High oleic soybean varieties may not be coming to Western Canada any time soon, but if and when they do, they will offer growers a bit of a premium.
“We have a long history in southern Ontario of growing IP (identity preserved) soybeans or soybeans for special end use markets, and some of those markets command quite a high premium,” says Dave Harwood, technical services manager with DuPont Pioneer. “The premiums associated with high oleic soybeans would likely be more modest but they would also have all the agronomic benefits of oilseed soybeans, such as glyphosate and soybean cyst nematode resistance, as opposed to food grade soybeans, so it would still be a pretty compelling economic scenario for a grower.”
Growing a market in Canada
DuPont Pioneer was the first company to introduce its high oleic soybean variety, Plenish, into Canada. In 2009, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency authorized the trait in Canada, which presented the opportunity to grow a pre-commercial volume in southern Ontario in 2010 for test crushing, and make the oil available for potential end-use customers to try, says Harwood. DuPont Pioneer has partnered with the Grain Growers of Ontario to jointly fund the hiring of a marketing development consultant who has explored and developed opportunities for Plenish oil in the Canadian oilseed market.
It’s the typical chicken and egg scenario that often hampers the widespread adoption of a new commodity, says Harwood. “In order to commit to a new version of a commodity, end users want to be assured that there’s a reliable, consistent supply,” he says. “Growers are not really excited about creating that supply unless they know there’s a strong end use market. So those two forces compete with one another in the early stages of a refined or modified version of a commodity when it comes along, and we are at that awkward period in Canada.”
The fact that Plenish is also a transgenic crop so it doesn’t have approvals in some major export markets, such as Europe and Japan, is also another impediment to end users adopting the product, especially in Eastern Canada, where soybean crushers export a significant amount of product to those markets.
Ambitious predictions for high oleics
For growers, there would be little difference in agronomic terms or in yield performance with high oleic soybeans compared to regular soybean varieties. “The plants have resistance to glyphosate, the primary herbicide resistance in soybean,” says Harwood. “They have the same sort of disease package, with resistance to soybean cyst nematodes, which is the primary soil borne pest to soybeans. High oleic soybean could be completely substitutable with existing soybean in most oil applications.”
The U.S. soybean industry is predicting great things for high oleic soybean oil. QUALISOY, a independent, third-party collaboration of U.S. soybean industry partners, including farmers, which has been established to deliver new and improved soybean traits that provide more value for producers and the industry, is predicting that there will be 18 million acres of high oleic soybeans grown in the U.S. by 2024, producing 9.3 billion pounds of oil. In contrast, just 0.09 million lbs of high oleic soybean oil was produced in the U.S. last year.
Whether the industry will meet this ambitious target or not, Harwood believes there is definitely a good opportunity for high oleic soybean oil to win back some market share from other healthy oils like canola. High oleic soybean oil is low in saturated fat and linoleic acid, and contains no trans fat, which is important to consumers, and has high heat stability, increased fry time, and extended shelf life, which is important to end users in the food industry. Harwood says what surprised him was the interest from other industries, such as car manufacturers and cosmetics companies, when the company did the test run in 2010, showing there is good potential for developing a strong, diversified market for this versatile oil.
Oleics on the Prairies
High Oleic soybeans will likely be introduced first into the higher heat unit zones in Ontario, so just when are Western Canadian growers likely to be able to grow them too?
“The technology isn’t being deployed over a wide range of maturities, but the last sliver of maturities on the northern fringe will undoubtedly be on a slower timeline for deployment,” says Harwood. “From the agronomic testing of the material we have done so far, it seems to behave consistently across a wide range of geography. In development are varieties that would take us very close to the Canada/U.S. border and they’re very close to commercialization, but moving that little bit further north will take a little bit longer.”
Monsanto also has a high oleic soybean variety, Vistive Gold, which it has been field testing over the past three years in Indiana, Michigan and Ohio. A pilot introduction is planned for the upcoming season in Iowa. In a news release last August the company said it continues to make progress toward commercial introduction of Vistive Gold soybeans in 2016.