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Placing Gregor Mendel back among the MendelianPlacing Gregor Mendel back among the Mendelian
May 25

TSTA Weekly Update, 05/25/2023


Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News

 

ASTA sponsored another highly informative webinar Wednesday titled Clarification of Federal Seed Act Varietal Labeling Requirements as a portion of the Biden Administration's efforts to ensure fairness and competition in the seed industry - Fair Competition: Executive Order 14036.

 

Bethany Shively, ASTA communications director, hosted the event as our friend and colleague Pat Miller is temporarily laid up with a broken leg. Bethany did an outstanding job hosting several USDA presenters and a professor from the University of Wisconsin.

 

Andy Greeen, USDA, stated during his presentation that part of the goal is to ensure the identity preservation (IP) system does not also, unnecessarily, reduce competition in seed and other input markets. USDA is tasked with ensuring fair markets exist and that IP functions appropriately. No specifics on actions that are planned to "ensure" fairness and appropriateness.

 

TSTA staff asked Mr. Green if compelling evidence existed for unfair competitive practices or inappropriate utilization of IP. He did not offer any but anecdotal "we've heard from hundreds of farmers and breeders that they are confused about what they are purchasing and, in the case of breeders, frustration about access to proprietary germplasm. At the close of "answering" our question Mr. Green stated his office would "do what we think and believe are right for the market no matter what." We continue to maintain most of this executive order represents a solution searching for a problem. We'd like to hear from you about what you think.

 

TSTA submitted public comments on this topic many months ago when USDA issued a bulletin on their part of Executive Order 14036 and asked for comment. We are on record as stating we believe the IP system works remarkably well and that if farmers are confused about varietal selections they are not taking full advantage of resources currently available to ascertain necessary information.

 

Perhaps the only portion of the executive fiat that is being interpreted as anything meaningful was presented by Ernest Allen. Ernest is USDA seed testing and labeling director, and had some real concerns about, essentially, lazy labeling and consequent violations of the federal seed act pursuant to labeling requirements. Good information, and Ernest said most of his input and reporting was a result of issues raised by seed companies about other bad-actor seed sellers. We don't doubt it.

 

Ernest also said he wasn't interested in any new regulations but rather better enforcement of existing laws and regs. We like the sound of that.

 

Stay tuned as new guidelines, changes, regulations, oversight, etc., are just a matter of time.

 

Our thanks to ASTA for sponsoring this event!

A meeting of the TSTA Board of Directors is scheduled for July 13-15, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. If you have questions please contact the TSTA office.

 

Surveys to ascertain the level of certified wheat seed carryover from last year, anticipated certified wheat that will be available for sale this year, and a ranking of the most favored/best suited varieties was mailed to over 100 Texas seed sellers this week by the TSTA. Mailings included self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for return of the surveys to the association office. The survey is designed to assist the Texas Foundation Seed Service, and others, to determine the potential need to enter a recertification process. Results will be made available as soon as possible.

TSTA Legislative Update

TSTA staff

 

Legislation to tighten regulations on migrant agricultural labor housing has been filed throughout the past decades with little committee activity but this session HB 238 by Diego Bernal (D-San Antonio) seeks to change the civil penalty from $200 per facility to $50 per person for those employers housing migrant laborers in substandard housing. Once language was included providing exception for H2A workers temporarily residing in the United States under the guest-worker program the bill moved through the legislative process and is now waiting to be set on the Senate Intent Calendar for consideration. Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, a county attorney or undocumented workers and those under other programs who reside in the facility in question could bring a suit against an agricultural employer or contractor if the bill passes.

 

A conference committee report for Senate Bill 30, the supplemental appropriations bill including the Foundation Seed reconstruction funding has been filed and, therefore, conferees have come to an agreement. Each house will be required to approve the report, in order for the legislation to pass and be sent to the Governor.

We're full-up for the Sod Poodles game! On June 2, the Texas Seed Trade Association will host a gathering at the Amarillo Sod Poodles, a Double A affiliate of the Arizona Diamondbacks. The Poodles are playing the Springfield Cardinals that evening, an affiliate of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball club. We've got a box reserved and it'll be a great time for the lucky 25 of us. It's $25 and we've reserved the first 25 that responded. Thank you!

 

If you need a hotel room we can furnish that information.

In an effort to update and maintain our membership records we request you take a few moments and fill out the very brief info request at the following link.

 

https://forms.gle/SC6QDSgqUVixUqAo8

 

The link is secure and the information will be used internally by the Texas Seed Trade Association and never shared without your permission. This request is on behalf of your association's board of directors and officers and we greatly appreciate your cooperation. Thank you!

 

5/25/2023 - If you have not updated your information please take a moment and do so now. We appreciate it! We continue to update this database and need your input!

News Bits

 

Former representative Charlie Stenholm passed away Wednesday at his home in Granbury, Texas. He was 84.

 

Representative Jodey Arrington released a statement on his passing Thursday.

 

"With his broad smile and West Texas humility, Charlie Stenholm did a lot of great things for the place and people he loved. Known simply as 'Charlie', this cotton farmer from Stamford, deeply devoted to family and the land, typified the citizen legislator our founders envisioned. Anne and I deeply mourn his passing," said Rep. Arrington.

 

Stenholm owned a 2,000-acre cotton and cattle farm, and according to Agri-Pulse, "began a career in agricultural programs and politics as an appointed member of the Texas State Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service (now the Farm Service Agency) committee during the administration of former President Jimmy Carter."

 

His career was highlighted by the effort to push for modern farm production and limit government spending.

 

Stenholm was a strong advocate for agricultural policy in the late 20th century. He was in office until the early 2000s, and later went on to teach agricultural policy as an adjunct professor at Tarleton State University in 2018.

 

U.S. corn and soybean planting and development remain ahead of average.

 

Recent weather in most of the Midwest and Plains has been generally favorable but parts of the region could see a drier pattern into early June, potentially causing some stress in those areas.

 

The USDA says 81% of U.S. corn is planted, compared to the five-year average of 75%, and 52% has emerged, compared to 45% on average.

 

66% of U.S. soybeans are planted as of Sunday, compared to 52% normally in late May, and 36% has emerged, compared to 24% on average.

 

31% of winter wheat is in good to excellent condition, 2% more than a week ago following rain in parts of the Plains, and 61% has headed, matching the usual rate.

 

64% of spring wheat is planted and 32% has emerged, both slower than normal, because of wet, cool conditions in parts of the northern Plains.

 

45% of cotton is planted, compared to 50% on average.

 

90% of rice is planted and 76% has emerged, both faster than the respective five-year averages, with 73% of the crop called good to excellent, 3% above last week.

 

33% of sorghum is planted, in-line with the average pace.

 

37% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are in good to excellent condition, 3% higher than the prior week.

 

The USDA's weekly crop progress and condition numbers will run through the end of November.

 

Brownfield reports: Results from this year's Hard Red Winter Wheat tour show it could be the worst crop in 60 years.

 

The Wheat Quality Council predicted an average of 30 bushels per acre with production at 178 million bushels, the first time since 1963 total production in Kansas could be under 200 million.

 

Romulo Lollato, an extension wheat and forage specialist with K-State, says drought ruined much of the crop in Southwest and South-Central Kansas - the two largest wheat producing regions in the US. "I don't think there's much crop there to be harvested."

 

The tour's estimate came in one bushel per acre higher than USDA's latest prediction, but 13 million bushels lower in total production.

 

He tells Brownfield while the tour didn't estimate how much of the crop will be abandoned, it will have some impact on supply. "Both on the grain side, but also on the seed production side. If you're thinking about the growers and the decisions they are making for the next fall when they're planting their next crop, they may not have the seed available."

 

Thirty bushels per acre is the lowest evaluation since 2000, according to the latest available data.

 

Alejandro Plastina, Iowa State Extension Economist

 

The most recent annual survey of cash rental rates for Iowa farmland shows that rates increased by 9% in 2023 to the highest average value on record: $279 per acre. This new peak rent is 3.3% higher than the previous one of $270 per acre observed in 2013 (Figure 1). In comparison, average nominal (not inflation-adjusted) corn and soybean prices received by farmers in Iowa in the first quarter of 2023 were 2.8% higher and 4.4% lower, respectively, than in the first quarter of 2013.

 

U.S. consumers' eating patterns differ from Federal recommendations for many food categories, and where food is obtained plays a role. Researchers from USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) and the University of Georgia examined diet patterns based on density--amounts of food consumed per 1,000 calories--using the latest available national food consumption survey data collected in 2017-18.

 

They compared average consumption densities of 17 food categories with what would be needed to match the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommendations, assuming a 2,000-calorie intake. Average total consumption densities for 11 food categories fell more than 20 percent outside of recommended levels, with whole grains more than 70 percent below the recommended amount.

 

Refined grains, on the other hand, had a consumption density of more than 85 percent above the recommended level. Densities of 6 food categories were within 20 percent of the recommended range. Generally, food purchased at grocery stores, supermarkets, and similar retailers for home preparation had consumption densities more in line with dietary recommendations than food obtained from commercial away-from-home sources (primarily restaurants and fast food establishments).

Placing Gregor Mendel back among the Mendelian

John Innes Centre

 

Two new studies have mounted a robust defence of Gregor Mendel against historic criticism that questions his place as “Father of Genetics.”

 

The research is the latest in a series of events and publications to mark Mendel’s bicentenary, a year-long celebration which ends in July.

 

A friar based at a monastery in Brno, Moravia, Mendel used his experiments crossing pea plants to establish simple numerical relationships about how characteristics are passed down through the generations and in so doing laid the foundation for the science of genetics.

 

But since his death in 1884 some people – including esteemed scientists – have doubted Mendel’s findings and even questioned whether his work fits into the field named after him – Mendelian genetics.

 

In recent years leading up to Mendel’s bicentennial, John Innes Centre researcher Dr Noel Ellis and his collaborator Dr Peter van Dijk of Netherland’s based crop breeding tech company KeyGene, have embarked on an academic quest to scrutinize historic and some contemporary criticisms of Mendel.

 

It’s a mission which has taken them across Europe to events and conferences and for van Dijk, it brought the award of the Mendel Memorial Medal, earlier this year. Together they have trawled newly available online sources to gain a clearer impression of Mendel as man and scientist. Their most recent defence of Mendel appears as an article in Hereditas and examines Mendel’s terminology; his use of terms such as dominant, recessive, character, element and factor and his use of symbols to describe his plants.

 

Some have claimed that Mendel had no notion of a genotype – the genetic constitution of organisms – that he thought more about the outward traits or phenotypes. This is strongly rebutted by Ellis and van Dijk.

 

“Critics have said that Mendel did not have a sense of genetics that he concentrated on the phenotype rather than the genotype. However, in our paper we show that his use of symbols was not describing the thing as it was but how it would look if he did a cross – so that is clearly closely related to a genotype,” says Ellis.

 

“Genotyping as Mendel thought about it is about predicting how an organism is going to behave – it’s a mental construct,” he continues. “And the phenotype is the actual thing. So, a lot of what people talk about as genotyping is really phenotyping.”

 

Another study in the journal Genetics defends Mendel against critics – including the historian Robert Olby who in a provocatively named article “Mendel no Mendelian?” said that Mendel’s seminal 1866 paper was not primarily about inheritance of traits but how new species may emerge through hybridization of existing species.

 

In this study Ellis and van Dijk – using new sources – argue that while Mendel’s initial focus was on plant breeding, he became curious about segregation patterns of seed traits which led to an investigation into the inheritance of other traits.

 

“Chromosomes and meiosis were not yet known in Mendel’s lifetime, but he wrote nothing that was in conflict with later Mendelism, as Olby suggested,” said van Dijk.

 

These papers can be placed alongside earlier research which defended Mendel’s use of statistics against charge made by mathematician R.A Fisher that Mendel’s findings were “too good to be true.” In fact, a revisiting of the paper shows his findings to be “exemplary.”

 

Another misconception that Mendel was a reclusive working chiefly behind monastic walls was rebutted by evidence available online about his international travels to Paris and London, to Rome and Naples and to Hamburg and Kiel.

 

But aside from intellectual curiosity, why should contemporary researchers feel a sense of mission in defending Mendel against his critics?

 

Ellis explains: “Any remarkable scientist is open to challenge, and they should be challenged, it is perfectly legitimate. I just got annoyed because I thought the challenges were unjustified and these papers of ours have shown Mendel to be correct given the constraints he acted within.”

 

Having trailed Mendel for many years gathering information from his scientific and cultural activity, what picture emerges?

 

“He was clearly very insightful, a clear thinker and particularly good at explaining. If you read the 1866 paper it is astonishingly clear and logically laid out. If you read Darwin’s Origin of Species, it is by comparison harder to follow. Mendel is much more of what we think as a scientist rather than a natural historian.”

Mendel is a matter of current as well as historical importance, adds Ellis: “There is something of a campaign to remove the teaching of Mendelian genetics from schools because it is seen as too deterministic.

 

“There is also a lot of concern, not unreasonably, about genetics in relation to race and eugenics, and one of the ways of arguing against such things is to criticize Mendel – which is a mistake. It is making a false connection.”

 

Mendel’s bicentenary year, which ends in July, has led to numerous publications. It seems certain that part of his scientific legacy is to inspire spirited debate. But for his admirers Mendel’s bicentenary has been a chance to revisit his findings. For them, his scientific inheritance is intact.

 

Mendel’s terminology and notation reveal his understanding of genetics appears in Hereditas.

Gregor Mendel and the theory of species multiplication appears in Genetics

Caption – Noel Ellis explains: “The extract shows a place in Mendel’s 1866 paper where he is discussing the variability of the segregation ratio among the offspring of different individuals. Below the table Mendel gives four examples of segregation ratios very far from expectation (nearly 1:1 and 1:0 rather than 3:1). William Bateson (first director of the John Innes Centre) has highlighted these examples with two lines in the margin. He has not highlighted the examples that agree well with expectation.

That Mendel presented these data shows clearly that he wanted to make clear that the 3:1 ratio was an average and that any particular example could be quite different. It shows that he was not trying to restrict the data he presented only to those examples that were a good fit to his hypothesis.

Image credit – The John Innes Archives courtesy of the John Innes Foundation

Researchers find new mechanism for sodium salt detoxification in plants

University of Münster press release

 

Newly discovered signalling pathway specifically protects the stem cells in the plant root from salt stress

 

A high content of sodium-containing salts in the soil is a problem for many plants: as a result, they grow less well, or not at all. Soil salinisation is seen as one of the greatest threats to being able to feed the world’s population because it makes soils increasingly infertile, especially in dry regions. A team of Chinese, German and Spanish researchers, including Prof Jörg Kudla and his team from the University of Münster, has now found a mechanism in thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) which enables plants to provide protection against salt stress for their sensitive stem cells in the meristem at the root tip. The meristem, which ensures that the root constantly forms new cells and can thus grow, is particularly sensitive: in contrast to fully formed plant cells, its cells have no vacuole inside where harmful substances can be disposed of.

GSO1 is important for plant salt stress tolerance. Left: Loss-of-function mutants of GSO1 (gso1) exhibit reduced root and shoot growth in the presence of salt stress as compared to wildtype (Col). Middle: Salt stress induces enhanced GSO1 receptor kinase accumulation specifically in the root tip meristem and in the endodermis of the differentiation zone. The kinase SOS2 is present in the whole root; its protein accumulation is evenly enhanced upon salt stress. Right: Model of salt stressed Arabidopsis roots. - © Chen C. et al./The EMBO Journal (2023)e113004

 



Salt stress (Na+) triggers a Ca2+ signal in roots. This signal is translated into the activation of the Na+ exporter SOS1 via the SOS pathway. The Ca 2+ -independent activation of the SOS2-SOS1 module through the receptor kinase GSO1 constitutes a novel mechanism of plant salt stress tolerance. This mechanism especially protects the stem cells in the root meristem from the toxic effects of high Na+ concentrations. - © L. Wallrad/ The EMBO Journal

(2023)e113004

 

The mechanism in detail: a special enzyme – a receptor-like kinase called GSO1 – transports the sodium out of the cells of the meristem. To this end, GSO1 activates the kinase SOS2 (SOS stands for “salt overly sensitive”), and this in turn activates a transport protein (SOS1) which pumps sodium ions outwards, via the cell membrane, and, in return, transports protons into the cell. In the case of salt stress, there is an increased formation of GSO1 especially in the meristem cells.

 

In addition, the team demonstrated that GSO1 also helps to prevent too much salt from penetrating into the vascular tissue of the root. This vascular tissue is located in the interior of the plant and transports water and minerals from the roots into the leaves. By a mechanical barrier, the Casparian strip, it is protected from minerals dissolved in the soil water penetrating into it in an uncontrolled fashion. The researchers also demonstrated a higher GSO1 content in the cells forming the Casparian strip increases due to salt stress.

 

“GSO1 is a receptor kinase well known in plant developmental biology,” says Jörg Kudla. “It plays an important role in various stages in a plant’s development. Now, for the first time, we were able to demonstrate that it also plays a role in salt tolerance and activates the ‘sodium-out pump’ via an alternative signalling pathway which is presumably not dependent on calcium.” Calcium signals in the cells play a key role in other known adaptive responses of plants to salt stress.

 

About the methods: The team discovered the significance of GSO1 by comparing numerous mutants of various receptor-like kinases in the thale cress. By studying protein interactions, they identified the reaction partners of the enzyme within the signalling pathways for protecting the meristem and forming the Casparian strip. Methods used in further investigations included mass spectrometry and high-resolution microscopy.

 

The work received financial support from the National Natural Science Foundation of China and from the German Research Foundation (DFG) for a joint project undertaken by teams from Münster and Beijing, as well as from the National Basic Research Program of China, Spain’s Agencia Estatal de Investigación, the European Regional Development Fund and the Chinese Scholarship Council.

Factoids

 

Radio Breaking News reports:

 

Following pressure from lawmakers and an uproar from the radio industry, Ford Motor Company said today that it will keep AM radio in its new vehicles.

 

"After speaking with policy leaders about the importance of AM broadcast radio as a part of the emergency alert system, we've decided to include it on all 2024 @Ford & @LincolnMotorCo vehicles," Ford CEO Jim Farley wrote in social media postings Tuesday. "For any owners of Ford EVs without AM broadcast capability, we'll offer a software update."

 

 

AG ECONOMISTS REPORT SHOWS WHICH STATES AND CROPS RECEIVE MOST GOVERNMENT PROGRAM PAYMENTS

by Carl Zulauf, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics, Ohio State University and Jonathan Coppess, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois

Payment by State: Seven of the 10 states receiving the most commodity payments are in the South (see Figure 2). PLC made 99% of payments in 6 of them and 86% of payments in Texas. Collectively, these 7 states accounted for 86% of PLC payments. The other 3 states in the top 10 are in the Northern Plains. ARC-CO accounted for over 90% of their payments.

Payment by Covered Commodity: Peanuts and long-grain rice accounted for 48% and 22%, respectively, of all commodity program payments (see Figure 3). Nearly all their payments were from PLC. Georgia, which received the most commodity payments, is the leading producer of peanuts and has 40% of US peanut base acres. Leading producer of long-grain rice is Arkansas. It has 48% of US long-grain rice base. Roughly 20% of US peanut base and 13% of long-grain rice base are in Texas, which received the second most commodity payments. The only other program commodities to receive payments from PLC were rapeseed and medium / short grain rice).

 

To read the entire report click here.

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The articles, views, and opinions expressed in the Weekly Update do not necessarily reflect the policies of the Texas Seed Trade Association or the opinions of its members.