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Low-lin soybeans add value for local farmers

A new variety of soybeans with low linolenic acid content may be a profitable alternative for local agriculture producers, according to a field trial conducted by the Dordt College agriculture department in 2006.

The oil from conventional soybean varieties has an eight percent linolenic acid content. Because linolenic acid is unstable, making it go rancid over time, food processors hydrogenate the oil to keep it more stable, giving it a longer shelf life. But hydrogenating soybean oil requires heat, which causes trans fats. New low-lin soybean varieties contain only three percent linolenic acid, eliminating the need for hydrogenation and therefore the undesirable trans fats.

In the 2006 Dordt College field trial, three varieties of low-lin beans were grown, with yield results comparable to traditional varieties.

“Since all food products sold in the United States are now required to list trans-fat content, the outlook for low-lin beans is very favorable,” says Dr. Ron Vos, professor of agriculture. Restaurant chains like Kentucky Fried Chicken and Culvers have announced that they are switching to non-hydrogenated cooking oils to reduce trans fat, and the New York City Board of Health recently voted to adopt the nation’s first major municipal ban on the use of all but tiny amounts of artificial trans fats in restaurant cooking.

One company, Monsanto, predicts that 1.5 million acres of their low-lin brand soybeans will be planted in 2007. Producers will grow the soybeans under contract with participating soybean processors, which will crush the grain, refine the oil, and market that oil to food companies. Participating processors will offer growers a premium of up to sixty cents per bushel for Monsanto’s VISTIVE variety of soybeans.

More information about field trials conducted at Dordt college in 2005 and 2006.