding traits also don’t have the same regulatory hurdles to go through as genetically modified solutions and are less complicated to bring to market.

"Just inserting a genetically modified trait does not ensure a better bean right away. It takes a couple of years for a new trait in soybeans to reach its value proposition," Fuchs says.

"Getting to market is only part of the push. The trait must be put into a breadth of genetics and combined with best management practices and correct placement of product in the field before it realizes its true potential. All of the pieces are coming together to begin maximizing yield," he says.

 

A Better Bean   2
The first biotech soybean trait aimed at consumers is coming in 2012, says Steve Schnebly, Pioneer soybean researcher.

Get healthy oils

You’ve heard it before: The public has been slow to swallow biotech traits because those that are available benefit the grower rather than the consumer. That will change in 2012.

Fresh from Pioneer Hi-Bred’s pipeline is Plenish, the first high-oleic soybean to hit the seed sack and the first soybean biotech trait with a direct consumer benefit. With more than 75% oleic acid and less than 3% linolenic acid, Plenish has zero grams trans fat and 20% less saturated fat than commodity soybean oil.

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FEATURED IN: Farm Journal - December 2011

 
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