Agtegra has partnered with Calyxt to give South Dakota farmers the option of growing high-oleic soybeans. These soybeans produce a stable cooking oil that does not have to be partially hydrogenated. This means the resulting oil doesn’t have any trans fat.
Why is this a big deal? On June 18, 2018, the Food and Drug Administration banned trans fats and partially hydrogenated oils from all foods sold in stores and restaurants. That means the oil produced by high-oleic soybeans is in demand.
What does that mean to a farmer’s bottom line? According to Agtegra’s website, farmers growing Calyxt soybeans can earn 55 cents to $1 per bushel above Chicago prices.
That’s a fantastic opportunity for growers in our state. This is a chance for farmers to earn an excellent price premium for their crops without making the substantial changes required to become certified organic farms.
Of course, there are some changes Calyxt growers will have to make. The beans will need to be handled and stored separately from other soybeans to preserve their identity.
Ag journalist Connie Sieh Groop interviewed Volga farmer Corey Granum in a recent article. Granum said he planted 80 acres of Calyxt soybeans last year. He said they yielded about the same as his GMO beans. This year he intends to plant 400 acres.
Granum said that his weed-control program for the high-oleic beans didn’t cost any more than than his program for his other soybeans. That’s an important point. Calyxt beans aren’t resistant to glyphosate, the popular weedkiller. So, farmers will have to adjust their weed-control plans.
They’ll also want to know about their neighbors’ weed-control plans. Dicamba will be sprayed again this summer in South Dakota. As just about everyone in agriculture knows at this point, the chemical is very prone to volatilization — even days after it is sprayed — and moving on the wind, damaging susceptible plants it encounters. That includes soybeans that aren’t dicamba-tolerant.
There is a bit of good news for Calyxt growers, however. On Tuesday, the South Dakota Department of Agriculture issued a statement saying it had established a cutoff date of June 30 for dicamba products. Applicators can use dicamba “until the soybeans reach the R1 growth stage, 45 days after planting or June 30, whichever comes first.” The restrictions included in the Environmental Protection Agency labels for dicamba products must also be followed.
This is probably welcome news for anyone growing conventional soybeans or specialty crops.
Since dicamba-tolerant soybeans were introduced to the market, there was more than one good reason to plant them. You could have resistant weed problems on your farm. Or, you could plant them to protect your farm from dicamba that had volatilized from somewhere else.
Now, though, there are good reasons to plant something else. With trade uncertainty and large ending stocks, commodity prices aren’t offering a whole lot of room for profit.
Throw in weather issues, and your financial outlook gets even more hazy.
The price premiums for conventional soybeans and high-oleic soybeans are becoming something to seriously consider, especially when comparably priced weed control is a possibility. These options might mean the difference between red or black ink at the end of the season.
With more options available to growers, diversity in crops will increase. Now, more than ever, farmers must be certain that what they do on their farm won’t affect someone else’s farm.
With everyone facing low profit margins, there’s no margin for error.