COLUMBUS, Ohio - Six new soybean varieties, available for seed production this spring, may offer improved field characteristics and increased nutritional benefits than current market varieties.
Ohio State University soybean breeders have released five food-grade varieties specifically for tofu production and a variety for oil production. The varieties continue to offer farmers value-added crops while providing consumers with a quality product, said Steve St. Martin, professor and researcher with the university's Ohio Agricultural Research and Development Center (OARDC).
"The food-grade varieties are an improvement upon the standard tofu varieties that producers have been using for years," said St. Martin. "By releasing new varieties we are offering products that consumers are willing to spend the money for and providing farmers with alternatives that grow well in Ohio and may fetch premium prices."
The five tofu varieties, labeled Ohio FG3, HS96-3136, HS96-3140, HS96-3145, and HS96-3850, provide better yields and disease resistance and offer improved protein content and earlier maturity than standard tofu varieties.
"The varieties provide a 3-5 bushel per acre yield advantage over Vinton-81, the popular public variety that has been a mainstay since 1981," said St. Martin. He also sees the varieties as an improvement upon Ohio FG1, the first tofu soybean to be come out of Ohio.
"The varieties, for example, have a higher protein content than Ohio FG1, which is important in tofu production," said St. Martin. "There is a gel formation involved in making tofu that helps maintain its shape. The higher the protein the easier the tofu gels, so offering varieties with this characteristic helps in quality considerations."
The new varieties also contain two resistance genes for protection against Phytophthora root rot and have better resistance to Sclerotinia rot than current market varieties. Ohio FG3 is a public variety that will be grown under certification. The other tofu varieties will be marketed under a brand name.
St. Martin said the new varieties would add to a small but growing list of tofu soybeans. Only about a dozen tofu soybean varieties are available for the market.
Tofu production represents only about 1 percent of total U.S. soybean production, yet demand for tofu products is increasing on the home front as well as internationally.
According to the Soyfoods Center in California, an organization that follows consumption trends of soybean products, shoppers spend an average of $130 million to $150 million on tofu each year and they are doubling their consumption of tofu every three to four years. Most U.S. tofu production is aimed at international markets, such as Japan. The U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates that the Japanese consume 20 million bushels of tofu soybeans per year.
The sixth soybean variety, labeled HS96-3818, offers consumers a product with increased food production and nutritional benefits.
St. Martin said the variety contains a lower linolenic acid content, which aids in food preservation. High linolenic levels also produce trans fatty acids when oil is hydrogenated. Scientists and nutritionists speculate trans fatty acid is one of the leading causes of coronary heart disease. The Food and Drug Administration has proposed to amend its labeling requirements on products to include trans fatty acid content in foods.
"Using this soybean variety in oil production as a nutritional benefit is just one use for the market of this product," said St. Martin. "The new variety cuts the linolenic acid content in half."
The six new varieties were developed at OARDC and are the first soybean varieties to be released from Ohio State since 1994. Funding for the development of the food-grade varieties was supported by the Ohio Soybean Council using check-off dollars.