Soybeans with new defensive traits and improved nutritional traits are on the new trait horizon. How soon could they be commercialized and how will they impact soybean growers? Here's an update.

Optimum GAT herbicide resistance and high-oleic acid oil traits, for example, are in the pre-launch phase of Pioneer Hi-Bred's development pipeline. The Optimum GAT (glyphosate ALS tolerance) trait will provide growers multiple modes of action for weed resistance management and help expand application timing.

Optimum GAT soybeans were tested in controlled plots in 2009 and will continue to be tested in 2010. Foreign approvals have come slower than expected so availability of this new trait will be limited. Optimum GAT is scheduled for a delayed introduction in 2013, says Jerry Harrington, Pioneer sales and marketing public relations manager. At this time, it is too early to determine which maturity groups Optimum GAT will be available. This will depend on continued product development and yield data.

In Pioneer's plot tests, Optimum GAT soybeans have out-yielded elite varieties by an average of nearly 6%, Harrington says.

PIONEER'S HIGH-OLEIC soybean trait, Plenish, will be available in a number of varieties pending USDA deregulation in 2010. “Our soybean research stations across North America are incorporating the high-oleic trait into their soybean germplasm, which will allow our customers to put the right product on the right acre for their farming operation,” Harrington says.

The Plenish high-oleic soybeans are Y series soybean products, with key agronomic and defensive traits. Preliminary 2009 yield data show that Plenish varieties yield similarly to Pioneer's elite soybean products. The nutritional profile of the high-oleic oil provides added value and global competitiveness for growers, Harrington says, adding that high-oleic oil is in demand from downstream market food companies and restaurants.

Just behind the pre-launch phase is the advanced development stage where soybean aphid resistance and Asian soybean rust resistance are being tested at Pioneer.

Aphid-resistant soybeans could be on the market as soon as 2011, depending on final performance results. This trait would help growers reduce or eliminate the need for insecticidal applications, reducing input costs. Reduced insect damage would also result in increased yields. Net economic losses from soybean aphid damage run as high as $465 million annually, Harrington says.

Depending on final performance results, Asian soybean rust-resistant soybeans could be commercialized in 2012. This trait is expected to have the greatest impact on U.S. growers in the southern states where soybean rust has consistently been detected. The new trait would help growers reduce or eliminate the need for fungicide sprays to control the disease.

ALSO IN THE advanced development stage are several soybean traits being developed at Monsanto. They include: higher yielding soybeans, Insect-Protected Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans, dicamba-tolerant soybeans, omega-3 enriched soybeans and Vistive III soybeans.

The average length of the advanced development phase is from 12 to 24 months. It is during this time that traits are integrated into soybean lines and field tested. Researchers also generate regulatory data during this stage.

Monsanto expects that growers will be able to plant soybeans with the higher yield trait by the middle of the next decade. “It's a little early for us to know what maturity groups will feature the traits first,” says Ben Kampelman, oilseeds business communication lead, Monsanto. In company testing, soybeans with the trait average 6% or better yields than plants without the gene.

Insect-Protected Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans also are expected to be on the market around 2015 and could help growers reduce insecticide costs by $5-6/acre. “There may be additional yield benefits from improved insect control and Genuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield technologies,” Kampelman says. Monsanto expects to launch this trait first in Brazil.

Value-added soybean oil traits (omega-3 enriched trait and Vistive III trait technologies) will likely move to Monsanto's pre-launch phase in early 2010. Omega-3 enriched soybeans could have applications in a broad range of food products and would offer improved taste and shelf-life compared to fish oil, Kampelman says.

The Vistive III trait reduces linolenic acid and saturated fats, while increasing oleic content, to produce soybean oil with the monounsaturated fat content of olive oil and the low saturated fat content of canola oil. “This will allow the food industry to cost-effectively eliminate trans fats and significantly lower saturated fat content of food products,” Kampelman says.

Also on the horizon are dicamba-tolerant tenuity Roundup Ready 2 Yield soybeans. Currently in the advanced development stage, the trait would expand weed control options by the use of glyphosate or dicamba, or combinations of both.

Syngenta Seeds will launch the tenuity Roundup Ready 2 trait (developed by Monsanto) in some geographies in 2010 based on final yield results collected last fall. The NK Brand soybean products containing this new trait will be offered through Garst seed advisors, Golden Harvest farmer dealers and NK Seeds retail channels. This soybean trait will be available only in specific maturities in 2010.

According to Gene Kassmeyer, head of the Syngenta Seeds soybean product line, data thus far show that soybeans with the tenuity Roundup Ready 2 trait are performing with or slightly better than Syngenta's best performing products. “We expect performance improvements when this new trait is fully integrated into our best genetics throughout the entire portfolio over the next few years,” he says.

ALONG WITH LAUNCHING new herbicide-tolerance traits, Syngenta launched its Aphid Management System (AMS) during the summer of 2009 and will introduce products for this system for 2010 planting. AMS combines high-performing NK Brand soybean genetics and genetics with the Rag1 aphid-resistance trait and CruiserMaxx seed treatment. No insecticides need to be sprayed, Syngenta says.

Trial results collected on soybeans containing the Peking nematode-resistance trait in 2008 and 2009, indicate they have performed very well against Syngenta's leading soybean products in Maturity Group II. “Since this product was developed and targeted for a specific market segment, we recommend using this variety in areas where growers have been using other sources of resistance for soybean cyst nematode control along with normal crop rotation to provide an integrated approach to nematode control,” Kassmeyer says.

“Most growers today do not use nematicides due to cost, so this new trait will provide growers a new source of resistance that will fit within their current crop rotation,” Kassmeyer says.