Vistive Soybeans Sign of Things to Come

Health-conscious bean offered in more varieties.

An expanded offering of seed varieties carrying the trait that qualifies soybeans as Vistive soybeans could tempt more Indiana growers to try raising the premium-garnering crop in '08. Iffy yields in '06 had some Indiana growers wondering if growing the low-linolenic soybean was economically the best move they could make.

Two things have happened to change some minds. First, the premium was boosted to around 60 cents per bushel last winter, so that processors could sign more growers to contracts. Demand for Vistive soybeans is growing. It was grown on just 100,000 acres, mostly in Iowa, during its first year of introduction in '05. This past season Vistive varieties were grown on some 1.5 million acres, Monsanto public affairs officer Geri Berdak says. That's a 15 times increase in just two years.

To gain the extra acres, besides offering a higher premium, the geography where the beans are grown continued to expand. Indiana picked up growers in '06, and more in '07. It's expected that more contracts could be available for the '08 growing season.

The second thing Monsanto has done to encourage farmers to take a look at growing Vistive soybeans is expand the portfolio of varieties. Many traited varieties when they first appear in the market are in a rather limited varietal offering, usually in the maturity rnage where the trait was first introduced into a variety. Expect that to continue to be a factor as new traits come on the market, and you and your neighbors weigh rather the variety carrying the trait is right for your area. Can you make more money growing the variety with the trait, even if it's not the exact maturity you would like, or would you be better off growing a variety more ideally suited for your geography, which could deliver more yield potential year-in and year-out?

Monsanto spokespersons say that question will be less of an issue the longer the trait is around, as breeders introduce it into more elite germplasm, and varieties with a wider range of maturity. It's the widening of the maturity range that helps it adapt to different growing regions.

It's a pattern that is liable to repeat itself when new varieties with more traits come on board. Two promising traits in the Monsanto pipeline are Vistive III soybeans and Omega-3 lines, containing an oil similar to fish oil, but without the odor, That's because the organism that produces the feedstock for the oil in fish was tapped for DNA. Genes conferring the trait to soybeans have been inserted into plants. Both of these projects are still several years away from commercial soybean fields. They were grown on Monsanto's so-called 'golden acre' of experimental crops at the 2007 Farm Progress Show near Decatur, Ill. After the show, since those crops are not yet approved and labeled by regulatory agencies, the crops were destroyed.

More than 100 food companies, including KFC and Kellogg's, are now using Vistive low-lin oil products. Processors in the Indiana area include Cargill, out of Lafayette, and possibly others, including Bunge, AGP, CHS, Inc., Mercer Landmark, Owensboro Grain Co., Perdue Incorporated and Zeeland Farms.

If you're interested, start at: www.vistive.com.

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