The National Cattlemen's Beef Association's (NCBA) executive committee approved the organization's policy priorities at the 2023 Cattle Industry Convention and NCBA Trade Show, with a focus on advancing animal disease preparedness, protecting voluntary conservation programs, and defending producers from regulatory overreach.
NCBA's policy priorities include:
• Securing reauthorization of animal health provisions in the 2018 Farm Bill and advocating for expanded funding of the National Animal Vaccine and Veterinary Countermeasures Bank (NAVVCB) to protect against foot-and-mouth disease (FMD).
• Protecting and funding EQIP, CSP and other voluntary conservation programs that incentivize science-based, active management of natural resources.
• Protecting the cattle industry from regulatory attacks under Waters of the United States, the Endangered Species Act, emissions reporting and more.
"One of the biggest opportunities to help cattle producers in the coming year is passing the 2023 Farm Bill with continued investment in our national vaccine bank to protect the U.S. cattle herd from the threat of foot-and-mouth disease. Recently, we have seen other countries deal with the realities of animal disease outbreaks.
American cattle producers are not going to be caught flat-footed - we are laser-focused on reducing risk and having the strongest response with a stockpile of vaccines that we have been building up since the 2018 Farm Bill," Wilkinson said.
Learn more about NCBA's 2023 Policy Priorities here.
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Sorghum: the unlikely food source for pollinators
USDA - ARS release
Sorghum bicolor, a pollen-rich grass species cultivated for grain and forage, which looks similar to corn, can be an important food source for pollinators and other beneficial insects during times when pollen and nectar are scarce.
Researchers from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA)'s Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Oklahoma State University (OSU) Division of Agricultural Sciences and Natural Resources found that sorghum, commonly called milo, served as a pollen food source for bees, hoverflies, and earwigs. Sorghum is primarily grown in the Central Plains and Southeast United States.
Additionally, when sorghum is infested with sorghum aphids — which are known to feed on all types of sorghum — large amounts of honeydew are produced as waste. This sugary by-product could be an alternative to nectar for pollinators and predatory insects, including flies, bees, wasps, and ants.
"Sorghum is not listed as a plant recommended to homeowners to feed pollinators despite frequent bee sightings," said Karen Harris-Shultz, a research geneticist at the ARS Crop Genetics and Breeding Research Unit in Tifton, Georgia. "However, we found that sorghum had unintended ecological benefits. It can be a potential landscape plant for homeowners and a food source for pollinators during times of pollen and nectar shortage."
According to Harris-Shultz, people are encouraged to plant nectar-rich crops with different flowering seasons but are rarely recommended to plant wind-pollinated plants, including grasses, for supporting pollinator populations.
The study's findings show promise that grass species like sorghum can be an alternative crop for pollinators during times when other crops are not available for foraging.
According to Wyatt Hoback, a professor of entomology at OSU, pollinators are declining globally, having the potential to jeopardize the human food supply and plant diversity. An alternative crop like sorghum could provide additional food for pollinators and inadvertently benefit predatory insects.
"Pollinators need sugar resources to maintain flight and other activities, and they need pollen to have protein for raising offspring," said Hoback.
The recent study was published in Insects by Harris-Shultz (ARS), Hoback (OSU), Scott Armstrong (ARS), Michael Caballero (OSU), and Joseph Knoll (ARS).
A hoverfly (left) and an earwig (right) eat sorghum pollen. (Photo by Karen Harris-Shultz, ARS)
USA - Supply of native seeds insufficient to meet the needs of current and future ecological restoration projects, says new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
National Academy of Sciences release
A new report from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine says the insufficient supply of seeds from native plants is a major barrier to ecological restoration and other revegetation projects across the United States. The report calls for concerted action to build a more robust native seed supply and industry, especially as climate change increases the possibility of extreme weather events that often damage natural areas.
Conserving and restoring native plant communities is urgently needed in many natural areas of the U.S., particularly the millions of acres of public and private land affected by extreme wildfires, floods, drought, invasive plants, and other hazards. Native plants have coevolved with native animals in distinctive environments, unlike introduced nonnative plant species. Native plants are often more drought tolerant than nonnatives and are a foundation for native biodiversity in ecosystems. When areas are damaged, agencies such as the Bureau of Land Management seek out native seeds to restore plant populations and stabilize ecosystems. In 2020 alone, BLM field offices purchased about 1.5 million pounds of seed to use in areas affected by wildfires.
The current insufficient supply of native seeds means that restoration efforts frequently substitute with nonnative varieties or native seeds sourced from climatically different environments than where they will be planted, says the report. Seeds need to be genetically adapted to the climate where they are used, which requires regional collection and agricultural cultivation of future seed supply. Native seeds can be obtained from natural areas, but judicious harvesting is required so native plant populations are not depleted. There are some companies that produce large volumes of native seeds, but they face challenges such as a lack of the stock (starter) seed from appropriate locations, production risks, and inconsistent demand from purchasers.
“As the vulnerabilities of humans, wildlife, and critical ecosystem services to disruptions continue to grow, the need for ecological restoration in the 21st century will continue its trajectory toward a previously unmatched scale,” said Susan P. Harrison, distinguished professor in the department of environmental science and policy of the University of California, Davis, and chair of the committee that wrote the report. “A limited supply of native seeds and other native plant materials is a widely acknowledged barrier to fulfilling our most critical restoration needs. Our recommendations represent an ambitious agenda for action, commensurate to the challenges we face.”
Unifying Federal Native Seed Efforts
In 2002, at the request of Congress, the U.S. Department of the Interior and U.S. Department of Agriculture developed a plan for a native seed supply, but the last two decades have shown that the plan needs to be accelerated, the report says. The leadership of the departments of the Interior, Agriculture, and Defense should move quickly to strengthen the supply of native seeds and foster a native seed industry that better meets the needs of producers and consumers by shifting to a focused interagency approach, the report recommends. These efforts could focus on a variety of activities, such as developing a national policy for native seed collection, reviewing policy guidance for use of native seeds on public lands, serving as a focal point for communication and data sharing, and developing best practices for seed storage and cultivation.
Sharing Risk with Native Seed Suppliers
The report also recommends that public agencies that purchase native seed should assist suppliers by taking steps to reduce uncertainty, share risk, increase the predictability of purchases, and help suppliers obtain stock seed. This includes proactively restoring millions of acres of U.S. public land that are considered ecologically impaired and creating annual purchase targets, rather than only purchasing after a disaster. Agencies should also contract for seed purchases before seed production begins and use realistic timelines in contracts. USDA should consider providing a premium to landowners who use locally adapted seed types in conservation programs.
Building Regional Programs
Federal land-management agencies should participate in building regional programs to promote native plant development and restoration, and help establish these programs in areas where they do not exist. Regional programs could meet the specific seed needs of each region by developing a list of priority species and by monitoring, collecting, and curating stock seed. Regional partners should work directly with suppliers to help them anticipate future needs, provide growers with resources and tools, share information, and coordinate seed collection protocols to protect wild populations.
The report also recommends:
- BLM should identify and conserve natural native plant communities that provide significant reservoirs of native seeds for restoration. Natural plant communities provide the ultimate sources of native seeds for ecological restoration, the report says. Public land agencies should use protective designations to actively recognize and protect them for future restoration needs.
- The Bureau of Indian Affairs should promote and expand tribal nurseries in partnership with the Inter-Tribal Nursery Council. The report highlights the importance of involving tribal leadership in planning, conducting, and applying results from projects related to seed production and conservation, native plant restoration, and ecosystem management on tribal land.
- Federal agencies and partners should collaborate on seed infrastructure for storage and seed cleaning that can be cooperatively cost-shared regionally to reduce costs and increase access with fluctuating needs. Additional storage can improve the availability of seed ready for restoration when urgent but hard-to-predict needs arise. The report says the BLM’s Seed Warehouse system also needs to be expanded, especially its capacity for cold storage.
- The federal government should commit to an expanded research agenda aimed at expanding and improving the use of native seeds in ecological restoration. The report says this should include supporting basic research, building technical knowledge, and adaptive planning. A more uniform system for developing “seed zones” would streamline communication between buyers and suppliers about the suitability of seeds for different regions.
The report completes the second and final stage of the study undertaken by the Committee on an Assessment of Native Seed Needs and Capacities and sponsored by the U.S. Department of the Interior’s Bureau of Land Management.
The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine are private, nonprofit institutions that provide independent, objective analysis and advice to the nation to solve complex problems and inform public policy decisions related to science, technology, and medicine. They operate under an 1863 congressional charter to the National Academy of Sciences, signed by President Lincoln.
Strengthening sorghum against a worldwide fungal threat - ARS and Purdue University scientists identified a gene that could help sorghum withstand the fungus that causes anthracnose disease.
USDA ARS & Purdue University
A gene discovered by a team of Agricultural Research Service (ARS) and Purdue University scientists could help fortify the defenses of sorghum to anthracnose, a disease of the cereal grain crop that can inflict yield losses of up to 50 percent.
The discovery, to be reported in an upcoming issue of The Plant Journal, opens the door to breeding disease-resistant sorghum cultivars that are less reliant on fungicides to protect them, reducing growers' production costs and safeguarding grain yields and quality, among other benefits.
Sorghum is the fifth-most widely grown cereal grain crop worldwide, providing consumers not only with a source of food containing 12 essential nutrients, but also forage for livestock and material for bio-based energy. However, unchecked with fungicides or other measures, anthracnose will attack all parts of a susceptible cultivar, often forming reddish lesions on leaves and the stem as well as causing damage to the plant's panicles and grain heads.
Genetic-based disease resistance is the most effective and sustainable approach to combating anthracnose in sorghum. However, how this resistance actually works in the plant is poorly understood, according to Matthew Helm, a research molecular biologist at ARS's Crop Production and Pest Control Research Unit in West Lafayette, Indiana. That knowledge gap is worrisome because of the genetic variability among different races (or types) of the anthracnose fungus and their potential to overcome a cultivar's resistance genes over time. Additionally, anthracnose resistance can be temperature-dependent, potentially leaving a sorghum crop vulnerable to infection if temperatures soar above a certain threshold.
Fortunately, Helm and a team of Purdue University scientists led by Demeke Mewa have begun to close this gap. They identified a disease-resistance gene that orchestrates a series of defense responses to early infection by the anthracnose fungus, preventing its spread to the rest of the plant and grain heads.
Additionally, sorghum plants carrying the resistance gene, known as "ANTHRACNOSE RESISTANCE GENE 2" (ARG2), successfully withstood the fungus even when greenhouse temperatures were increased to 100 degrees Fahrenheit (38 degrees Celsius). This temperature stability could be a potential boon for sorghum production regions of the world where growing season temperatures can reach those levels.
The team also determined that ARG2 helps make ("encodes for") a protein that is concentrated in the plasma membrane of resistant sorghum cells. There, it acts as a kind of intruder alert that's triggered by certain proteins used by the anthracnose fungus to infect the plant.
"These results significantly advance our understanding of how sorghum detects fungal pathogens and opens the door for engineering new disease resistances against plant pathogens of cereal grains," the team writes in an abstract summarizing their findings in The Plant Journal paper.
ARG2 and its protein don't protect sorghum from all races of anthracnose. However, combining ARG2 with other similar genes could help broaden that protection—either through conventional plant breeding methods or biotechnological ones. With ARG2's discovery, scientists now have a key to unlocking a fuller understanding of how the mechanisms of anthracnose resistance work and making the best use of them as a disease defense that growers worldwide can count on.
In addition to Mewa and Helm, the The Plant Journal paper's other authors are Sanghun Lee, Chao-Jan Liao, Augusto Souza, Adedayo Adeyanju, Damon Lisch and Tesfaye Mengiste—all of Purdue University.