John Motter, Hancock County Soybean Farmer

Why high-oleic soybeans?

By Dusty Sonnenberg, CCA, Ohio Field Leader a project of the Ohio Soybean Council and soybean check-off

High-oleic Soybeans are nothing new to Ohio producers, and the number of opportunities to grow and market high oleic soybeans are greater now than ever.

“The demand for high-oleic soybean oil in both the food market and industrial uses is exploding,” said John Motter, Ohio Soybean Farmer and past United Soybean Board Chairman. “The demand for high-oleic beans is out there. We simply don’t have enough acres going to high-oleic soy in Ohio and across the country to meet the demand.”

Some folks worry about yield drag when growing a specialty bean. That has not been the case with the high-oleic soybeans.

“I’ve been growing high oleic soybeans for 11 years. I put out my own personal plots with the high-oleic beans and put them up against a high yielding elite commodity variety and the high-oleic beans area always right up there with the elite varieties.  I just don’t see yield drag,” Motter said. “High-oleic soybeans have a higher amino acid, (the amino acid Oleic), and a lower linoleic acid content. 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.”

Profitability is a key in today’s high input cost environment, and the premiums paid for high oleic soybeans add value over a traditional commodity bean. Motter remembers the not-so-distant past 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 the 18% soybean oil that comes from the beans has a greater dollar value than the meal does. The soy oil is certainly the driver of price in the soybean market, and the higher premium oil just makes that greater.”

Now is the time farmers interested in growing high oleic soybeans should be securing contracts and purchasing high oleic soybean seed.

“I would encourage farmers to visit the website unitedsoybean.org to find more information about high oleic beans,” Motter said. “For soybean growers in Ohio, I would suggest contacting their local Pioneer seed dealer. Pioneer has the Plenish high oleic soybean varieties that work well in Ohio.”   

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