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Mar 09

TSTA Weekly Update, 03/09/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Membership renewals were mailed several weeks ago. A big Thank You to those companies who have already renewed for 2023! Please check the mail for your membership renewal and member certificate and renew your support for the Texas Seed Trade as soon as you are able.

TSTA staff was at the Capitol again this week participating in a Texas Ag Council Meeting as well as meeting with House Ag Committee Chairman Cain Briscoe.


Among other activities the Texas Seed Trade Association is supporting an "exceptional item" in the budget to help AgriLife pay for the rebuilding of the Vernon facility, especially the infrastructure related to foundation seed. An exceptional item is a non-renewing appropriation for a specific purpose placed into the State's budget for the following biennium.


Those familiar with the tornado damage, or were in attendance at the annual meeting several weeks ago and heard Dr. Rick Vierling's presentation, understand how critical the repairs are to the foundation seed program. As we make the rounds at the Capitol we mention our support and provide a brief to Members and staff at every opportunity. Read more info by clicking here.


TSTA staff also participated the review process for Texas Foundation Seeds this past week. Our sincere thanks to Jeff Wright, Oklahoma State Foundation Seeds, Barry Ogg, Colorado State Foundation Seeds, and John Beuttenmuller, University of Florida Foundation Seeds for their time and thoughtful consideration towards improving our program.


Many TSTA members will be participating in this process in the upcoming days and we appreciate your willingness to provide input. Thank you!

Growout invoices were mailed several weeks ago from the TSTA office. Please look for them and return payment as soon as possible as we've already paid the land rent bills, the Texas Department of Agriculture travel and living expenses, shipping, and other costs associated with the winter growouts.

Save the Date! 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 a lucky 25 of us. Stay tuned for more details and how to reserve your spot! Please contact Drew Morano at Tri-Cal Superior Forages if you're interested in playing some golf that morning or afternoon.

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!


3/9/2023 - 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


American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented today on the United States Trade Representative taking steps toward a formal trade dispute with Mexico over its ban on bioengineered corn.


"AFBF appreciates that USTR is taking this necessary step to press the Mexican government for fair access to markets for America's farmers. Mexican President Obrador's ban on biotech corn is not based on science and is a clear violation of the U.S.-Mexico-Canada trade agreement. It not only hurts our farmers, it denies families in Mexico access to safe and affordable food.


"We encourage Secretary Vilsack and USTR Ambassador Tai to continue pressing for a resolution with Mexico that upholds the framework of USMCA."


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced the appointment of L'Tonya Davis as its first permanent Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer (CDIO). The CDIO will lead USDA in its ongoing efforts to improve diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) across the Department and will oversee the implementation of USDA's first-ever DEIA Strategic Plan.


"Throughout her career, Ms. Davis has demonstrated a strong commitment to hiring and developing a workforce that reflects the rich and diverse tapestry of America and to creating workplaces where everyone can thrive and achieve their full potential," Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack said.


"As part of our commitment to provide equitable services and mission delivery to all, USDA is also focused on its greatest asset - its people. USDA is working to provide equitable service and mission delivery to all, including the dedicated employees who are at the heart of the service we aim to provide. Our workforce will benefit from Ms. Davis's leadership and her commitment to ensuring our programs benefit every American."


USDA release


USDA today released a report, titled "More and Better Choices for Farmers: Promoting Fair Competition and Innovation in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs," that includes recommendations for improving market fairness.


To view the full report click here.


USDA is taking immediate action on three of these recommendations:


• USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service (AMS) is standing up a new Farmer Seed Liaison, which will deliver on report recommendations. Specifically, the Seed Liaison will boost transparency and reduce confusion in a complex seed system by helping facilitate communication between farmers and plant breeders and the patent system.


• USDA and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) are forming a Working Group on IP & Competition in Seeds and Other Agricultural Inputs, where USDA and USPTO, together with the Department of Justice and the Federal Trade Commission, will work to promote fair competition in the seed market.


• Additionally, AMS is releasing today a Notice to Trade regarding compliance with disclosing the kind and variety of seeds under the Federal Seed Act. The Notice underscores that farmers and seed businesses should know the kind and variety of the seed that they are getting from producers. USDA will also expand its portal to enable farmers and seed businesses to report tips and complaints related to competition and consumer protection in the seed markets.


The report also underscores the importance of public investment in plant breeding to promote resiliency and competition and enable farmers to better adapt to local and regional needs.


As part of its efforts to enhance fair and competitive markets, and in response to President Biden's historic Executive Order on "Promoting Competition in the American Economy," USDA sought input from the public about the impacts of concentration, market power, and intellectual property in the market for seeds and other agricultural inputs.


In particular, this focused on the effects to competition and market access for farmers, seed businesses, and other new and growing market competitors, especially small and medium-sized enterprises.


USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service partnered with the University of Wisconsin to summarize the findings outlined in the report. The report reflects significant consultation across USDA and with USPTO's Director and staff, Department of Justice Antitrust, and the Federal Trade Commission.


USDA and its academic cooperator, Dr. Julie Dawson, a plant scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, utilized comments received during the public comment period and listening session to inform this report.


The report focuses on three ways to provide more and better seed choices to farmers:


1) working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to enhance robust and reliable intellectual property rights that appropriately take into consideration the farmer's and plant breeder's voice and expertise,


2) ensuring that seed businesses are engaged in fair competition and are not unfairly taking advantage of market power, and


3) investing in the critical national infrastructure of more diverse seed variety development and stewardship to address local and regional food system needs and build greater resiliency into our food supply chains.


In each of these sections, the report analyzes the current situation and makes recommendations that the U.S. Government can implement to promote fair competition and innovation.


More information is available here.


These initiatives are part of the Biden-Harris Administration's whole-of-government efforts to promote fair competition, innovation, and resiliency across food and agriculture, and parallel efforts by USDA to promote more and better choices for farmers by:


*investing more than $1 billion in more competitive meat and poultry processing options,


*$500 million in new domestic sustainable fertilizer capacity;


*enhancing transparency and modernizing competition enforcement through new Packers & Stockyards Act rules, a Cattle Contract Library Pilot, and more.


Enabling farmers and ranchers to better secure value from their products such as through the proposed rule on Product of USA also announced today.


Editor's Note: Why are we reminded the famous saying "I'm from the government and I'm here to help?" Another might be "a solution looking for a problem." We're all for a level playing field but when this Justice Department gets involved in virtually anything there is scant evidence conditions improve. The solutions for "too few" meat processors in the U.S. didn't go well with associations representing animal agriculture so we'll be a keeping an eye on how this plays out.


Source: Renewable Fuel Association news release


A new analysis from a renowned carbon accounting firm finds that the greenhouse gas emissions reductions achieved under the Renewable Fuel Standard far exceed the GHG savings originally projected by EPA. In the 15 years since the RFS was expanded, the use of biofuels under the program has resulted in cumulative savings of more than 1.2 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide-equivalent GHG emissions, with corn ethanol providing the largest share of GHG reductions.


The results are being presented and discussed this morning at the 2023 National Ethanol Conference in Orlando, Fla.


"The RFS2 has resulted in significant GHG reductions, with cumulative CO2 savings of 1,212 million metric tonnes over the period of implementation to date," according to the study, which was conducted by Life Cycle Associates. "The GHG reductions are due to the greater than expected savings from ethanol and other biofuels, including continuous technology investments reducing the carbon intensity (CI) for corn ethanol."


In more recent years, increased use of renewable natural gas and renewable diesel has also led to significant GHG reductions. Notably, the study found, "these emissions savings occur even though cellulosic biofuels have not met the RFS2 production targets."


"This report demonstrates that the RFS has been remarkably successful in driving down carbon emissions from the transportation sector," said RFA President and CEO Geoff Cooper. "In fact, the RFS is the only federal program on the books today that requires the use of lower-carbon fuels in our vehicles. And we're just getting started. Our producer members have unanimously committed to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050 or sooner, and this report shows we are well on our way toward that goal thanks to new technology and efficiency improvements both on the farm and at the biorefinery."


The new report is an update to previously published studies in 2021 and 2019. It was conducted for the Renewable Fuels Association by Stefan Unnasch, Debasish Parida and Brian Healy of Life Cycle Associates.


Cooper noted that the Life Cycle Associates study adds to the growing body of research on ethanol's GHG benefits.


According to the Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, typical corn ethanol provides a 44-52% GHG savings compared to gasoline.


Similarly, researchers from Harvard, MIT, and Tufts concluded that today's corn ethanol offers an average GHG reduction of 46% versus gasoline.


Analysis by USDA found that some biorefineries could soon produce ethanol that offers a 70% GHG reduction versus gasoline.


Data from the California Air Resources Board shows that ethanol used in the state is reducing GHG emissions by nearly 40% compared to gasoline, on average, (even with an exaggerated GHG penalty for hypothetical land use change) with some U.S.-produced ethanol providing 65-80% GHG reductions.


Editor's Note: This is all just a little bit abstract to fully comprehend. Anytime billions of anything are involved our understanding is challenged. As supporters of virtually all things ag we value the role of ethanol both for its potential to reduce greenhouse gas emissions as well as support commodity prices.


It is important to know, however, the facts of this particular claim. In the last 15 years global greenhouse gas emissions amounted to about 555B metric tons. One and two tenths billion tons, the reduction resulting from the use of ethanol as a fuel additive, represents 0.002% of the total greenhouse gasses over that time frame. Two thousandths of a percent doesn't seem like a whole heckuva lot but we don't pretend to know much about what numbers "would" represent important news concerning climate change.

Blocking gene that inhibits root growth may enhance drought resistance in crops

New Phytologist Journal


A strong root system allows crops to absorb water and nutrients from the soil, but scientists have little information about the genes that control root development. Recent research published in New Phytologist reveals that blocking a negative regulator gene of root development leads to enhanced root growth in plants.


The gene, called RRS1 (Robust Root System 1), encodes an R2R3-type MYB family transcription factor that activates the expression of another gene (OsIAA3) that inhibits root growth. Knocking out RRS1 in plants led to longer root length, longer lateral root length, and larger lateral root density. Also, a natural variant of RRS1 that changes the activity of the RSS1 protein had a similarly beneficial effect on roots.


The findings indicate that blocking the normal expression of RSS1 may enhance drought resistance in crops by promoting water absorption.


“RRS1 is a new gene resource for improving root systems and cultivating drought-resistant rice varieties through gene-editing or marker-assisted breeding processes,” said co–corresponding author Zichao Li, PhD, of China Agricultural University, the Sanya Institute of China Agricultural University, and the Hainan Academy of Agricultural Sciences.


New Phytologist

DOI: 10.1111/nph.18775 

RRS1 shapes robust root system to enhance drought resistance in rice

Publication date: 8-Mar-2023

An internal thermometer tells the seeds when to germinate

University of Geneva, Switzerland


Germination is a crucial stage in the life of a plant as it will leave the stage of seed resistant to various environmental constraints (climatic conditions, absence of nutritive elements, etc.) to become a seedling much more vulnerable. The survival of the young plant depends on the timing of this transition. It is therefore essential that this stage be finely controlled. A Swiss team, led by scientists from the University of Geneva (UNIGE), has discovered the internal thermometer of seeds that can delay or even block germination if temperatures are too high for the future seedling. This work could help optimize plant growth in a context of global warming. These results can be read in the journal Nature Communications.


Newly formed seeds are dormant: they are unable to germinate. After a few days (or even months, depending on the species), the seeds awaken and acquire the ability to germinate during the favorable season for seedling growth and new seed production. However, non-dormant seeds can still decide their fate. For example, a non-dormant seed that is suddenly subjected to excessively high temperatures (>28°C) can block germination. This mechanism of repression by temperature (thermo-inhibition) allows a very fine regulation. A variation of only 1 to 2°C can indeed delay the germination of a seed population and thus increase the chances of survival of future seedlings.


Section of a seed of Arabidopsis thaliana, a model organism widely used in plant sciences. © UNIGE / Sylvain Loubéry


A key protein: phytochrome B


The group of Luis Lopez-Molina, professor at the Department of Plant Sciences of the Faculty of Science of the UNIGE, is interested in the control of germination in Arabidopsis thaliana, a plant species belonging to the Brassicaceae family and used as a model in many research projects. To understand the detection mechanisms that allow seeds to trigger thermo-inhibition, scientists explored the track of phenomena already described and quite similar in young plants, i.e. at a more advanced stage of development.


Indeed, temperature changes are also perceived by seedlings, in which a slight increase in temperature promotes stem growth. This adaptation is similar to the one observed when a plant finds itself in the shadow of another: it lengthens to escape the shadow in order to expose itself to the sunlight which is more favorable for photosynthesis. These variations are detected by a protein sensitive to light and temperature, phytochrome B, which normally acts as a brake on plant growth. An increase of 1 to 2°C promotes the inactivation of phytochrome B, which makes it less effective in preventing growth.


An internal thermometer


To understand whether phytochrome B also plays a role in thermo-inhibition during germination, the authors dissected the seeds to separate the two tissues inside the seed: the embryo (which will give the young plant) and the endosperm (nourishing tissue that also controls germination in Arabidopsis seed). Unlike embryos grown in contact with the endosperm, the researchers found that embryos deprived of their endosperm are unable to stop their growth under too high temperatures, which leads to their death.


‘‘We found that thermo-inhibition in Arabidopsis is not autonomously controlled by the embryo but implemented by the endosperm, revealing a new essential function for this tissue,’’ explains Urszula Piskurewicz, researcher at the Department of Plant Sciences of the UNIGE Faculty of Science and first author of the study. ‘‘In other words, in the absence of endosperm, the embryo within the seed would not perceive that the temperatures are too high and would begin its germination, which would be fatal’’.


Optimizing crop germination


Thermal inhibition of germination is a new example of the influence of climatic variations on certain cyclic phenomena in plant life (germination, flowering, etc.). ‘‘This trait is expected to have an impact on species distribution and plant agriculture and this impact will be greater as temperatures increase worldwide,’’ reports Luis Lopez-Molina, the study’s last author. A better understanding of how light and temperature trigger or delay seed germination could indeed help optimize the growth of plants exposed to a wide range of climatic conditions.


USDA release

Between 1948 and 2019, the volume of crops produced in the U.S. grew 186 percent, and livestock production grew 140 percent. USDA, Economic Research Service researchers classify crop output into six subcategories: food grains, feed crops, oil crops, vegetables and melons, fruits and nuts, and other crops.


Of those, production of oil crops increased the most, by more than seven times. Growth in fruits and nuts ranked second, with production more than doubling.


Food grains grew the least, at 78 percent. Among three categories of livestock and products, poultry and egg production increased the most, by more than seven times. Dairy products grew 132 percent, and meat animal production grew 92 percent.


The varying growth rates reflect changes over the past 70 years in consumer demand and preferences, international market demand, and technological advancements among products.


Overall, crop production is more volatile than livestock production because of weather changes.


Editor's Note: One has to wonder how much increased crop productivity, versus animal advances, is related directly to modern breeding technology. It has, thus far, been considerably easier from a regulatory and consumer acceptance perspective, to utilize modern breeding techniques with plants compared to animals.

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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.