Background Image

news Post

Why climate scientists are sweet on sorghumWhy climate scientists are sweet on sorghum
Jun 29

TSTA Weekly Update, 06/29/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Governor Abbott Issues an Invitation to Second Special Session


For Immediate Distribution | June 27, 2023 | (512) 463-1826

Governor Abbott Announces Second Special Session Agenda

AUSTIN – Governor Greg Abbott today announced Special Session #2 and issued a proclamation identifying agenda items for the special session that begins at 3:00 PM today, Tuesday, June 27.


"We achieved a great deal during the 88th Legislative Session that I have signed into law, including laws to provide more than $5.1 billion for border security, hold rogue district attorneys accountable, and add $1.4 billion to make schools safer, but the job is not done," said Governor Abbott. "I am bringing the Texas Legislature back for Special Session #2 to provide lasting property tax cuts for Texans. During the five-month regular session, the Texas House and Texas Senate both agreed on cutting school district property tax rates, while the House wanted to add appraisal caps and the Senate advocated for increased homestead exemptions. The Special Session #1 agenda was limited to the only solution that both chambers agreed on—school property tax rate cuts. After yet another month without the House and Senate sending a bill to my desk to cut property taxes, I am once again putting the agreed upon school district property tax rate cuts on the special session agenda. Unless and until the House and Senate agree on a different proposal to provide property tax cuts, I will continue to call for lasting property tax cuts through rate reductions and working toward eliminating the school property tax in Texas. Special sessions will continue to focus on only property tax cuts until property tax cut legislation reaches my desk."


The Governor's property tax cut plan is backed by 40 homeowner, consumer, and business organizations across the state, along with leading tax policy groups Texas Taxpayers and Research Association, Americans for Tax Reform, and Texas Public Policy Foundation. 

Special Session #2 agenda items include: 

  • ELIMINATING A PROPERTY TAX IN TEXAS: Legislation to put Texas on a pathway to eliminate school district maintenance and operations property taxes. 
  • LASTING PROPERTY TAX RATE CUTS: Legislation to cut property tax rates solely by reducing the school district maximum compressed tax rate in order to provide lasting property-tax relief for Texas taxpayers.


View the Governor's special session proclamation.


We have received a resume from a semi-retired gentleman with extensive management experience in the Texas seed industry looking for active employment. He's in the Palacios area and may be flexible on locations and responsibilities. He's managed people, projects, programs, websites, and has good experience as a trainer.


If you are looking for an experienced hand let us know and we'll be happy to forward his resume and contact information for your consideration. Message by hitting "reply" to the email by which this Weekly Update arrived.

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.

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.


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!


6/29/2023 - 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




Despite weekend rains sweeping the northern Corn Belt, U.S. corn and soybean conditions sit at the second-lowest level of quality in history. The weekly, sizable declines in key areas of the Corn Belt from the stubborn drought situation come as the corn crop starts to enter a critical time for development.


According to USDA-NASS, corn condition ratings across the U.S. dropped to only 50% in good to excellent condition this week. The five-point decline in a week's time means this year's corn crop has only been rated worse one other time in history: 1988.


That's also a change from last week, when both 1992 and 1988 held the record for lower ratings.


Heading into the weekend, farmers across key areas of the Corn Belt hoped for rain. Instead, the system stayed north, producing decent rainfall for parts of South Dakota, Iowa and northern Illinois. It wasn't enough to save the corn crop, with more weekly drops in the following states:


Illinois: 26% good to excellent, down 10 points

Indiana: 47%, down 9 points

Iowa: 56%, down 3 pointes

Missouri: 31, down 12 points

Nebraska: 57%, down 2 points

South Dakota, 47%, down 1 point


It wasn't all bad news when it comes to condition ratings. North Dakota's corn ratings improved two points, now at 65% good to excellent.


It's still early enough for the nation's soybean crop to recover with any rains over the next couple of months, but USDA-NASS field reporters are also growing less optimistic about the U.S. soybean crop. Soybean crop condition ratings are currently the second-worst on record, only behind 1988, with 51% of the crop rated good to excellent. That's a three-point drop in a week.


States with noticeable declines include:


Illinois: 25% good to excellent, down 8 points

Indiana: 47%, down 10 points

Iowa: 48%, down 6 points

Missouri: 32%, down 18 points


Areas On Track for Driest June Ever


USDA meteorologist Brad Rippey says there are several areas still on track for the driest June ever. He says the 30-day percent of normal precipitation map certainly pinpoints some of the drier spots, even after the weekend rainfall.


Before the weekend rains, Rippey said at least seven areas across the Midwest were on track for the driest June ever. After the rains, that's now dropped to three.


Location Total Through June 25...Record for June:


Decatur, Illinois 0.48"...0.53" in 1933


Lincoln, Illinois 0.26"...0.42" in 1936


Peoria, Illinois 0.25"...0.45" in 1936


Carbondale, Illinois

0.10"...0.23" in 1933


According to Rippey, the areas removed from the potential record list for the driest June ever include: Dubuque, Iowa, with a June 1-25 total of 2.14" of rain; Minneapolis, Minn., with 0.86" of rain; and Grand Rapids, Mich., with 0.44" rain.


Near Records for Other Areas of the Midwest


Rippey points out that while other areas of the Corn Belt may not be on pace for the driest June ever, the 30-day percent of normal precipitation map certainly pinpoints some of the drier spots, even after the weekend rainfall.


"I looked at some of the major observation sites, and some places will end up very close to previous June records, though many of which were set in 1922, 1933, 1936, 1963 or 1988," says Rippey. "The big Midwestern losers in the weekend rainfall sweepstakes include Missouri, most of Illinois and southeastern Nebraska, as shown below. Spotty relief occurred in other areas."


USDA-NASS says 52% of the nation's subsoil moisture is considered adequate to surplus. Only 14% of Illinois is in the adequate category. 0% is rated surplus. In Michigan, 13% is rated adequate.


Forecast for More Rain?


The story is far from over for this year's crops, even with the large drops in ratings. NOAA's updated 6 to 10 day outlook, as well as the 8-14 day forecast, shows improved chances for rain across areas that missed moisture this past weekend.


The ranking member of the Senate Ag Committee says he continues to hear many of the same concerns about the 2023 Farm Bill from farmers and ag industry stakeholders around the country.


John Boozman tells Brownfield protecting the safety net is at the top of their list. "That includes crop insurance and all of our risk management tools," he says. "The importance of trade came up, the importance of growing our markets, which we haven't been doing a very good job of lately, research and conservation."


He says he's optimistic the 2023 Farm Bill can be done on time, but farm bills aren't about partisan politics. "They're about regions of the country," he says. "Commodities. Certainly, cotton's needs are very different than specialty crops. So it's just bombing all of those things together."


And while extensions of the farm bill aren't uncommon, Boozman says they'd like to get this farm bill wrapped up before the end of the year. "When you get into next year when you have election-year politics that start to creep up, it just makes it a little bit harder."


Boozman joined U.S. Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, a senior member of the Senate Ag Committee, Kentucky Commissioner of Agriculture Ryan Quarles, and Nancy Cox, vice president for land grant engagement and Dean of the University of Kentucky's College of Agriculture, Food, and Environment for a roundtable discussion with farmers and ag industry stakeholders in Lexington, KY on Tuesday.


Source: National Sorghum Producers


House Agriculture Committee Chairman G.T. Thompson (R-PA), announced this week at an event that draft language for the 2023 Farm Bill could be available by August.


Chairman Thompson and House Agriculture Committee Ranking Member David Scott (D-GA) appeared on a panel with Senate Agriculture Committee Chairwoman Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), as well as Ranking Republican Member, Senator John Boozman (R-AR), to discuss the 2023 Farm Bill. Chairwoman Stabenow did not commit to a specific timeline for the bill's introduction, but did note that she "would not be surprised" if a short-term extension of the 2018 Farm Bill was needed in order to complete the Farm Bill process.


Chairman Thompson has consistently stated that the next Farm Bill must be "bipartisan, bicameral, on-time, and highly effective." He also added, "Anybody can get a Farm Bill done if you watered it down to the point of being meaningless. We're not doing that. We are setting a high bar." Chairman Thompson and Senator Boozman have both underscored that the 2023 Farm Bill must strengthen the farm safety net for farmers and ranchers.


“The crop of the future”: Why climate scientists are sweet on sorghum

Innovative Genomics Institute (IGI)


Sorghum, a heat-loving cereal grain, isn’t just getting attention from the IGI and Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, but also climate scientists at the Department of Energy and Gates Foundation. So, what’s so special about sorghum?


“Number one, it’s extremely drought tolerant and can be grown well with a relatively small amount of water,” says Peggy Lemaux, Professor of Cooperative Extension in Plant & Microbial Biology at UC Berkeley and an Investigator working on IGI’s Net-Zero Farming Initiative. “Number two, it’s flood-tolerant.” Scientists expect to see both forms of extreme weather increasing around the globe.


Sorghum is grown in the temperate climates of the American Midwest, but thrives in hot climates including Northeastern and Western Africa, the American South, and parts of California. It also grows well in poorer soils than many other crops.


“Sorghum was first domesticated in the drier areas of Ethiopia and Sudan,” says Kiflom Aregawi, a Research Associate in the Lemaux lab. “It’s an important crop in Ethiopia where it is used to make a popular Ethiopian flatbread, injera, beverages and feed farm animals.”


Sorghum was brought to North America by ships carrying enslaved Africans. It was initially grown to feed enslaved people and farm animals in the American South. In the US today, it is used to make molasses, gluten-free breads and cereals, and animal feed.


Sorghum is also used to make alcohol, biofuels, and its stems can even be used as a building material.

Climate scientists are excited about sorghum for another reason: it presents a novel opportunity for biological carbon removal: using plants and microbes to help remove excess carbon from the atmosphere and store it deep in the ground. As part of IGI’s work on climate supported by CZI, Lemaux, along with IGI Investigators Jennifer Pett-Ridge, Jill Banfield, Dave Savage, and Kris Niyogi, are working together to create a superpowered version of sorghum that collaborates with soil microbes for carbon removal and long-term sequestration.


Biological carbon removal depends on capturing carbon from the atmosphere through photosynthesis. Some of this carbon is used to make more or bigger leaves, grains, fruits, and roots. Some is released back into the soil by the roots, where it comes in close contact with soil microbes.


When roots are shallow, the carbon is easily rereleased back into the atmosphere. But sorghum’s deep root system can go down six feet or more.


“One of the tricky things with carbon sequestration is that often soil bacteria will take up carbon but release it back into the atmosphere. The deeper the roots, the more likely you are to be able to keep more carbon in the soil, while trying to keep it from going back into the atmosphere,” says Lemaux. “And compared to sorghum, the roots of rice are really wimpy. Corn roots are wimpy too. With its deep roots, sorghum has it going.”

With its deep roots, sorghum has it going.


The IGI team’s larger plan can be described in a few steps. The Savage and Nyogi labs are working on optimizing photosynthesis which will both take more carbon out of the atmosphere and create plants with more root biomass that can help store that carbon underground. The Lemaux lab is working to directly increase root mass and depth, ultimately using CRISPR to edit genes that improve photosynthesis and control root traits. Further down the line, the Banfield and Pett-Ridge labs will work on optimizing relationships between roots and soil microbes to increase carbon retention. In short, pull more carbon out of the atmosphere, and make sure it stays locked away in the soil.


“Our goal is to take more CO2 out of the atmosphere than we put back into it, on a large scale,” says Lemaux. “As a society, we didn’t start addressing climate change for a long time because people didn’t believe it was real. We are late and we need to put all the resources we can towards working on it in a smart way. If I can make some small contribution to that, that will make me happy.


“Sorghum is the crop of the future,” says Aregawi. “It’s exciting to be able to contribute as much as possible to one of the biggest challenges our planet is facing.”


Editor's Note: We are always pleased, and somewhat amused, when researchers "discover" sorghum. There are some generalities in this piece that aren't quite as accurate as we'd like but the future of sorghum seems as bright as ever. And we're thankful for that!

Leak indicates Commission is about to move forward on excluding genetically edited plants from GMO rules



The Commission is set to update legislation on genetic engineering of crops, with its proposal to be presented in July. There will be opposition from environmental groups that want the 2001 blanket ban to be retained

By Thomas Brent


The European Commission is set to put forward its proposal for allowing genome editing techniques in agriculture, a step forward in a years-long dispute that has frustrated European researchers and the agriculture industry. 


In a leaked version of the Commission’s proposal, published by the Genetic Literacy Project, the Commission reiterates its long-held stance that the current EU genetically modified organism (GMO) regulation is “not fit for purpose” because does not cater for newer, more precise gene editing techniques. The Commission is expected to formally present the proposal in early July. 


Newer gene editing technologies enable targeted alterations of plant DNA to be made. That means that unlike first generation GMOs it is not necessary to introduce marker genes from bacteria to show the desired modification has occurred.


The technique is seen as a parallel – but faster – version of traditional plant breeding methods.

French microbiologist Emmanuelle Charpentier, co-inventor of the CRISPR technology that is now synonymous with gene editing, won the Nobel prize in 2020. But before that, in 2018 the European Court of Justice had put a stop to its uptake in agriculture in Europe, ruling CRISPR and similar technologies should be subject to the 2001 EU directive banning GMOs.

This has impacted researchers and stymied start-ups applying CRISPR and related techniques. 


In March this year, the UK government passed the Genetic Technology (Precision Breeding) Act, allowing gene-edited food to be developed commercially in England, although the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Irish devolved governments have not followed suit. 

The Commission’s proposal could set in motion a similar move for the EU. The Commission has for several years been overwhelmingly positive about allowing gene edited crops, with health and food safety commissioner Stella Kyriakides previously saying, “plants obtained with new genomic techniques could help build a more resilient and sustainable agri-food system.”


A 2021 report by the Commission also endorsed the technique, technologies such as CRISPR could help the EU make food production more sustainable, with new plants that are more resistant to diseases and harsher environmental conditions and which do not require the use of pesticides and fertilisers.




The leaked proposal defines its preferences on how gene edited crops should be regulated, which includes an option for certain modified plants to be treated similarly to organic plants as long as they are placed on a transparency register. 


There is strong opposition to the Commission’s proposal from environmental groups and the Greens/EFA group in the European Parliament. An open letter to Commission vice president Frans Timmermans in May this year calling for GMO legislation to be maintained, including for new techniques, was signed by over 300 organisations. 

This week IFOAM Organics Europe, an umbrella organisation for organic farming, reiterated its position that “organic production should remain free from GMOs including from new genomic techniques”. 


IFOAM Organics Europe’s president Jan Plagge said genetic engineering “ignores the complexity of interactions in a given agroecosystem.”


The Commission yesterday authorised imports of three genetically modified types of maize and four other GM crops for use in food and animal feed, although they cannot be cultivated in the EU and are subject to strict labelling and traceability requirements.


Editor's Note: It has taken a long time, the result of a patient struggle by knowledgeable scientific leaders, to get the EU this close to regulating new plant breeding techniques appropriately. Now if we can just get the US EPA to stop moving in retrograde...




BrownfieldAgNews reports:


The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is taking public comment on a pilot project that would update pesticide guidelines to protect endangered species.


The initiative is part of the EPA's Endangered Species Act Working Plan, which is an effort to get the agency back into compliance with the ESA.


Pesticide program specialist Andrew Thostenson with North Dakota State University Extension says the proposed updates in the pilot would change farming methods.


"There are certain conservation practices to prevent soil moisture and runoff, mitigation measures that might implement buffer zones around sensitive habitats."


He says there are also restrictions for product applications if there is rain in the forecast within 48 hours.


In a draft white paper, EPA says 27 species are vulnerable to the effects of certain pesticides, including glyphosate, 2,4-D and atrazine. These are endangered birds, plants and invertebrates in at least 14 states across the Corn Belt including Minnesota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, Wisconsin, Iowa, Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky and Tennessee.


The comment period on the pilot project ends in August. Thostenson says it will likely take EPA several months to review comments and start the project.


"This project, at least in my thinking, is a year or 18 months out before they start trying some of these things out in the real world."


Weed specialist Aaron Hager with University of Illinois Extension says it's unclear how this pilot program will play out.


"It's not necessarily the final word. The EPA has made it very clear in the open pages of this document they want public input and need that feedback. They have proposed certain practices, for example, but there may be others they haven't considered yet."


Some ag groups, including the American Soybean Association and Ag Retailers Association, tell Brownfield they're still reviewing the details of the pilot project. But they say its important producers be able to operate productively and sustainably with any proposed changes.


Both specialists say most states could see updated restrictions on product use in several years as EPA comes into compliance with the ESA.



BrownfieldAgNews reports:


Mexico has placed a 50 percent tariff on imports of white corn, a move that could aggravate trade tensions with the United States.


In a call with reporters on Monday, Ag Secretary Tom Vilsack said the US will continue to follow the trade dispute settlement process under the Unites States-Mexico-Canada Agreement that was filed because of a ban on biotech corn. "We expect and anticipate that our response to any and all activities by the Mexican government is to continue to pursue an ultimate determination under USMCA that the actions taken by the Mexican government were not appropriate."


Mexico's president says the decision was made to help control inflation and boost domestic production and be in place until the end of the year.


Minnesota Senator Amy Klobuchar tells Brownfield the majority of US corn isn't impacted by the tariff, but is pleased that the United States Trade Representative is working to find a solution under USMCA. "It is a process. We would love to get it resolved tomorrow, but it is a process where we can seek remedy."


USDA's Agriculture Marketing Service says about 1 percent of total US corn production is white corn and Mexico imports about 20 percent of it.


Tina Smith, a Senator from Minnesota, says Mexico needs to be held accountable for decisions regarding tariffs and the biotech corn ban. "We need to follow the facts and science as we look at these trade agreements to make sure that we are fully using the remedies that we have in the trade agreement."


The Senate Ag Committee members say they believe the administration is being proactive with the issue. On June 2, USTR Ambassador Katherine Tai had requested dispute settlement consultations with Mexico, and a week later Canada joined the request from the US.




Mexico, in an effort to strengthen the country's domestic corn and tortilla producers, is placing a 50% tariff on white corn imports for the rest of 2023, but U.S. Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack downplayed the action, saying it would have little impact on U.S. exports.


"Well, the good news is that the vast, vast, vast majority of corn that's sold to Mexico from the U.S. is yellow corn - somewhere between 96 (and) 97% of all exports from the U.S. to Mexico is yellow corn, and obviously the tariff has no impact or effect on those sales at all," Vilsack told reporters Monday.


But white corn and the ability of the U.S. to sell it to Mexican buyers are at the heart of an ongoing USMCA dispute between the two countries. Mexico in February banned tortilla companies from using flour made of genetically modified white corn, effectively banning imports of the biotech grain from the U.S.


Take note: Vilsack stressed that Mexico's biotech ban has already shut down the ability of the U.S. to export white corn to Mexico.


"It's inconsistent with a science-based and rules-based trading system," Vilsack said. "And that's the reason why we are pursuing our remedies under the USMCA. One of the benefits of USMCA is that it provides this mechanism for resolving disputes."


Source: Weed Science Society of America news release


WESTMINSTER, Colorado - Crop advisors are an important source of information for growers who face the persistent threat of herbicide resistance. Scientists with the Weed Science Society of America (WSSA) say these frontline experts can help growers manage weeds that escape treatment, threaten crop yields, and disrupt natural ecosystems and wildlife habitats.


A recent survey of certified crop advisors in all 50 U.S. states shows they are concerned about the escalation of herbicide resistance and the impediments to effective weed management.


The survey was spearheaded by Katherine Dentzman, Ph.D., of Iowa State University, who is a member of the WSSA Herbicide Resistance Education Committee. She found that four out of 10 crop advisers were very concerned about the challenges involved in managing herbicide-resistant weeds over the next five years - a significantly higher percentage than those concerned about resistance to insecticides or fungicides. Concern was greatest among those working with large-scale growers in the West or the Great Plains states, as well as among those supporting corn, rice or beet production.


Crop advisors listed economics as the number one barrier to effective management of herbicide-resistant weeds, followed by management complexity, supply constraints, limited available technology, time constraints and the misguided perception that a "silver bullet" will emerge to support the management resistant weeds. In addition, 82 percent of those surveyed agree or strongly agree that growers need to evolve the way they think about resistance management.


What needs to change? More than nine out of 10 crop advisors surveyed said it is important to develop trusting relationships with growers - allowing a free flow of science-based information that can be relied on. They recommend sharing neighbor successes in resistance management and encouraging stakeholder collaboration in community-wide resistance management initiatives.


More than eight out of 10 said there is also a need for consistent messaging, with all stakeholders speaking with one voice on herbicide resistance best management practices. It's something they say is often missing today. Most agree that if growers receive conflicting information, it can be hard to change their minds about how they manage resistance.


"Certified crop advisors are in a unique position to see what works, what doesn't and what barriers need to be overcome," Dentzman says. "While it is clear there is no silver bullet on the horizon to resolve the complex issue of herbicide resistance, real progress can be made when science-based best practices are shared and supported by all the key players and influencers - from manufacturers and retailers to commodity groups, university extension personnel and crop advisors themselves."


About the Weed Science Society of America


The Weed Science Society of America, a nonprofit scientific society, was founded in 1956 to encourage and promote the development of knowledge concerning weeds and their impact on the environment. The Society promotes research, education and extension outreach activities related to weeds, provides science-based information to the public and policy makers, fosters awareness of weeds and their impact on managed and natural ecosystems, and promotes cooperation among weed science organizations across the nation and around the world. For more information, visit


Texas Seed Trade Association |
Facebook  Twitter  Pinterest  
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.