Soybean Growers Seek to Regain Markets with High Oleic Varieties

LINCOLN, Neb. — Jan. 11, 2016 — Some Nebraska soybean growers will have the option to plant soybean varieties that produce a functionally improved oil for food applications and increase demand for their crop. The United Soybean Board recently announced that high oleic soybeans will be accepted by AGP in Hastings next fall. Farmers in the Hastings area who grow high oleic soybeans in 2016 will receive a premium for that crop.
Oil derived from high oleic soybeans is free of trans fats and performs better in frying and baking. Cooking oil produced from other varieties of soybeans requires partial hydrogenation, which creates trans fats. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently declared a ban on partially hydrogenated oil that will be implemented over the next three years. As health concerns over trans fats have increased, soybean oil’s share of the cooking oil market has declined. Oil derived from high oleic soybeans contains no trans fats, is naturally more stable at high temperatures and has a longer shelf life.
Soybean grower Gregg Fujan of Weston, Nebraska, is a director on the United Soybean Board. He has worked on a plan to increase U.S. production of high oleic soybeans. “The soybean industry has lost a huge share of the cooking oil market,” said Fujan. “We hope to regain that market share through the growth of high oleic soybeans.”
Research at the University of Nebraska–Lincoln funded by the Nebraska Soybean Board has permitted extensive testing of high oleic soybeans. UNL professor Tom Clemente first conducted research with high oleic soybeans in the late 1990s. Clemente says high oleic soybean oil contains significantly more oleic acid, mirroring olive oil, with reduced polyunsaturated fatty acids. The result is oil with high oxidative stability, which translates to increased shelf life.
“It has superior functionality relative to standard commodity soybean oil and maintains protein levels and quality in the meal without loss of yield,” said Clemente.
High oleic soybeans have been grown for several years in the Eastern Corn Belt states and in the Delmarva Peninsula on the East Coast. Fujan says high oleic soybeans yield competitively with elite genetics that farmers are planting now and include the agronomic traits for disease resistance as well as pest tolerance that are important for this region. High oleic soybeans require identity preservation, which means they can’t be mixed with standard commodity soybeans on the farm or at the processor. Growers receive a premium on each bushel of high oleic soybeans.
In the long run, Fujan believes high oleic soybeans will improve the bottom line for Nebraska farmers. “If we can increase demand for oil, we can increase the price of soybeans.”
To meet expected demand by the food industry, the soybean industry has set a goal for U.S. farmers to plant 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans by 2023. In Nebraska, farmers interested in planting high oleic soybeans should contact their seed dealers.