Saturday, April 1, 2017

High Oleic Soybeans

High Oleic Soybeans 

This is a follow up to my post about GMO vs NonGMO 2016 cost of production and a little more details about what high oleic soybeans are. 

These soybeans have 2 traits - one is a "gene edit" where the pathway that converts oleic acid to linoleic acid is suppressed. There is no "trait" added, just a silencing of an enzymatic pathway that converts one type of oil to another. The other "trait" is the RoundUp resistance that comes from the bacteria Agrobacterium that codes for resistance to the herbicide glyphosate. 


These pics show the testing each truckload goes through before unloading. When the truck pulls into the grain elevator, the truck pulls onto a scale to be weighed full and a probe pulls several samples from the trailer to analyze. 


This grain elevator is dedicated 100% to high oleic soybeans. So while they test the beans for moisture like all grain elevators do to be sure they won't go moldy, they also run a test to be sure the soybeans have the correct oil content. Regular beans have a much lower oleic oil content, around 25%, HO beans average >75%.



What's special about oleic oil? It's a monounsaturated fat, in the same category as olive oil. The oil from these beans is transfat free and so has a lot of commercial use in food recipes to remove transfat. It replaces much of the partially hydrogenated soybean oil without significant recipe reformulation.
Because of their specialty oil profile, they have to be tested to be sure they are the correct beans and meet the threshold for oleic oil before the truck can unload. If it doesn't pass, we'd have to haul the beans down to another grain elevator that buys plain commodity soybeans and sell them at a lower price. We get paid a per bushel premium for keeping them pure to their HO variety and not cross contaminate them with any other bean. Essentially it means really good record keeping and really good housekeeping of our equipment. This is why we harvested HO first, to be sure we practiced good identity preservation (IP) apart from the other soybeans we grow.


Once the oil content is verified, we can drive over to the unloading dock and dump the beans into the elevator. (Last pic) Then we pull back on the scale and get an empty weight which will then print out a ticket how many bushels we delivered on that load.

What are the benefits of HO soybeans? These beans are transfat free and the oil extracted from them is more shelf stable and does not need hydrogenation. While you as a consumer cannot yet buy this oil at the grocery store, it is used in commercial food production in frying and in reformulating packaged foods to remove the transfats. 

Tuesday, March 14, 2017

Update: 2016 GMO & NonGMO Production

So by now you know I don't blog here much anymore. If you haven't found me on Facebook, that's pretty much where I "blog" these days, posting pictures and things that are going on around the family farm. But I know a lot of folks follow me for the updates to our GMO vs nonGMO production information and comparison so that's what I've been working on today since Winter storm "Stella" was pretty much an rain event for us. I had really hoped for a snow day since this winter has been too warm and too dry for my region.

A note for 2016 - I only included soybean information because we did not grow any conventional/nonGMO corn so I have no side by side comparison of GM to nonGM corn for 2016. All of the corn we grew in 2016 was "RIB" - refuge in bag meaning a certain percentage of the seeds in the bag were nontraited/nonGMO seeds to serve as an insect resistance management program.  Why did we give up conventional/nonGMO? Because there was no yield advantage and no premium associated with growing it. It didn't perform as well and as with any business owner looking at the bottom line, there was no economic or agronomic reason to continue.


Soybeans (dryland)
1998
2000
2005
2010
(slight
drought)
2012
(drought)
2013

2015

2016
Biotech Acreage
195
322
416
270
527
200

400

611
Yield BPA
54.2
50.3
53.5
46
43
48

45

62
Conventional Acreage
156
184
213
306
675
175

200

182
Yield BPA
48.2
43.2
46.3
36
36
25

34

42
Yield Difference
6
7.1
7.2
10
7
23

11

20

(BPA = bushels per acre)


2016 Soybean Production

Cost Per Acre
Non-GMO
for Food
GMO/RR
for Feed
GMO/RR/High Oleic
for Feed
Seed
$39
$47
$49
Fertilizer
$20
$20
$20
Herbicide
$40
$18.50
$18.50
Crop Insurance
$37
$37
$37
Fertilizer application
$6
$6
$6
Planting
$15
$15
$15
Pesticide application
$18
$12
$12
Harvest
$28
$28
$28
Hauling
$9
$9
$4
Land Rent
$150
$150
$150
Total Cost of Inputs
$362
$342.50
$339.50
Bushels/Ac (BPA)
42 BPA
53 BPA
62 BPA
Price/Bushel
$11.13
$9.13
$9.63
Gross Income
$467.50
$483.9
$597.05
Net Income Difference
$105.5
$141.4
$257.55

So what's our conclusion from the 2016 data?

1. GMO continues to outyield nonGMO in the 18 cropping years that we have grown it.

2. The $2/bushel premium for nonGMO soybeans does not offset the yield loss for either GMO with or without a premium. Let me explain. Here on the Delmarva, we can grow high oleic (HO) soybeans and receive a 50 cent premium  per bushel over commodity price. These HO beans are segregated and kept pure to their genetics just like the nonGMO are segregated and kept pure to their (lack of) traits. Compared to regular Roundup Ready soybeans, the HO beans which are also Roundup ready have consistently been a higher yielding bean for us having grown them now for 4 years. The chart above shows that our tofu beans continue to be our lowest yielding, least profitable soybean despite the fact that there is a significant premium attached to growing it. RoundUp Ready beans while traited/GMO, do not perform as well as the high oleic soybeans. For us, a 9 bushel per acre difference. 

3. For 2017, the majority of our acres will be high oleic soybeans. There is a huge demand and not enough acres in production for our region. The closest grain elevator to our farm is dedicated to HO beans so our trucking costs are significantly lower. We don't have to use our own storage bins so HO beans fit really well into our farming business plan. We will continue to grow tofu beans as part of a diversification effort as members of a farmers cooperative for the market opportunity to meet the limited customer demand for local tofu on the East Coast. Keep in mind that a lot of tofu can be made from a small number of bushels of soybeans so this is not a huge market. We sell tofu beans by the pallet, not by the truck load. 

4. There is no "one" way of making decisions on a farm and what works for us may not work well for others. Much depends on how much risk someone is willing to take, how much debt they are in already, what makes sense for the number of tractors and people they have to get the various jobs done, and so many other decisions that impact whether a farm is profitable or not. I do know one thing, no child is going to come back to a farm that is deep in the red and so our choices today effect the ability for the next generation to decide to return or not. Nothing is straight forward, nothing is black or white, and there is no cookie cutter method for farming across the country. 

Please remember that not all farmers have the same premiums available to them, or the same market access so this data again, only applies to us and to this region.

If you need to backtrack to my previous blogs on our cost of production here are links to the original post :  2014 GMO/NonGMO Comparison
2015 Update GMO/NonGMO comparison

For more information on high oleic soybeans, see my next blog.