Prof’s new soybean could help livestock diets

Stephanie Veldman

A new kind of soybean is being developed, and some ISU faculty members hope it may solve a multi-million dollar livestock diet problem.

John Imsande, professor of agronomy, has developed ways to increase the content of the two essential amino acids, methionine and cysteine, in soybeans.

These amino acids can’t be synthesized by the body, so they need to be added into the diet. They are needed for the nutrition of livestock.

“Soybean is really good [for livestock feed] because it is very high in protein, but it has one problem,” Imsande said. “It is relatively deficient in the two sulfur amino acids.”

He also said there is only a deficiency problem with the diets of poultry and baby hogs.

“Roughly 30 percent of animal ration is soybean meal,” Imsande said. “Farmers supplement the entire ration with .1 percent DL methionine.”

About 21 percent of the amino acid methionine is sulfur.

The goal is to increase the content of methionine by 19.4 percent in soybeans, Imsande said. This will eliminate the need for the DL methionine supplement.

“Poultry and hog growers are spending in excess of $100 million a year in the U.S. alone on methionine supplement,” Imsande said.

Imsande emphasized the new soybeans are not genetically modified organisms (GMOs) because they haven’t been biotechnically engineered.

Instead, Imsande measures the content of the amino acids in the soybeans. The plants that have high percentages are used for breeding.

Palmer Holden, professor of animal science, said the hogs need the methionine supplement added to their diet from weaning until they weigh 25 to 30 pounds.

“The pigs will do fine using either the methionine supplement or the soybean meal,” Holden said. “We want to provide it to them in the cheapest way possible.”

Holden added that with the new soybeans, yields will need to be kept high, and they will also have to look at what the technology cost will be on new soybeans because farmers are going to need to make it up financially.

“To date, no feeding tests with these soybeans have been performed, but based on the sulfur analysis, these soybean lines should take the place of the DL methionine supplement,” Imsande said.

There already have been requests from seed companies to begin testing the new soybeans, which have been researched since 1995.

“Two companies have expressed interest in working with some of the new lines we have developed,” Imsande said.