Big Fat Deal

January 16, 2009 08:33 AM

When soybean prices rolled to record highs last summer, some growers figured the bloom was off the specialty bean market. Not hardly.

Fact is, you can't get much hotter than the new functional soybean oils that sidestep today's trans-fat issue, which has cost soy oil markets and boosted palm oil.

As demand for healthier foods continues to grow, seed companies are offering new generations of better beans without the yield penalty associated with earlier varieties.

Segregation. On the front end of this trend are healthy contracting opportunities for growers willing to take the pains to identity-preserve their products. Can you swallow a $2.75/ bu. premium?

That's the added benefit of growing non-GM ultralow-linolenic acid soybeans for Asoyia, says Brett Maxwell, vice president of operations and production for the Iowa City, Iowa, company, which is farmer- and employee-owned. Asoyia is the first seed company to release an ultralow-linolenic (1%) soybean variety, a benefit that extends shelf life and suitability for heavy-duty frying applications.

Low-linolenic soybeans were first to market. They contain 3% linolenic acid versus 8% in traditional beans, reducing the need for hydrogenation, the process that produces trans fat, which is claimed to clog arteries.

Shop around. Premiums and contracts vary depending on acid content and whether the soybeans are genetically modified to resist herbicides. On average, growers see a premium of 60¢/bu. for on-farm-stored low-lin soybeans (3%) and 55¢/bu. for those delivered at harvest.

Asoyia and Pioneer have a collaborative agreement on an ultralow-lin, glyphosate-tolerant line that fetches $1/bu. premium, Maxwell says.

A provision in Title I of the farm bill called Quality Incentives Payments will provide additional help in offsetting the cost of growing certain healthy oilseeds.

Greg Anderson, a Newman Grove, Neb., farmer and chairman of Qualisoy, the collaborative soybean industry effort driving the development of trait-enhanced soybeans, says they will increasingly be tailor-made to meet the needs of end users. "We need all the markets we can get for oil," he says.

Coming next are beans with higher levels of oleic acid, which will enhance the use of soy oil in spreads and baking.

The recipe for success in specialty beans is to make sure varieties coming down the road also have strong agronomic performance in the field, says Joe Bothe, soybean quality traits manager for Monsanto. 

More New Beans on the Web
Visit our Web site for more information about specialty entries available for seeding in 2009 and major companies' upcoming high-oleic beans. Also expected soon are varieties with high stearate levels that offer a trans-fat solution for food products that require solid fat. And in coming years, fields will be growing the first land-based supply of essential Omega-3 fatty acids. With soy oil that contains 20% stearidonic acid, the goal is to provide a functional oil with the taste, shelf life and stability of soybean oil combined with the heart health benefits of fish oil.

To contact Pam Smith, e-mail

Top Producer, January 2009

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