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Like all existing maize, a variety from Oaxaca, Mexico, has two different wild ancestors.Like all existing maize, a variety from Oaxaca, Mexico, has two different wild ancestors.
Dec 07

TSTA Weekly Update, 12/07/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Membership renewals for 2023-2024 have been mailed, please look for them! And thank you to those who have already returned renewals!

Call for your input on discussion topics at the Texas Seed Trade Association Annual Meeting in February 2024.


Last year's meeting was very successful and received high marks from participants for topics as well as format. The meeting was largely comprised of brief presentations followed by panel discussions with an open Q&A format. We look to maintain the overall format this coming year but desire your input regarding subject matter for discussion.


The choices include:


  • Plant Variety Protection advances over the last year
  • Relative merits of PVP versus plant patents
  • Trends in seed segments; where's the market headed for members?
  • Seed treatment and advancing regulation of treated seed
  • Cover crop market development linked with government programs
  • How can we help limit brown bag seed distribution in Texas?


Please let us know your preferences via a return email by hitting "reply" to this issue of the Weekly Update. Please list your preferences in your return email. If you want to talk about something not on "the list" please let us know and make a suggestion.


We will have registration portals available shortly but please reserve February 11 & 12 and we'll see you at Horseshoe Bay!

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!


12/07/2023 - 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!

Scientists thought they understood maize’s origins. They were missing something big

Genes from a long-lost wild relative may have sparked the invention of agriculture in the Americas

ByLizzie Wade

Like all existing maize, a variety from Oaxaca, Mexico, has two different wild ancestors.Philippe Psaila/Science Source


Maize is one of the world’s most important crops, but its origins have long bedeviled scientists. It took more than a century for scientists to settle on the idea that it was domesticated about 9000 years ago in the lowlands of Mexico from a wild grass: a subspecies of teosinte called parviglumis. But now, a team of geneticists has complicated that history, reporting today in Science that maize as we know it has a second wild ancestor. Between 15% and 25% of the genes in all existing maize varieties come not from parviglumis, but from a highland subspecies of teosinte called mexicana, which hybridized with maize some 4000 years after people first domesticated the plant.


Maize is “such a well-studied and prominent plant” that it’s surprising to learn it had a long-lost relative, says Logan Kistler, an anthropologist who studies plant domestication at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of Natural History. “There’s still something this basic to learn about maize—that’s wild.” But why the new hybrid spread so far and wide is still unclear.


Jeffrey Ross-Ibarra, an evolutionary biologist at the University of California, Davis, started to study the relationship of the mexicana teosinte subspecies to maize in order to understand how the lowland domesticate adapted to the chilly highlands of central Mexico. But, “We kept finding evidence of this second teosinte in other places we looked,” he says. The team examined nearly 1000 maize genomes from traditional varieties, modern cultivars, and ancient plant remains excavated from the southwestern United States to eastern Brazil. Unexpectedly, mexicana ancestry is “absolutely everywhere,” Ross-Ibarra says. Reconstructions of the maize family tree suggest it first mixed with the highland teosinte between 6000 and 4000 years ago. Indeed, the only maize sample the team found without mexicana ancestry was a 5500-year-old cob from the southern coast of Peru, thousands of kilometers away from where the hybridization was taking place.


Together, the genetic data and archaeological evidence suggest maize moved out of Mexico in two waves. After it was domesticated from parviglumis in the Balsas River Basin in what is now the state of Guerrero about 9000 years ago, maize quickly spread south along the Pacific coast, reaching Panama by 7800 years ago and Peru by 6700 years ago. The ancient cob from Peru was the result of this first wave. Then, starting about 6000 years ago, maize moved up into Mexico’s highlands, where it crossed with the local mexicana teosinte.


Shortly after, this new hybrid maize exploded out of central Mexico, mixing with or replacing every first-wave variety in Central and South America. It also headed north, reaching the southwestern U.S. about 4000 years ago. It all amounts to “a much more complete panorama of maize’s evolutionary history,” says co-author Miguel Vallebueno-Estrada, a paleogenomicist at the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology.


Just why the new hybrid varieties spread so widely is a mystery. “It made sense that introgression from mexicana was important for adaptation to the highlands,” says Maud Tenaillon, a population geneticist who studies maize at CNRS, France’s national research agency, and Paris-Saclay University. “But that it’s everywhere—it’s something no one would have guessed.”

One would think “this new maize must have had an incredible advantage” over firstwave varieties, Tenaillon says. But that’s not what Ross-Ibarra’s team found. Genetic analyses and ancient cobs show first-wave maize already had large ears, soft kernels, and other desirable traits that differentiate maize from teosinte. The researchers identified a few possible advantages in second-wave maize, including slightly bigger cobs, more kernels per row, and the ability to withstand more hours of sunlight, which could have helped as it moved north and south to places with long summer days. But nothing stands out as truly transformative. “Frustratingly, we don’t have a smoking-gun answer,” Ross-Ibarra says.


The timing might hold a clue. The mexicana hybridization happens “right on the eve of a big transition to more sedentary agriculture,” says Andrew Somerville, an archaeologist at Iowa State University. The people who domesticated maize—and, later, crossed it with mexicana—were foragers who ate a diversity of wild foods while also growing small patches of maize and other plants. But between 4700 and 4000 years ago, as second-wave maize was spreading, the plant became the main staple for some Mesoamerican communities. Many others followed suit, and before long maize agriculture was the dominant way of life in much of the Americas.


Second-wave maize might have had qualities that made the invention of agriculture possible, Ross-Ibarra says. “My best guess is that [before mexicana hybridization], you had a domesticated maize, but it was wimpy or not super-reliable,” perhaps because of inbreeding and a limited gene pool, he explains. The influx of genetic variation from the highland teosinte may have “turned it into something that is really dependable.” Or perhaps the early farmers who spread maize through migration or trade simply preferred the new varieties for cultural reasons. Ross-Ibarra is now working with archaeologists and human geneticists to trace the relationship of maize and people over time.


The new picture of its origins is a reminder of how much consumers the world over owe to ancient Indigenous farmers, Vallebueno-Estrada says. “Maize is the compendium of the work done by so many people over thousands of years. It’s thanks to them that we have maize today.”


News Bits


Source: House Committee on Agriculture Chair G.T. Thompson


WASHINGTON, DC -- Following the publication of a one-sided report on the federal crop insurance program by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Glenn "GT" Thompson issued the following statement:


"The recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on crop insurance isn't worth the paper it is printed on. GAO uses inconsistent performance metrics to make an apples to oranges comparison of crop insurance returns versus those of other lines of insurance.


"Further, they completely ignore the benefits of Federal crop insurance, which is one of the most successful examples of a public-private partnership in existence. Farmers willingly pay significant premiums for crop insurance coverage because it provides reliable assistance when disaster strikes.


"This timely indemnification doesn't just benefit farmers, it bolsters rural economies by ensuring that producers can pay back their lenders, retain their employees, and get back on their feet to farm again the following season."


"Finally, it is ironic that this report criticizing private sector delivery was published amidst the ongoing debacle of USDA's implementation of disaster aid for 2022 losses. Government delivery of aid is the alternative to the public-private partnership and I don't know of a single producer that would want to make that trade or a single taxpayer that would not ultimately regret upending the system we currently have."


Radio Oklahoma Network reports:


The United States Department of Agriculture's Risk Management Agency (USDA RMA) released several important updates to sorghum crop insurance that will continue to expand sorghum production and empower farmers across the nation. Effective in 2024, the price election factor for sorghum will be at its highest level ever relative to corn; simplifications made to the sorghum silage policy will offer more support to sorghum farmers; and a key barrier to insuring irrigated double crop sorghum was removed in certain areas.


The sorghum price election is determined by applying a multiplier to the corn crop insurance price. For 2024, this multiplier is 100.2%, the highest level ever for sorghum and surpassing corn for the first time in history.


"As sorghum prices continue to strengthen, this development is poised to bring substantial benefits to sorghum farmers by enhancing the financial protection of their sorghum crop," NSP CEO Tim Lust said. "The higher sorghum crop insurance price will serve as a significant incentive for growers to expand grain sorghum production, ultimately boosting the sorghum industry's vitality and profitability."


Recognizing the substantial growth in irrigated sorghum silage and forage acreage on the High Plains and around the U.S., RMA is simplifying the process for insuring irrigated sorghum silage. The previous requirement of having two years of history growing irrigated silage as a condition of insuring irrigated sorghum silage under the sorghum silage policy has been eliminated in New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas.


Texas A&M AgriLife Research breeder explores adapting mung beans for Texas - Legume crop could provide valuable protein source, environmental benefits

Texas A&M AgriLife release


Mung beans might be absent from many menus across the U.S., but Texas A&M AgriLife Research and AgriVentis Technologies are investigating the potential of this alternative protein source.


Waltram Ravelombola, Ph.D., a Texas A&M AgriLife Research organic and specialty crop breeder in Vernon, is conducting variety trials for mung beans across Texas.


Mung beans are a legume that is good for both the body and the soil, but few are currently grown in the U.S. A small acreage exists in Texas, Oklahoma and California, but a growing market is prompting larger interest in finding varieties that will flourish throughout Texas.


Mung beans offer health and environmental benefits to producers who introduce them into their cropping systems, said Waltram Ravelombola, Ph.D., an AgriLife Research organic and specialty crop breeder at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center at Vernon and the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences.


AgriVentis approached Ravelombola and AgriLife Research about conducting variety trials for their mung beans to measure their adaptation to Texas production.


“Mung bean is a legume that provides a high-quality protein for humans, and it also helps farmers diversify a producer’s crop rotation,” Ravelombola said. “They can be double cropped with winter wheat, for example, or put into a rotation such as cotton and mung bean.”


Testing varieties for adaptability


For instance, he said, AgriVentis wants to reach the plant-based protein industry. An example would be a California company’s annual reliance on more than 25,000 tons of imported mung beans due to low U.S. production. Other uses are as sprouts and in soups.


“They are importing mung beans, and we know here, especially in the southern U.S., we have the potential to grow the crop and help our farmers at the same time,” Ravelombola said. “So, there is a potential market.”


He said mung beans do well across Texas climates. They are drought and heat tolerant. However, if grown under humid conditions, they are susceptible to bacterial disease. They can also have an issue with blister beetles if not sprayed.

“We don’t know yet how widely adapted they are in Texas, and that’s where the interest is in conducting the statewide trials,” Ravelombola said.


Over the summer, he grew mung beans in four locations: Vernon, Lubbock, Stephenville and Corpus Christi. Others within the Department of Soil and Crop Sciences helping with his trials are Calvin Trostle, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agronomist, Lubbock; Josh McGinty, Ph.D., AgriLife Extension agronomist, and Jonathan Ramirez, AgriLife Extension program associate, both in Corpus Christi; and John Cason, Ph.D., AgriLife Research peanut breeder, Stephenville.


“We wanted to see how widely adapted mung bean is across the state of Texas, and our two-year data shows there are varieties that have potential and perform better than the checks,” he said.

Growing mung beans in Texas


Mung beans can be planted from late April to early July and are harvested in September or October. They are harvested with a combine, so farmers adding the crop to their rotation would not need any new equipment. After harvest, they are cleaned and sent to an elevator and graded.

Mung beans growing near Vernon. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo)


There are three characteristics manufacturers look for: percentage of splits, brightness and disease damage to the beans. Customers and manufacturers like mung beans that are bright in color. That is key in terms of processing.

As a legume, they can fix atmospheric nitrogen and bring more nitrogen to the following crop.

“Let’s say we have the wheat and mung bean rotation — the wheat crop following mung beans will have a nitrogen supplement,” Ravelombola said.

Ravelombola said his team is only conducting variety adaptation trials for now. They are testing four varieties, two from AgriVentis and two that originated in Oklahoma — Berken and OK 2000. Ravelombola said there have been discussions with seed companies, and there are plans to have a field day in 2024 for producers to see the varieties.

“Right now, we are growing seeds for our producers, and then they will grow the mung beans for the market,” he said.

Ravelombola said he envisions an increase in seed grown next year compared to 2023.

Winter wheat research educates producers on short-season crop

Oklahoma State University release


Oklahoma State University 2020 winter wheat variety Butler’s Gold is growing more prominent on the commercial market, and researchers want to ensure that producers know when and how to plant it.


“Wheat producers are interested in the late planting system,” said Dr. Amanda Silva, assistant professor and state Extension specialist for small grains. “There are producers in Oklahoma wanting to harvest cotton and soybeans in late October, so they need to delay wheat planting. It’s important for them to find a variety well adapted for planting in November and December.”


Silva’s research shows Butler’s Gold is the only short-season winter wheat variety in the U.S. In a recently completed three-year study, Silva and her master’s student, Israel Cyrineu, compared the performance and seeding rate of the short-season variety with eight other varieties of winter wheat planted in October and December at two locations.

“Sometimes, producers plant late because they are trying to fit in double cropping systems, but sometimes weather or other factors prevent them from planting in time,” Silva said.


She added that Oklahoma producers commonly increase the seeding rate when planting late due to having a shorter tilling period. However, more research is needed to understand optimal seeding rate at different planting dates using modern varieties.


In the previous study, Silva’s team found the maturity pattern of the short-season variety was adequate for late planting and fared better when planted in December rather than October.

“Although we did not see yield differences among these varieties, the maturity differences are the most important thing with a late planting system, especially for producers who want to plant a summer crop afterward,” Silva said.


After late planting, Butler’s Gold grows fast and matures early before spring to avoid a delay in wheat harvest and soybean planting.


This winter, Silva and her team are comparing Showdown, Doublestop and Butler’s Gold at three seeding rates for planting dates in October, November and December at separate locations.


“These varieties have different maturity patterns, so we can inform producers on how those varieties with different maturity patterns will perform when they are planted at different times,” Silva said. “The more we talk about this type of research with producers, the more we find that it is very useful for them.”


Wheat producers Brent and Zack Rendel in Miami, Oklahoma, provided their farm as one of the three locations for the research trial. Silva said due to having specialized equipment, the Rendel Farms location will study two wheat varieties with five seeding rates and three planting dates.


Brent Rendel said he has partnered with OSU Ag Research off and on for more than 20 years and has learned participation is the best way to collect new information about wheat production.


“I always have three to four ag research projects in any given year,” Rendel said. “I value that the answers we come up with are always geared toward the questions I want to see answered as a producer. Hosting one of the research locations helps researchers get a state-wide view of the question while helping me get a local view.”





By Brendan Pierson, Reuters


With Bayer (BAYGn.DE) facing investor pressure to resolve thousands of lawsuits over its Roundup weedkiller after being hit with $2 billion in verdicts in recent weeks, all eyes are on a trial wrapping up in Philadelphia.


Plaintiffs have won the last four trials over their claims that the product causes cancer, each time securing a larger verdict. Those losses ended a nine-trial winning streak for Bayer, shattering investor and company hopes that the worst of the Roundup litigation was over.


In the ongoing case, which kicked off Nov. 6 in the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas, Pennsylvania resident Kelly Martel claims she developed non-Hodgkin lymphoma from using Roundup. Her case will help test whether plaintiffs' recent victories were an aberration, or the payoff from favorable court rulings and a shift in plaintiffs' strategy.


Interviews with lawyers on both sides, and a review of trial transcripts, suggest several factors could explain the difference in outcomes. Those include judges' rulings allowing jurors to hear testimony about regulatory issues related to Roundup, which Bayer has called misleading, and a new emphasis by plaintiffs lawyers on chemicals in the product other than its active ingredient, glyphosate.


Lawyers for Martel did not immediately respond to requests for comment. Bayer maintains that Roundup is safe and said in a statement that it would "continue to try Roundup cases as the science is strongly on our side."


The German pharmaceutical conglomerate acquired Roundup as part of its $63 billion purchase of U.S. agrochemical giant Monsanto in 2018, amid opposition from some of its own shareholders.


To read the entire article click here.



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