By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader, a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean checkoff
From the national kick-off on his farm in Hancock County back in 2011, to the nationwide use of hi-oleic soybean oil today, John Motter has been a fan of the product he produces. John Motter is a soybean grower and member of the Ohio Soybean Council and United Soybean Board. He not only grows soybeans in the fertile soils of southern Hancock County, but he also promotes their use internationally.
Motter is a third-generation farmer, on a farm started by his grandmother. In 1942, during World War II, Motter’s grandmother moved from where the family was living outside of Bluffton to a farm outside of Jenera. She moved along with his uncle while his father was away in the service. When his father came back from the war Motter’s uncle rented another farm and his father farmed his grandmothers farm along with working as a carpenter. The Motters now farm around 900 acres of corn and soybeans in a 50/50 split. Soybean production is around 2/3 Plenish and 1/3 Enlist beans.
Motter practices “rotational no-till” as he likes to refer to it. They use conventional tillage ahead of corn and then no-till their soybeans. The Motters are very conservation minded and experimenting with cover crops on their operation to find the best fit.
Motter had been raising low linoleic soybeans but was one of the first 12 growers in 2011 to raise high oleic soybeans.
“There were 2500 acres of high oleic beans in northwest Ohio,” Motter said. “I had been watching their development while we were growing the low linoleic beans. I was talking to the technology companies about what the potential was and told them that I wanted to be a part of it when it started. The summer of 2011 we hosted a high oleic field day on our farm with 83 growers to talk about this new technology and its possibility in soybeans and where it was going to go.”
“High-oleic soybeans (Plenish) have a higher amino acid, the amino acid Oleic, and a lower linoleic acid content,” Motter said. “Because of linoleic acid, we have to hydrogenate soybeans in order to make cooking oil, which makes trans fats.” The high oleic oil has lower saturated fat than conventional soybean oil and contributes no trans fats to the products cooked in it. It is also healthier, containing three times the amount of beneficial monosaturated fatty acids than regular soybean oil.
Soybean oil has seen a transformation over the years. “When we first started down this path it was all about food uses,” Motter said. “Today it has a number of industrial uses. Each day we are learning more about what we can do with soybean oil and are constantly creating more demand. The oil is now being used in tires, road coatings and asphalt. New uses are being found all the time. A lot of that development goes back to work by the Ohio Soybean Check-off and the early work with Battelle Institute and now Airable Labs.”
Motter remembers the not-so-distant past history of soybean oil and the by-product status.
“I remember when soybean oil was a by-product sent to the landfill because we did not have a use for it,” Motter said. “Livestock has always been soybean’s number one customer and soybeans were crushed for livestock feed. The oil that came from the crushing process was considered a by-product with little value. Now the roles are somewhat reversed. Livestock are still our number one customer and the meal is still being fed as a protein source to livestock, but the oil has gone from being a by-product to being a co-product. There are 864 different ways that soybean oil can be used, and today that 18% soybean oil that comes from the beans has a greater dollar value than the meal does.”
Motter sees a bright future for the soybean industry.
“Sustainability is a big buzz word. Traceability from grain originators back to farmers using block chain is going to become common place. There are a lot of things that are going to change in the agriculture industry in the next 5-10 years,” Motter said. “My advice to fellow farmers and young farmer getting started is to stay optimistic and always take care of that crop.”