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Studying the genome of thale cress, a small flowering weed, led to a new understanding about DNA mutations. (Pádraic Flood)Studying the genome of thale cress, a small flowering weed, led to a new understanding about DNA mutations. (Pádraic Flood)

Jan 13

TSTA Weekly Update, 01/13/2022

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
Member News
Horseshoe Bay Resort
February 13-15, 2022
Texas Seed Trade Association Annual & Membership Meeting
The 2022 TSTA annual meeting will be February 13-15, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort near Marble Falls, TX. The activities begin Sunday, February 13th for the first Annual TSTA Cornhole Tournament the proceeds of which will be used to support our scholarship program through the TSTA Foundation. Beginning at 3:00PM the tournament is $100 to enter and $150 to watch. Some very nice prizes are included for the winners! The Super Bowl Party convenes just after the corn-hole tournament Sunday evening.
Monday, February 14th, there will be an installation of new officers; a review of the state of the organization; and interact with experts on a variety of subjects of interest to seed professionals. There will be a light continental breakfast Monday morning and a luncheon between the morning and afternoon sessions. The President & 1st Lady's Dinner and Auction will be enjoyable for all on Valentine's Day with spouse, guest, and friends.
The TSTA board of directors will meet on Tuesday morning the 15th. All members in good standing are invited to attend the board meeting.
Reservations may be made using the link below. Rooms may be available at the negotiated rate beyond the 15th check out. Please call the Resort at 877-611-0112 to inquire. Our room rate is quite favorable especially for a property of this distinction.
The second link is for meeting registration and the third provides some general information.
Monday morning we will discuss membership issues and hold elections for new board members and officers. We'll go over the state of our sponsored scholarships, legislative activities, and regulatory updates. Our outgoing, and incoming, association president will have some things to share with you as well.
Monday afternoon we will host a general session on topics of mutual interest to all members. Dr, Bill Rooney will discuss his research on the potential of sorghum bred for energy utilization for carbon sequestration. Tillery Sims will be with us to discuss progress on hemp crops in Texas and where she sees we're going and what it will take to get there. Dr. David Baltensperger will present several updates on how Texas A&M is contributing to their already productive plant breeding efforts and news about AgriLife priorities as well as news from the Texas State Seed & Plant Board. Coby Kriegshauser will present an update on American Seed Trade Association issues and programs in his role as Southern Regional Director.
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!
1/13/2022 - 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!
Plan to Attend the Southern Seed Association Annual Meeting in Austin!
We will celebrate the 102nd anniversary of the SSA at the historic Driskill Hotel in Austin, Texas, January 14-17, 2022!
President Mark Thomas is finalizing exciting plans for our long-awaited meeting. In addition to important business and industry networking, we’ll enjoy fellowship, fine dining, golf, shopping and entertainment. Details are forthcoming, but highlights include Saturday’s 4th Annual Tailgate & Welcome Reception, outstanding speakers during our business sessions, golfing, and first-class ladies’ entertainment. We will conclude our meeting with our President’s Reception, Banquet and annual SSA Scholarship Draw-Down on Monday evening.
Our 16-state organization supports the greater causes of our industry in ways that no single company can do, while also providing a return-on-investment for your fees and contributions through industry communications, education, networking, marketing for your business and a political voice for common issues.
Please click on the 2022 SSA Convention Registration Form to complete your registration. You may also make your hotel reservations here.
Thank you for your continued support of the SSA, and we look forward to seeing you all in Austin!
News Bits
Texas State Senators Charles Perry and Drew Springer have endorsed White for the office of Texas Commissioner of Agriculture.
Today, Rep. James White, candidate for Agriculture Commissioner, announced the endorsement of
Senator Charles Perry (Chairman - Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs) and Senator Drew Springer (Vice Chairman - Senate Committee on Water, Agriculture & Rural Affairs and Former Chairman - House Committee on Agriculture & Livestock).
“I have known James for over a decade and can testify that he is a true conservative with a
dedication to our state’s farmers and ranchers,” said Senator Perry. “From his service as an Army
captain in Ronald Reagan’s Berlin brigade to his experience as a conservative fighter in the Texas House, James has proven he is someone Texans can count on.”
“James White has been a tireless defender of our conservative values and has proven himself to be a
leader on agriculture issues at the Texas Capitol,” said Senator Springer. “As our next Ag
Commissioner, we can trust James to reduce the fees and regulations that were increased by Sid
Senator Perry and Senator Springer join Texans for Lawsuit Reform PAC, Texas Forestry Association
PAC, Congressman Brian Babin, Senator Robert Nichols, Rep. Brad Buckley, Rep. Dustin Burrows, Rep. Briscoe Cain, Rep. Travis Clardy, Rep. Jay Dean, Rep. James Frank, Rep. Cody Harris, Rep. Jacey Jetton, Rep. Ben Leman, Rep. Mayes Middleton, Rep. Jared Patterson, Rep. Scott Sanford, Rep. Matt Schaefer, Rep. Matt Shaheen, and Rep. Phil Stephenson in endorsing James White for
Agriculture Commissioner.
Throughout his six terms in the Texas House, White has stood strong for border security, reducing
taxes and spending, and eliminating the bureaucratic red tape that harms small business and
economic growth. As a member of the Agriculture and Livestock Committee, he had direct oversight
of the Texas Department of Agriculture and he will leverage this experience to ensure Texas remains
the national leader in agriculture.
As Chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security & Public Safety, White demonstrated
his mastery of public policy and leadership, serving as the first committee chairman in Texas history
to joint author and pass Constitutional Carry out of his committee. A-Rated by the National Rifle
Association and leading pro-life groups, we can trust White to stand strong for Texas values.
White and his wife, Gem, reside in Tyler County where he is a businessman and cattle rancher.
Additionally, he is an active member of the Veterans of Foreign Wars, American Legion, and the
Texas Farm Bureau. You can learn more about him at
The United States Supreme Court has said it will not take up a petition that could've expanded sales of higher blended ethanol fuel.
The high court handed down its decision on Monday after Growth Energy filed a petition in October against a ruling that said EPA exceeded its authority when granting year-round sales of E15.
In a statement to Brownfield, CEO Emily Skor said she's disappointed by the ruling and they'll continue to work to ensure access to higher blends of ethanol fuel.
The agency extended a waiver that allowed year-round sales of E15 in 2019, but an oil industry group challenged the policy and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, ruled EPA acted outside of its authority.
Skor says the Clean Air Act provides EPA the authority to expand E15 nationwide and year-round.
by Patrick Thomas, Dow Jones
A Chinese national and former Monsanto employee pleaded guilty to conspiring to steal trade secrets from the company to help the Chinese government, the U.S. Justice Department said Thursday.
Xiang Haitao, 44, was employed by the St. Louis company and subsidiary The Climate Corp. from 2008 to 2017, where he worked as an imaging scientist, the Justice Department said. Monsanto is now part of German pharmaceutical and chemical company Bayer AG.
Mr. Xiang pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit economic espionage and is scheduled to be sentenced April 7.
He faces a maximum penalty of 15 years in prison and a potential fine of $5 million, the department said.
EPA is issuing seven-year registrations for two herbicide products, Enlist Duo and Enlist One, to ensure growers have access to effective pesticide tools for the 2022 growing season. The new product labels, which incorporate robust control measures to protect non-target plants and animals, meet Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) standards and comply with the Endangered Species Act (ESA).
Enlist Duo and Enlist One are herbicides used to control weeds in conventional and genetically-modified corn, cotton, and soybean crops. Both products, registered in 2014 and 2017, respectively, were set to expire in January 2022 if the Agency did not renew their product registrations. Based on EPA's thorough analysis of scientific data, evaluation of cost-benefit information, and discussions with industry stakeholders, the Agency has determined that Enlist products, with the new protective measures in place, should remain available to most American farmers.
Study challenges evolutionary theory that DNA mutations are random - Findings could lead to advances in plant breeding, human genetics
Co-authors from UC Davis include Daniel Kliebenstein, Mariele Lensink, Marie Klein, from the Department of Plant Sciences. Researchers from the Carnegie Institution for Science, Stanford University, Westfield State University, University of Montpellier, Uppsala University, College of Charleston, and South Dakota State University contributed to the research. 
Funding came from the Max Planck Society, the National Science Foundation and the German Research Foundation.
  • DNA mutations are not random as previously thought
  • Findings change our understanding of evolution
  • May help researchers breed better crops, fight cancer
A simple roadside weed may hold the key to understanding and predicting DNA mutation, according to new research from University of California, Davis, and the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Germany. 
The findings, published today in the journal Nature, radically change our understanding of evolution and could one day help researchers breed better crops or even help humans fight cancer.
Mutations occur when DNA is damaged and left unrepaired, creating a new variation. The scientists wanted to know if mutation was purely random or something deeper. What they found was unexpected.
“We always thought of mutation as basically random across the genome,” said Grey Monroe, an assistant professor in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences who is lead author on the paper. “It turns out that mutation is very non-random and it’s non-random in a way that benefits the plant. It’s a totally new way of thinking about mutation.”
Researchers spent three years sequencing the DNA of hundreds of Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress, a small, flowering weed considered the “lab rat among plants” because of its relatively small genome comprising around 120 million base pairs. Humans, by comparison, have roughly 3 billion base pairs.  
“It’s a model organism for genetics,” Monroe said.
Lab-grown plants yield many variations.
Work began at Max Planck Institute where researchers grew specimens in a protected lab environment, which allowed plants with defects that may not have survived in nature be able to survive in a controlled space. 
Sequencing of those hundreds of Arabidopsis thaliana plants revealed more than 1 million mutations. Within those mutations a nonrandom pattern was revealed, counter to what was expected. 
“At first glance, what we found seemed to contradict established theory that initial mutations are entirely random and that only natural selection determines which mutations are observed in organisms,” said Detlef Weigel, scientific director at Max Planck Institute and senior author on the study. 
Instead of randomness they found patches of the genome with low mutation rates. In those patches, they were surprised to discover an over-representation of essential genes, such as those involved in cell growth and gene expression. 
“These are the really important regions of the genome,” Monroe said. “The areas that are the most biologically important are the ones being protected from mutation.”
The areas are also sensitive to the harmful effects of new mutations. “DNA damage repair seems therefore to be particularly effective in these regions,” Weigel added. 
Plant evolved to protect itself 
The scientists found that the way DNA was wrapped around different types of proteins was a good predictor of whether a gene would mutate or not. “It means we can predict which genes are more likely to mutate than others and it gives us a good idea of what’s going on,” Weigel said. 
The findings add a surprising twist to Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution by natural selection because it reveals that the plant has evolved to protect its genes from mutation to ensure survival. 
“The plant has evolved a way to protect its most important places from mutation,” Weigel said. “This is exciting because we could even use these discoveries to think about how to protect human genes from mutation.”
Future uses 
Knowing why some regions of the genome mutate more than others could help breeders who rely on genetic variation to develop better crops. Scientists could also use the information to better predict or develop new treatments for diseases like cancer that are caused by mutation. 
“Our discoveries yield a more complete account of the forces driving patterns of natural variation; they should inspire new avenues of theoretical and practical research on the role of mutation in evolution,” the paper concludes.
Studying the genome of thale cress, a small flowering weed, led to a new understanding about DNA mutations. (Pádraic Flood)
Purdue University release
Scientists are honing the traits of speed, strength and near invulnerability in an important food crop that, much like a superhero, will help protect the vulnerable.
Achieving a milestone in their pursuit of the Superman of sorghum plants, scientists identified a single gene that confers broad protection from the fungal diseases anthracnose, rust and target spot.
Looking closer at the plant's genome, they also discovered what might have been kryptonite to this super power and unusual snips of mobile DNA involved in the disease resistance.
The newly discovered gene, named Anthracnose Resistance Gene1, or ARG1, is unusual in several ways, Tesfaye Mengiste, a professor and interim head of Purdue's Department of Botany and Plant Pathology said.
Sanghun Lee, research associate at Purdue University, prepares samples of anthracnose fungus. Lee is part of a team of researchers working to make sorghum more resilient to improve food security for millions. (Purdue University photo/Tom Campbell) Download image
"Although some natural resistance to fungal disease was known in sorghum, genes that confer such widespread resistance had not been identified," he said. "It is remarkable that a single gene leads to resistance across a broad spectrum of fungi and multiple strains of the anthracnose fungus."
A team of Purdue University researchers, including 2009 World Food Prize laureate Gebisa Ejeta, made the discoveries through a project supported by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet.
Climate change is predicted to increase the number and severity of plant diseases, said Mengiste, who led the research.
"We need more robust disease control to sustain the world food supply, and these remarkable plants are one step ahead of us," Mengiste said. "Different varieties of sorghum have evolved with different strengths and resistance to disease. Through genetics and plant science we are trying to help them along in this process of adapting to a changing environment."
By finding the gene responsible for a desired trait, scientists can create biomarker tags that allow breeders to test for its presence quickly and incorporate it into a sorghum cultivar that has other beneficial traits. The team's work is detailed in a paper in the journal The Plant Cell.
"The importance of this work cannot be overestimated," said Ejeta, a distinguished professor of agronomy at Purdue and executive director of the Purdue Center for Global Food Security. "This is a significant scientific breakthrough and a culmination of decades of collaborative sorghum improvement research at Purdue along with partners in developing countries."
Sorghum is a key cereal crop for food security around the world, said Mengiste, who is part of Purdue's Next Moves in plant sciences and Purdue's Center for Plant Biology.
"It is a very resilient plant in many ways, but fungal diseases can wipe it out," he said. "Anthracnose is one of the most significant of these pathogens and attacks all parts of the plant: leaves, stalk and head. It leaves nothing that can be used for food, its primary use in Africa; or biofuels and animal feed, its uses in the United States."
Successful steps to feed the future
In 2014, USAID through the Kansas State University-administered Feed the Future Innovation Lab for Collaborative Research on Sorghum and Millet, made an initial investment in the search for host-plant resistance against anthracnose in Ethiopia.
"Our objective is to increase the resiliency and food security of sorghum farmers and consumers in Ethiopia and West Africa," said Timothy J. Dalton, director of the lab and professor of agricultural economics at Kansas State. "
Mengiste and an earlier team of scientists affiliated with the Feed the Future Innovation Lab and from Ethiopia already successfully developed a cultivar called Merera, a sorghum variety that has enhanced disease and bird resistance and produces a better yield.
"As climate change events shift or necessitate the production of dryland crops such as sorghum into higher rainfall or irrigated regions, leaf diseases become even more significant," Ejeta said. "It is precisely in those situations where powerful genes become so crucially important."
"Chemical control is often ineffective, not economically feasible, and poses environmental concerns," he said. "The most effective, economically sustainable and environmentally friendly disease control strategies involve the use of plant genotypes that are resistant to diseases. This is what the farmers want, and they are embracing new lines of sorghum."
An unusual gene influenced by parasitic DNA
The regulation of ARG1 is unusual; it is embedded in a second gene, and both genes appear to have been altered by small stretches of mobile DNA called transposable elements.
Transposable elements are like molecular viruses or parasites that live in the genome and are passed down from generation to generation, said Damon Lisch, an associate professor of botany and plant pathology who was involved in the research.
The gene in which ARG1 is embedded is an antisense RNA. Its expression is opposite to ARG1, which results in a situation where the two could interfere with each other, he said.
All sorghum plants have some version of these two genes, but susceptible varieties of sorghum express a lot of the antisense RNA and very little of ARG1, which also appears to encode a nonfunctional protein, he said. The disease-resistant version of ARG1 is expressed at a much higher level, encodes a functional protein, and is associated with an antisense RNA gene that is turned down, resulting in less interference.
This is where the transposable elements seem to come into play, Lisch said.
"Insertion of transposable elements is often harmful," he said. "However, in this case, it appears that the transposable elements have been beneficial by 'reprogramming' both genes to optimize resistance to fungal pathogens. In a way, it has fixed a broken system in the plants.
Lisch discovered the transposable elements related to ARG1 when he examined the genome of disease-resistant and susceptible sorghum lines. He studies transposable elements and other mobile DNA, and he enjoys looking for them "for fun" in genomes shared by colleagues.
"Transposable elements are known to be involved in some human and plant diseases, but their involvement in disease resistance is considered uncommon - for now," he said. "With technological advancements we are able to spot these parasitic strands of DNA within a gene sequence, and we are finding them everywhere.
Combining applied and basic research
The findings may inform other genetic research into sorghum and other plant species, as well as ways to fine-tune gene expression, Mengiste said. The combination of basic and applied research provides rich information. Some will be used now, and some may lead to a future innovation.
"We could have stopped after identifying the ARG1 gene, but we drilled deeper," he said. "If we hadn't, we might have thought we could simply fix the protein involved in resistance. Now we have a much greater understanding of the gene's regulation and additional insight into an emerging field that could become revolutionary to plant science."
In addition to Mengiste, Ejeta, and Lisch, Purdue research associates Sanghun Lee and Fuyou Fu; postdoctoral research assistants Chao-Jan Liao and Adedayo Adeyanju; and Demeke B. Mewa, a graduate research assistant at the time who is now a postdoctoral researcher at Washington State University, were part of the project team and co-authored the paper.
Source: Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City news release
Smaller sized loans limited agricultural lending activity at the end of 2021. According to the Survey of Terms of Lending to Farmers, non-real estate agricultural loans at commercial banks decreased by 13% in the fourth quarter and the yearly average was the lowest since 2012.
The decline was driven by a sharp drop in operating loans and lending at banks with the largest farm loan portfolios. Despite an increase in the number of all types of loans, the average size of all non-real estate and operating loans was more than 20% and 30% less than a year ago, respectively.
Loan sizes decreased considerably at lenders of all sizes, but the number of loans increased notably at small and mid-sized lenders and decreased at banks with large agricultural portfolios.
Broadly, conditions in the agricultural economy remained strong through 2021 and continued to support farm finances. Despite intensifying concerns about rising input costs impacting producer returns in the coming year, commodity prices remained elevated and supported profit opportunities through the end of the year. Higher costs are likely to put upward pressure on demand for credit, but strong farm income and working capital could also supplement financing for some borrowers.
To view the complete report, click here.
Source: National Sorghum Producers news release
Lubbock, TX - U.S. Department of Agriculture data issued December 16, 2021, showed U.S. sorghum new export sales commitments the previous week were a marketing-year high of 16.6 million bushels with the vast majority of the sales attributed to China.
The sales reported the week of December 16 were up 27 percent from the previous week and up 57 percent from the prior four-week average. In addition to a marketing-year high in sorghum sales, 12.4 million bushels were shipped primarily to China, another marketing-year high, up considerably from the previous week and up 81 percent from the prior four-week average.
"Export demand for U.S. sorghum, particularly from China, remains very strong as indicated by this recent export sales report," National Sorghum Producers CEO Tim Lust said. "This marketing-year high is very assuring as we wrap up one growing season and head into the next, all the while as we continue to increase and diversify demand and development of new markets internationally and domestically for sorghum farmers."
Purchases of U.S. sorghum as of the December 16 export report were just over 200 million bushels, or 63 percent of what was estimated in the December 2021 World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE) report with eight months remaining in the marketing year.
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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.