Seed News

The Search for Non-GM Soybeans

Date Posted: January 18, 2009

( -- The following is some information that was provided by Bill Schapaugh, who is the soybean breeder at K-State. Bill has been the soybean breeder at K-State for many years and is responsible for most of the varieties of soybeans that have been released from K-State in the last twenty years.

As the price of Roundup Ready soybean seed has increased recently, there have been some questions about the availability of conventional, non-GMO soybean varieties. Some producers are interested because they would like to be able to replant seed from their soybean crop, and some would like to try to find a buyer willing to pay a premium for non-GMO soybeans. Whatever the reason, conventional soybean varieties are available but will take some effort to locate. K-State has three conventional varieties: KS4607, KS5004N, and KS5502N.

One or more of these varieties may be available from local seed producers in Kansas. To find out which seed producers currently have licenses for these varieties in your area, contact Vernon Schaffer, manager of K-State Foundation Seed, at 785-532-6115 or

To produce any of these three varieties, producers must sign a licensing agreement which specifies how the varieties can be used. It should be possible to replant the seed of these conventional varieties. There are also a few conventional varieties available from commercial seed companies, and from public breeding programs at the University of Nebraska, University of Missouri, and Iowa State University. An older Group V conventional variety, Hutcheson, is also still being produced as certified seed in Kansas. For more information, call Kansas Crop Improvement Association at 785-532-6118.

One of the challenges in selecting conventional varieties is evaluating their yield potential. It has been several years since any of these varieties have been included in the K-State SoybeanPerformance Test, so it is hard to know how well they yield compared to the most recent Roundup Ready varieties.

The K-State soybean breeding program has been phasing out its development of Roundup Ready varieties over the past two years, and is now actively developing new conventional varieties in maturity groups III, IV, and V. There should be two or three of these experimental conventional soybean lines in the K-State Soybean Performance Test in 2009. In addition, hundreds of advanced experimental lines and thousands of preliminary experimental lines are being tested at K-State.

In the 2009 Performance Test, we will have two or more locations specifically for conventional soybean varieties. In these conventional soybean variety performance tests, we will have public varieties and have invited all commercial companies to enter their conventional varieties. There will be some Roundup Ready varieties included as checks in these tests.

The K-State breeding program is also working with Monsanto to obtain a license to produce new Roundup Ready 2 Yield varieties, but does not yet have an agreement.

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