With their checkoff dollars farmers add soybean value

Duane Dailey

Missouri soybean growers invest in their future through research. At a recent Show Me Soy School, farmers learned and shared progress at their Bay Farm, a research center, east of Columbia.

This was the third school I’ve attended. I learn farmers have a lot to brag about. On a program for the day, they printed a tiny but powerful line at the bottom: “Made possible by Missouri soybean farmers and their checkoff.”

They should shout that line. Members of the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council told more. Farmers pitch in a half of one percent of the price of every soybean sold. That means from $1,000 they give $5. 

A big chunk of checkoff dollars pays for research. The program told of progress in gaining payback. Already, farmers get returns.

The program had four tracks: Soybean breeding; Certified strip trials, Herbicide injury, and New Soybean Uses.

A bit of background shows how farmers support University of Missouri soybean research. Farmers bought the Bay Farm adjacent to the MU Bradford Farm. That gives more plot ground for MU scientists in the Agricultural Experiment Station.

That research helps the soybean rise to number one cash crop in the state. When I was a farm boy, the soybean was a hay crop. We had a loft full of soy hay. This year in the continuing severe drought, I doubt any farmer cut beans for hay. Bean prices were too good. Ironically, corn was cut and baled for forage. Not a common practice.

Farmers know soybeans potentially survive droughts. Beans made a good crop in the severe 2012 drought. Farmers hope for a repeat.

MU soybean breeders came up with a new variety with huge potential in value added. They made a bean high in oleic oil. (To say oleic think: Oh Lay Ick. Say it real fast.)

In simplest terms this oil competes with popular and heart healthy olive oil in cooking. In addition soy oil gains shelf life.

One huge use being pursued by MU meat scientists is to feed high oleic soy beans to livestock. That transfers the mono-saturated fat from plants to animals. Pork, poultry and eggs have potential to become oleic.

In the new uses talks, Bryon Wiegand told of his ongoing research on pigs. High oleic fat fed to swine can make better bacon. He pointed out, as consumers we’ve gone crazy for bacon. And, that’s even before bacon becomes a heart-healthy food.

Wiegand is a scientist, so his feeding trials must be repeated and repeated to assure they work.

High oleic soybeans are an exclusive for Missouri. MU plant breeders found how to make high quality oil with regular plant breeding, no transgenic work. No GMO.

MU and USDA own the patent on the oleic bean. Because of their research investment, the Soybean Merchandising Council gains exclusive licensing.

In the strip trial session, MU Extension specialists apply research to parts of farmers’ fields across the state. This tests ideas on local soils and climate. Neighbors see the results. The strip trail is a renewed method. Science goes to farms, a Land-Grant mission.

The hot topic must be research to alleviate damage caused by off-site movement of weed killer for herbicide-resistant weeds that cut yields. Sometimes corporate products bring new problems. Researchers at land-grant universities independently test them. Farmers depend on that guidance.

In a talk at the end of the day, Christopher Daubert, new dean of the MU College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, told of his plan to add value to Missouri commodities. Instead of just selling crops, Missourians can convert them and livestock into food in state. That keeps value close to home.

I must stop calling the Dean new. He spoke on the last day of his first year on the job.

Next year, every soybean farmer must bring a neighbor to hear soybean research updates. Brag a bit.

Send value-added ideas to duanedailey7@gmail.com.