WALTON, Ind. — An estimated 200,000 acres of high-oleic soybeans are being planted in states such as Indiana this spring.

Up from around 47,000 acres last year, the number is expected to continue rising.

“Our goal would be, by the year 2023, to have close to 18 million acres in production,” said Kevin Wilson, farmer and leader on the United Soybean Board.

“Our goal is increase this until it becomes, potentially, the fourth-largest sector by itself. Corn, regular beans, wheat and then high-oleic beans.”

High-oleic beans are creating demand for soybean oil in restaurant and automobile industries, where it can be used to replace conventional oils.

About The Oil

The main difference between conventional soybeans and high-oleic is the oil content.

“The oil content in high-oleic has zero trans-fat and very low saturated fats,” Wilson said. “In this process, there’s no hydrogenation that takes place, as well. There’s really no difference in terms of meal.”

Monsanto and DuPont Pioneer are both producing high-oleic varieties. Research has been going on for several years, but high-oleic planting is a fairly recent activity. This is the third year that farmers are planting the variety.

High-oleic beans are planted and treated the same way as conventional soybeans.

“You plant them the same and spray them the same because they have the same traits as regular soybeans,” Wilson said. “They are all Roundup Ready, so there’s no issues or concerns about getting the wrong spray on them if you raise all Roundup Ready beans.”

Wilson grew high-oleic beans last year and saw good results.

Plant health and yields were at the same level as his conventional soybeans, he said.

The main difference between growing high-oleic beans, for now, is the need to keep the beans separate from traditional beans, until they are approved in Europe.

Precautions must be taken to ensure unapproved soybeans do not enter the pipeline. So farmers must drop off and store the beans in pre-approved locations.

“It’s a matter of waiting for European approval, and they’ve been very slow on getting this done,” Wilson said. “When the farmers raise them, they have to make sure they are unloaded in harvest at a certain location taking that bean or have bin storage that will separate them.

“Then they’d be on a will-call when the processor is ready to handle the beans. They clean out their facility, process them and clean it out again to make sure everything stays where it’s supposed to stay.”

Premium Price

Because of the extra work, farmers are receiving a 40- to 50-cent per bushel premium for planting high-oleic beans.

There is demand for high-oleic soybean oil in the food industry, where the oil is an attractive alternative to traditional oils.

“We’re finding out there’s more and more benefits,” Wilson said. “When we first started, we found out that at the restaurants, oil has a longer fry life to it, a longer shelf life. It’s really consistent. It doesn’t seem to have a lot of variability to it.

“It’s kind of neutral in flavor, so it doesn’t give it a taste you wouldn’t want. There’s less saturated fats and no trans-fat — which is really key.”

High-oleic soybean oil also has a lower burning temperature, which appeals to automobile lubricant and motor oil industries.

Learn more about high-oleic beans at www.unitedsoybean.org/topics/high-oleic-soy.