Project Details:

Evaluation and commercialization of SOYLEIC varieties in Illinois

Parent Project: Evaluation and Commercialization of SOYLEIC Varieties in Illinois
Checkoff Organization:Illinois Soybean Association
Categories:Seed composition, Soybean Variety Trials, Agronomy
Organization Project Code:
Project Year:2023
Lead Principal Investigator:Brian Diers (University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign)
Co-Principal Investigators:

Contributing Organizations

Funding Institutions

Information and Results

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Project Summary

This project is focused on the development of high oleic, low linolenic (HOLL) soybean varieties that will be marketed under the SOYLEIC™ name. This is a source of high-quality soybean oil that can be used to win back the market share of soybean oil in the food industry and increase industrial uses of the oil.

Project Objectives

The goal of this research is to test and commercialize soybean varieties with improved seed oil quality to give growers new opportunities for producing soybean with a value-added trait and to increase demand for soybean oil. The varieties we are developing have improved oil quality with greater than 80% oleic acid and less than 3% linolenic acid (high oleic and low linolenic or HOLL) (Table 1), which is achieved through combining two mutagenized and two naturally occurring genes which makes this a non-GMO source of HOLL oil. This allows us to market non-GMO HOLL varieties, which will result in increased premiums, and makes it easy to combine HOLL oil with new GMO technology, which would require a lengthy and expensive approval process if HOLL oil was a GMO trait. The genes we are using to develop varieties with the HOLL oil are being licensed from the University of Missouri and are being promoted by USB and the Missouri Soybean Merchandising Council (MSMC) under the name SOYLEIC™.

SOYLEIC soybean varieties provide the food market with a high-value, market driven functional soybean oil, offering a solution to recent food labeling rules caused by health concerns with trans-fats. Federal regulations of trans fats have devalued commodity soybean oil and decreased or eliminated soybean oil in many food products. Figure 1 shows the decline in soybean oil and the increase in oils from other sources in foods in the US which resulted from these concerns. The production of soy diesel has helped offset some of these losses, but Illinois farmers need to regain the market share soybean lost to canola and palm oil and the improved functionality of SOYLEIC oil can help them do this. SOYLEIC oil has been shown to exceed the quality of current high oleic oil on the market.

The increased stability of SOYLEIC oil also opens new industrial/non-food markets for soybean oil. Using HOLL soybean oil as a base produces a motor oil with better viscosity and lower volatility than synthetic counterparts, resulting in better performance in high temperature applications in addition to improved fuel efficiency. Lubricants made with HOLL soybean oils offer natural detergency, which leaves engines cleaner and reduces deposits on metal surfaces. As a renewable, biobased alternative to petroleum-based products, HOLL soybean oil’s increased heat and oxidative stability and its environmental stewardship allows it to be used in marine oils, hydraulic fluids, tire formulations and to produce an improved and lower cost binding polymer for asphalt with an increased regrind rate. The higher oleic fatty acid content also provides better uniformity and reduced separation costs when used as a base stock for the oleochemical industry. In addition, high oleic soybean oil can produce a jet fuel that has aromatics levels similar to conventional jet fuels, which could open the large aviation fuel market to soybean oil.

Project Deliverables

Many opportunities are developing for the marketing of SOYLEIC soybean varieties in Illinois. There are vertically integrated soy processor/refiners who are marketing both high oleic soybean oil and non-GMO soybean meal products for both feed and food uses and SOYLEIC offers the potential to fully maximize supply chains for both of these needs. The state also plays a significant role in the contract production of non-GMO commodity and food-grade soybean that are exported to key Northeast and Southeast Asian markets. These regions are showing increased interest in SOYLEIC soybeans, both for the improved oil functionality and potentially for improved benefits in the production of traditional Asian soy foods that use whole soybeans (tofu, tempeh, soymilk). There are at least three Illinois crushers that are currently in talks with the SOYLEIC team about contracting production, but they need varieties for this production to occur.

The University of Illinois soybean breeding program has been developing SOYLEIC varieties since 2015 through support by USB. Although breeding is a long-term effort and combining the four genes required for SOYLEIC soybean is a difficult task, the program is now achieving success and has developed experimental lines that combine competitive yields with the SOYLEIC trait. During 2021, 9-10 acre increases were grown of 10 of our experimental lines through support from MSMC. Based on 2021 field test results, there is commercial interest in seven of these lines and we are providing seed of these for further testing and for five, we are releasing seed for commercial scale seed production in 2022. New experimental lines were identified in 2021 field trials that will be advanced in 2022, including another eight experimental lines that were increased in Puerto Rico over the winter of 2021-2022 and will be increased during the summer of 2022.

Table 1 shows yield results from a 16 location test of University of Illinois lines (LD designations) compared to Corteva Plenish (PR) and non-Plenish varieties. The first generation lines (LD18 prefix), which are being increased on a commercial scale in 2022, yield within a couple of bushels / acre of the Plenish varieties. A new line we developed (LD19-22127) has a similar yield as the Plenish varieties. This line was increased in Puerto Rico last winter and will be increased again this summer. These results show that despite breeding SOYLEIC varieties for only seven years, we are developing varieties with yields that are similar to commercial HOLL varieties. In addition to the breeding effort in Illinois, USB and state checkoff boards are supporting the development of SOYLEIC varieties in Minnesota, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee and Georgia so these varieties can be released across maturity groups.

Through support from USB, the University of Illinois soybean breeding program has developed experimental lines with the SOYLEIC trait. This is being done using marker-assisted selection to pyramid the four genes needed to achieve greater than 80% oleic and less than 3% linolenic acid. The lines are being developed through both forward breeding (crossing good SOYLEIC lines with each other and with high yielding non-SOYLEIC lines), and through backcrossing the SOYLEIC trait into high yielding backgrounds. The pipeline of SOYLEIC breeding lines is full and in 2022 we plan to test 381 SOYLEIC experimental lines in preliminary yield tests, 124 in advanced yield tests, and a few thousand new SOYLEIC lines in plant rows. The agronomic testing of the large number of SOYLEIC lines that have been developed is resource intensive and increasing the level of testing of these lines will help the program more effectively and quickly identify the best SOYLEIC experimental lines and deliver them as varieties to growers in Illinois.

We will use funding from ISA to test our SOYLEIC lines in 2-row preliminary tests in four locations in Illinois and SOYLEIC lines in 4-row advanced yield tests in five Illinois locations. In addition to the Illinois locations, our advanced lines will also be tested in either Nebraska, Missouri, or Iowa, depending on their maturities, through an exchange with university breeders in these states. This funding from ISA will allow us to increase the number of yield plots by at least 4,000 compared to not having this funding, and provide other resources needed for the breeding program to operate effectively. This increase in testing intensity will enhance our ability to develop Illinois adapted SOYLEIC varieties, as plant breeding is a numbers game and by increasing the number of lines tested and number of replications and locations tests are grown, the greater our chance of selecting high yielding varieties.

We are in the process of releasing five SOYLEIC varieties and our breeding pipeline is full of new experimental lines. With the expanded testing of experimental lines that will be possible with funding from ISA, we will plan to continue to release at least 2-4 new MG II-IV SOYLEIC varieties annually from 2022 on into the future. The funding from ISA will be critical in expanding our testing of experimental lines which will increase our ability to identify the highest yielding lines in the breeding pipeline.

There will be communication with ISA through reports and other methods. For example, during 2021, Dr. Diers spoke at a SOYLEIC field day that was held during the afternoon of Agronomy Day and we plan to hold a similar event in 2022. In addition, Dr. Diers also spoke at the ISA Soybean Summit on February 1, 2022 about SOYLEIC varieties. Funding from USB and MSMC is being used to communicate with growers, processors, and the food industry about SOYLEIC oil. More information about this communication can be found at the SOYLEIC website at

Progress of Work

Final Project Results

Benefit to Soybean Farmers

We are in the process of releasing five SOYLEIC varieties and our breeding pipeline is full of new experimental lines. With the expanded testing of experimental lines that will be possible with funding from ISA, we will plan to continue to release at least 2-4 new MG II-IV SOYLEIC varieties annually from 2022 on into the future. The funding from ISA will be critical in expanding our testing of experimental lines which will increase our ability to identify the highest yielding lines in the breeding pipeline. We anticipate that there will be 100,000 units of seed of SOYLEIC varieties available for sale in 2023 and for this to double in 2024 and greatly expand after that. Assuming high yielding Illinois adapted varieties are available, we expect a significant amount of this production will be in our state which will provide expanded opportunities for Illinois producers to grow value added soybean and increase the demand for our crop.

Performance Metrics

The project will show its success through the release and production of SOYLEIC varieties developed by the program.

Project Years