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Study Results Indicate That "Soybeans of Other Colors" Should not be Discounted for Poor Quality

Soybean producers are always faced with potential dockage at the delivery point of harvested product when the grade of that delivered product is below set standards. According to the USDA-Federal Grain Inspection Service [FGIS], factors used to determine the grade of a lot of soybeans are the percentage of 1) damaged kernels [heat damage is part of total], 2) foreign material, 3) splits, and 4) soybeans of other colors [SBOC]. Moisture content of a load is also used to apply a discount when seed moisture content exceeds 13%. Also, a discount is assessed when test weight is <54 lb./bu., even though the standard test weight for soybeans is 56 lb./bu. A White Paper on this website provides details about the various quality components that are used to establish the grade [e.g. U.S. No. 1 Yellow Soybeans, U.S. No. 2 Yellow Soybeans] of a load of harvested soybeans that is delivered to a purchaser, and example discounts that are applied when established standards are not met.

As listed above, one of the quality components that is used to establish the grade of a soybean load is “Soybeans of other colors [SBOC]”. This is the portion of a load that consists of seed with green, black, brown, or bicolored seed coats. Discounts of 0.5% of price or $0.005 to $0.01 per bushel are generally applied for each 1% SBOC in excess of 1%. There are myriad causes of SBOC, but some of those do not necessarily mean that the delivered product is inferior in quality. Thus, the penalty or discount that is applied to a load because of off-colored beans may not be justified.

On Nov. 8, 2022, the USDA-AMS issued a news release stating that the FGIS will publish a proposed rule seeking public comment on a proposal to make changes to the U.S. Standards for Soybeans. This proposed rule change is in response to USDA’s having received numerous requests to remove SBOC as a factor for establishing grade [e.g. U.S. No. 1 Yellow Soybeans–maximum 1% SBOC allowed, U.S. No. 2 Yellow Soybeans–maximum 2% SBOC allowed] of delivered soybeans.

According to the above news release from AMS, SBOC levels have been historically low and have rarely impacted soybean grade. However, for the past 2 years, SBOC has increased from normal lows of <1% to levels that would cause the grade to be U.S. No. 3 or No. 4 Yellow Soybeans. An example of this increase is addressed in a DTN article titled “Off-Color Soybeans Rise with Enlist [Sept. 19, 2022] by Jason Jenkins, DTN Crop Editor.

At the behest of USDA’s Grain Inspection Advisory Committee, FGIS conducted a study to evaluate whether or not the presence of SBOC had an effect on oil and protein content of soybean seed. Pertinent points and results from that study, titled “Study of Soybeans of Other Colors and the Impact on End-Use Functionality in 2021-2022 Market Samples” [authored by Y. Tao and T. Norden of the USDA-AMS-FGIS, Technology and Science Division] follow.

•    The objectives of the study were to 1) determine if there are statistically detectable differences in oil and protein content between samples with and without SBOC, and 2) determine if any differences that do exist are practically meaningful.

•    Samples containing SBOC from officially inspected soybean lots from the 2021 crop year were collected in July-Aug. of 2022. Samples contained inspection results ranging from 2.0%-6.9% SBOC that equated to U.S. numbers 3 and 4 yellow soybeans..

•    All samples, both with and without the SBOC portions, were analyzed for oil and protein content using a near infrared transmission instrument.

•    A statistical comparison of the 100 sample pairs showed no differences in oil and protein content between samples with and without SBOC.

•    These results lead to the conclusion that SBOC levels of 2% to 6.9% do not influence oil and protein content in seeds of yellow soybeans.

Hopefully, the process of review and potential amendment of U.S. soybean grade standards to reflect the insignificance of SBOC as a grade factor as per the above research results can be successfully completed in time to be used for marketing of the 2023 soybean crop. This should alleviate the marketing dilemma that has resulted from the increase in SBOC in harvested soybeans.

Composed by Larry G. Heatherly, Nov. 2022,