The Georgia/Florida Soybean Association recently became the exclusive producer of a new edible soybean developed in Japan. The contract — made with the National Agricultural Research Organization Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries (NARO) in Japan — is the first authorizing a non-Japanese out-of-country producer.

Through the exclusive production contract with NARO, the Georgia/Florida Soybean Association will have accounting responsibility for the royalties collected and for the tracking of planting seed and commodity soybeans. Plantation Seed Conditioners, Newton, Ga., will have responsibility for production of the soybean.

Producers in Georgia will have the opportunity to participate as contract growers for either seed or commodity production. Seed of the soybean will be produced in the traditional seed certification program. The commodity production will be inspected under an Identity Preserved Program to assure variety purity.

All possible sources of contamination will be inspected for freedom of contaminating conventional soybeans. Both the seed certification and Identity Preserved Program will be administrated by the Georgia Crop Improvement Association.

The variety, L-Star — developed in 1990 — is a soybean that is “deodorized.” When flour is made from the bean, the beanie odor is not present. Deodorized soybeans produce oil similar to olive oil and flour similar to wheat flour. The bean also has a high Vitamin E content.

A unique process is used to produce the flour, oil and meal without the use of harmful chemicals. This process produces pure and healthy oil, flour and meal, benefiting consumers and workers while protecting the environment.

L-Star does not contain genetically modified organisms, making it suitable for export to Europe and Japan, markets that have shown resistance to accepting GMO crops.

American Soy and Tofu Corporation (ASTC), a Japanese company with an office in Macon, Ga., will purchase the edible soybean for export. The company expects to need more than 3 million bushels of the soybean by the year 2007.

“Our primary market will be Southeast Asia because they already have the culture to consume soybeans,” says Alec Sato, ASTC public relations director. “Our second market is the United States and Europe.”

Georgia is ideal for growing L-Star, says Sato, because it has the same climate as the Japanese island of Qyushu, where the parent soybean variety of L-Star was developed. Trial plots were grown in Athens, Griffin and Americus this past summer for variety testing.

The Georgia Department of Agriculture, through its International Trade Division, is assisting American Soy and Tofu in locating potential users of the meal, flour and oil.

“Currently, we're at the point of increasing our seed production to make the variety available for planting larger acreages,” says Terry Hollifield, executive director of the Georgia/Florida Soybean Association.

About 73 acres are expected to be grown in 2004 for seed, says Hollifield. “I don't think our soybeans in Georgia can compete with imports and the Midwest. To compete, we have to find value-added products,” he says.

For more information, contact the Georgia/Florida Soybean Association at (706) 542-3793.

e-mail: phollis@primediabusiness.com