CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — Soybean oil demand in the food processing and cooking industry began losing its foothold in the marketplace over a decade ago, and researchers have found an answer in SOYLEIC trait technology.
SOYLEIC is a non-GMO soybean variety containing high oleic trait technology that is aimed at meeting consumer demands for healthier foods.
With funding and partnership support from the soy checkoff, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council teamed up with the University of Illinois and other land-grant universities to develop this new public trait technology that nears commercial release in the Midwest.
The development of SOYLEIC varieties at U of I and plots were featured at the annual Agronomy Day Aug. 19.
Brian Diers, U of I professor and Soybean Genetics and Breeding chair, has been working on the SOYLEIC breeding program for the past six years.
“We got germplasm from the University of Missouri where they developed this high oleic trait and we started to breed this into Illinois-adapted varieties,” Diers said.
As of 2006, if a serving of a product contains more then 0.5 grams of trans fat, it must appear on the nutrition facts label, according to the Food and Drug Administration. The public’s growing awareness of the negative impact of trans fats forced the food industry to move away from traditional soybean oil.
Diers’ breeding program is developing seed varieties with high-quality oil, which boasts greater than 80% oleic acid and less than 3% linolenic acid. Soybean oil typically contains about 22% to 28% oleic acid. The oil from these varieties is very stable and can increase the market share of soybean oil for food and industrial uses.
“The breeding is supported by the United Soybean Board and the Illinois Soybean Association in cooperation with other universities,” Diers said. “By increasing the oleic acid content in soybeans, processors and food companies will be able to again use soybean oil in, for example, crackers, chips and things like that without having to deal with these trans fats. High oleic soybeans provide much more stable oil in baking and frying.”
Diers said there are four SOYLEIC lines adapted to northern Illinois with relative maturity from 2.6 to 2.8. Most have SCN resistance and other resistance.
Five lines for southern Illinois have relative maturity of 4.1 or 4.2, and 11 lines have been developed for central Illinois with relative maturities from 3.0 to 3.9.
“We’re still evaluating the lines coming out of Illinois, and we’ve got many locations of testing this year so that we can make a final decision about what varieties we’re going to release. They’ll be increased this winter in South America, so we’ll have seed for commercial production soon,” Diers said.
“Plenish soybeans that are already in the marketplace are a GMO trait and are able to get high oleic acid through genetic engineering. SOYLEIC soybeans can be sold as a non-GMO, so you can get the non-GMO premiums for these varieties.”
Illinois varieties will be available in 2023, and determination of what varieties that will be released will be based on 2021 yield results.
The project also includes improving the quality of soybean meal through a reduction of oligosaccharides.
“We’ve combined two genes together that will drastically reduce oligosaccharides. Oligosaccharides are a problem especially in feeding swine and poultry because it makes it more difficult for the animals to eat the meal because of stomach indigestions, gas and things like that. By removing it we can have better weight gains,” Diers explained.
“The idea is if we’re going to have an (intellectual property) product with the SOYLEIC trait we could also have an IP product for the meal, as well. The SOYLEIC trait doesn’t seem to change the protein level. They’re basically the same level as other varieties.”
“This is a really important piece of checkoff research coming to commercialization,” said Bryan Stobaugh, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council director of licensing and genetics.
“SOYLEIC is a registered trademark for seed sales going forward. We’re working in maturity groups 1 through 7. This project started many years back and these breeders that we’ve been working with, including Missouri, but not excluding anyone else. We made sure it got into every portfolio we could possibly get it into.
“We’re now reaching from Minnesota, Michigan State, Illinois, Arkansas, two breeding programs in Missouri, one in Tennessee and Georgia.”
The varieties are being developed according to what maturity groups are used in those states.
Important next steps include aggressively building the SOYLEIC brand, further development of the seed portfolio and establishing a solid supply chain.
“It’s not only about genetics and getting the growers, but it’s also the other steps in terms of the elevators, the processors and the downstream manufacturers and trying to tie all of those pieces together,” said Steve Schnebly, Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council consultant who previously was a soybean breeder at Pioneer.
“We’re doing the same things with SOYLEIC as with Plenish from a total supply chain perspective of seed development and distribution. Grower engagement is absolutely critical. If we don’t get the growers we don’t have a program, period, and bringing the processor and end-user demand linkage together.”
Schnebly said the export market’s interest in SOYLEIC has been a pleasant surprise.
“Not only do you typically think about Southeast Asia, but also we’re looking at Central America and Mexico where we have some very strong interest from partners, as well from a non-GMO prospective. It’s something we didn’t really plan on, but it’s going to be a great opportunity in the near-term to launch this product,” Schnebly noted.
The USB recently agreed to expand funding for SOYLEIC trait development.
“It’s a public program that’s developing this trait. We are testing well over 100 products this year from Group 1 to Group 7. We’ve got a great pipeline coming along, as well,” Schnebly added.
A partnership between the University of Missouri, U.S. Department of Agriculture, the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council and USB led to U.S. Patent No. 9,035,129 being issued in 2015 for the “method to produce soybeans with high oleic acid content developed through soybean breeding.”
The curators of the University of Missouri and the USDA Agricultural Research Service are joint owners of the patent, and MSMC is the exclusive licensee.