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Research Highlights

Research Highlights
High Oleic Soy Diversity: Development of High-Yield Competitively High Oleic/Low Linolenic Acid Soybean Varieties of Diverse U.S. Geographies

By Amy Miller, Kevin Cook and Bill Rhodes, Benson Hill Seeds

The demand for soybean oil has decreased in recent years because of health concerns about trans fats and other issues. Developing soybeans with healthier oil will increase demand and help to recapture a segment of the soybean market that has been lost. With the discovery of natural oleic genes in the soybean germplasm, it has become possible to develop soybean varieties with a high content of oleic oil. Combining those genes with the existing known genes for low linolenic oil will create a single line with both high oleic and low linolenic (HOLL) profiles, meaning a healthier oil that will increase the demand for soy oil in the global marketplace. This is the largest project in the oil category, funded for $1,189,272 in 2019.

This lab has been working on HOLL oil soybean lines since 2012. There are five genes involved, making it a complex task. In order to incorporate all five into the germplasm, a screening program was initiated that utilized the marker lab and gas chromatograph technology. In the past year, almost 200,000 data points related to the oil genes have been processed through the marker lab. 

The ultimate goal is to develop new soybean varieties with the desired oil quality, while maintaining the high levels of agronomic and yield performance levels that producers expect and need. The early generation screening system was used to increase the number of experimental lines that could be evaluated in a timely manner. When combining all of these genes into a variety, there are many individuals in the segregating populations that do not have the needed genotypes. By screening for the desired genes in early generations, there are fewer experimental lines to evaluate, allowing work to focus on the genotypes in that population that are most likely to produce the products with the desired characteristics. By maintaining an aggressive crossing program, both in the U.S. and in winter nurseries, significant progress has been made over the last six years. There are currently varieties in production from early group 1 to early group 5, which will cover most of the production areas in the U.S. The winter production in the 2018-2019 season was highly successful, with five new varieties returning from Chile and Argentina for 2019 production in the U.S. From all the testing in 2019, four promising new candidates have been identified to advance in the next winter production system. 

This type of soy oil, which is both non-GMO and HOLL, will be unique to the market. In addition to HOLL traits, enhanced meal traits (low raffinose-stachyose) have also been included in these germplasms, which should give a product that will produce a very unique oil but also an improved meal. One group 4 variety with this combination has already been produced in 2019. As the HOLL market expands, it will command a premium and thus benefit soy producers. In the long term, it will increase the demand for U.S. soy products in the global marketplace. 

This project was funded by the soybean checkoff. To find research related to this research highlight or to see other checkoff research projects, please visit the National Soybean Checkoff Research Database.