What Growers Need to Know About Plenish® High Oleic Soybeans
Farmers find a lot to like in Pioneer® brand Plenish® high oleic soybean varieties. Look at what distinguishes Plenish soybeans from a standard soybean variety, what drives growing demand for the high oleic oil it produces, and what farmers need to know about growing Plenish soybeans — including growers’ premiums available in contracts with Bunge.
Learn the Plenish® High Oleic Difference
The primary difference between Plenish® high oleic soybeans and a commodity variety lies in the oil. As a high oleic variety, Plenish soybeans produce a much higher fraction of monounsaturated oil.
“Regular soybean oil is about 23 percent oleic content,” says Don Wyss, commercial manager of Bunge processing facilities in Indiana and Ohio, referring to its fraction of monounsaturated oil. “With Plenish soybeans you are looking at more than 75 percent oleic content. That is a significant difference.” From there, Pioneer developed Plenish soybeans to contain a full array of its most advanced yield-potential and pest-resistance traits.
The Big Deal: Benefits Drive Demand
To explain the potential demand for high oleic soybeans, first you must understand the difference between types of vegetable oils:
- Saturated: Saturated fats have no double bonds in their fatty acid chains and are typically solid at room temperature. Since they lack double bonds, they are more stable over time and when exposed to high cooking temperatures compared to monounsaturated and polyunsaturated oils. However, saturated fat tends to raise ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) levels in the blood which is widely considered a risk factor for adverse cardiovascular health.
- Polyunsaturated: Liquid at room temperature, polyunsaturated fatty acids contain two or more double bonds making them the least stable oils in the spectrum. Traditionally, a process called hydrogenation was used to saturate double bonds thereby decreasing the polyunsaturate content to create a more stable version of the oil.
- Trans: Most trans fatty acids are formed in an industrial process called hydrogenation that adds hydrogen to liquid vegetable oils and is used to increase the solids content and the stability of the oil. The process was used for many years before it was recognized that these fats increase ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL) and decrease good cholesterol (HDL) thereby increasing the risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Industrially produced trans fats are considered the most damaging regarding overall health and because of FDA rulings, have been virtually eliminated from the US food system
- Monounsaturated (oleic): As the name implies, monounsaturated fatty acids contain just one double bond. They are liquid at room temperature and more stable than polyunsaturated oils. Monounsaturated fatty acids can lower levels of ‘bad’ LDL cholesterol and total cholesterol while maintaining ‘good’ (HDL) cholesterol levels. The American Heart Association has recommended that both monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats be used to replace saturated and trans fats. Thus, high monounsaturated (oleic) oils exhibit the best balance of both oil stability and healthy characteristics making them a popular choice for the food industry.
At the forefront of building demand for high oleic soybean oil is consumers’ desire for healthier food alternatives, according to Wyss. When consumer pressure turned the food industry away from saturated fats, it pivoted to partially hydrogenated fats, exposing consumers to even riskier trans fats. That is where high oleic soybeans enter the picture.
The FDA approved a qualified health claim for high oleic oils stating that daily consumption of these oils may reduce the risk of coronary heart disease when used to replace saturated fats in the diet. Consumers have also shown a preference for foods with cleaner labels that do not contain artificial ingredients. High oleic oils are very stable and offer the opportunity for food companies to maintain longer shelf-life of packaged goods without the need for artificial preservatives.
The Food Industry’s Practical Choice
Food-service operators need an oil that remains stable to prevent frequent changeover and disposal of frying oil. “High oleic oil allows a longer fry life in restaurants, compared to a polyunsaturated oil,” says Wyss. “When you think about the cost and the time involved in changing out the oil in these fryers, having an oil that remains stable — and doesn’t sacrifice taste to get it — is just a good thing.”
Those qualities, combined with the absence of trans fat, offer a route for soybean oil to reclaim market share lost when partially hydrogenated oils fell out of favor. “The fact that high oleic oil can fill that void is huge for the soybean industry,” he says.
High oleic soybeans also offer the packaged food industry a healthier alternative. “High oleic soybeans positions well for that application,” adds Wyss. “In addition to the health benefits we’ve discussed, the oil is proven to deliver a clean taste and an extended shelf life, which is critical for these companies.”
Wyss explains that the oil also offers a valuable side benefit: “Often there’s a slippery feel or gum that builds up on equipment and on the floors around fry equipment,” he notes. “The unique fatty-acid profile of high oleic soybean oil allows for cleaner frying, which results in less of that gum buildup. That improves safety in the workplace and reduces the need to use harsh chemicals to clean, as well as the overall time required to clean. Definitely a win-win.”
Finding Additional Industrial Applications
Lastly, the stability of high oleic soybean oil also caught the attention of industry, says Wyss. “Where it makes sense to move away from petroleum-based products, in particular things like lubricants and industrial oils, the stable structure of high oleic soybean oil is viewed quite favorably as a sustainable and environmentally friendly substitute.”
Companies are already finding new uses for high oleic soybean oil. “I have a pair of Sketchers shoes with soles made from a soybean oil mix, not just a rubber,” he says. “It is a lot of good people working together: The United Soybean Board, Sketchers and Goodyear. I cannot believe they are all working together. But in the end, they are — for an environmentally friendly shoe sole.”
Growing Plenish® High Oleic Soybeans: What to Know
Growing Plenish® high oleic soybeans requires the ability to handle them as an identity preservation crop. In return, Wyss says farmers can collect some “significant” price premiums. “It comes from the overall high demand for these high oleic soybean acres,” he explains. “For the 2022 program, Bunge is offering $1.15 a bushel premium for harvest delivery and $1.25 a bushel premium if you store them on your farm and deliver after harvest.”
Besides having the ability to segregate Plenish beans on a grower’s farm, Wyss says that simple steps need to be followed to ensure that the integrity of the crop is maintained throughout the growing process. “We ask growers to clean out their planters and make sure that their seed-handling equipment is clean of other seeds,” he says.
Then, throughout the growing season these beans need to remain separate. “At harvest, the same efforts would need to be applied to keeping these beans separate: cleaning harvesting equipment, loading them into trucks and grain carts that are cleaned out,” Wyss continued.
“We’re not asking for every bean to be removed, but when you haul each load of soybeans into one of our Bunge facilities, or one of the third-party elevators in our program, it needs to pass a simple near infrared test,” he concluded.
As far as growing soybeans go, Wyss points out that, although Plenish soybeans take advantage of the latest in high performing genetics, yield-potential and pest-resistance traits, the soybeans currently only offer Round-up Ready chemistry for weed control. “Pioneer is working hard to bring high oleic genetics into Enlist E3® trait,” he says.
Moisture discounts for Plenish soybeans are the same as commodity soybeans, however, Wyss explains that Plenish soybeans in the Bunge program can only be accepted up to 14.5 percent moisture because the company does not crush Plenish continuously. “We need to make sure we can store them in a safe way,” he says.
“We try to be flexible with our Bunge programs,” says Wyss. “And we pride ourselves on giving growers quite a few options with a well-rounded list of participating sites in addition to the Bunge facilities in Decatur, IN; Bellevue, OH; and Delphos, OH.”
Furthermore, Wyss says that growers in the Plenish program can still take advantage of all of Bunge’s premium marketing services. “There are no restrictions on how to handle these high oleic beans with regard to marketing, and the discounts are no different.”
“Overall,” he concludes, “Plenish soybean oil offers desirable health benefits to consumers, a variety of benefits to users, and at the same time pays a nice premium to farmers growing Plenish soybeans in their fields. Definitely a win-win!”