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Farm Progress Show in Boone will showcase a new use for soybeans

Katie Peikes
From left to right, Eric Cochran and Nacu Hernandez of Iowa State University, Iowa Soybean Association President Robb Ewoldt, Gary Nystrom of the Central Iowa Expo Board and the Farm Progress Show's Matt Jungmann cut the ribbon for the soy-based asphalt at the Varied Industries Tent, which is on the grounds of the Farm Progress Show in Boone.

Imagine finding a way to use a particular oil extracted from soybeans, mixing it with old, recycled asphalt and paving a floor with the concoction.

People will be able to walk on the soy-based asphalt at the Farm Progress Show in Boone. The nearly 43,000 square foot asphalt base is the floor of the Varied Industries Tent, which features about 140 exhibitors, including newer folk getting their start showcasing at what’s billed as the largest outdoor farm event in the nation.

The $170,000 for the project came from soybean checkoff funding.

“I think it’s more a showcase of another product in agriculture that can make the world a better place,” said Don Tourte, the senior vice president of sales and events for the Farm Progress Show.

Iowa State University researchers approached the state’s soybean association about 10 years ago hoping to find new uses for high oleic soybean oil. That’s oil produced from the seeds of soybean plants. It has lower saturated fats than regular soybean oil.

The result was a polymer — essentially a glue — made from high oleic soybean oil that could replace petroleum-based polymers that contribute to global warming.

The project is a partnership between the Iowa Soybean Association, Central Iowa Expo, Iowa State University and the Farm Progress Show. The partners held a ribbon cutting Wednesday.

Iowa Soybean Association President Robb Ewoldt said this project demonstrates another use for soybeans.

“When I was younger there was only oil and protein,” Ewoldt said. “Now we’re looking at different uses that we can use. And who would’ve thought that we could take 100 percent recycled asphalt and basically glue it back together with soybean oil?”

The project also keeps scraps of road out of landfills, said Iowa State University chemical and biological engineering professor Eric Cochran.

“And giving it not just a new use, but a new high value use,” Cochran said. “It’s becoming a new pavement that actually serves a purpose and prevents you from having to buy new hot mix asphalt that is oil-based, primarily.”

The soy-based asphalt uses more than 2,300 pounds of soybean oil – equal to 215 bushels of soybeans.

The Farm Progress Show is back in Boone for the first time since 2018 after being canceled in 2020 because of the pandemic. The event happens in Boone on even-numbered years and Decatur, Illinois in odd-numbers years.

Katie Peikes is IPR's agriculture reporter