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Male-sterile sorghum may offer dairy cows needed energy with less water useMale-sterile sorghum may offer dairy cows needed energy with less water use
Mar 23

TSTA Weekly Update, 03/23/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


TSTA legislative update

TSTA staff


TSTA staff were at the Capitol this week and participated in the House Ag Committee public hearing on Wednesday.


Various bills were up for committee hearing this week including HB 2684 issuance of oversize or overweight permits for vehicles transporting agricultural commodities during, preceding, or post, disaster declarations by the Governor. This bill essentially expands the time allowed for overweight vehicles to be permitted in response to an emergency. Unlikely to apply to seed producers but certainly has the potential to impact your customer's business. TSTA supports.


House Joint Resolution 126 aiming towards a Texas Constitutional Amendment protecting the right to engage in farming, ranching timber production, and wildlife management. At issue here is primarily local jurisdiction of agricultural activities within or bordering municipalities or other political subdivisions. State mandated right to practice agriculture would supersede all local restrictions.


One of the key testimony providers for this resolution had a sad but typical tale to relate. His family farm has been steadily encroached upon by a city, in this case the very ironic City of Farmer's Branch, TX. The city compliance manager saw fit to issue an order to mow 65 acres of forage sorghum last season because it seemingly interfered with the public safety by, in his opinion, reducing visibility from a roadway. He ordered the city to mow the crop, almost ready for harvest, and sent a bill to the farmer for $65K to cover the costs (and then some). First time the farmer knew the city had an issue was seeing his crop destroyed.


We likely all know of horror stories about farming near town and perhaps have experienced unfortunate incidences ourselves. Folks who move to "the country" have a habit of bringing the city limits with them and forgetting where their food comes from. TSTA supports this resolution.


We're still tacking several other bills of interest and will report on them as developments are available. Of special interest are the myriad of bills related to foreign ownership of land for agricultural production (and other uses) which are so fraught with possible unintended consequences as to frighten the fearless. Several of our member companies would be impacted by much of this (proposed) legislation. We're also paying special attention to the dedication of prime ag land to the production of renewable energy.

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.

Time to let us know if you want to attend the Sod Poodles game! 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. It's $25 to reserve a place and we'll book the first 25 that respond and send in their hard-earned cash. Please contact Drew Morano at Tri-Cal Superior Forages or Brett Bamert at Bamert Seeds if you're interested in playing some golf that morning or afternoon. You can respond to either the Sod Poodles or golf event via return email to this newsletter. If you need a hotel room we can furnish that information.

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!


3/23/2023 - 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 headwinds in 2022 due to supply chain disruptions, shocks to supply and demand, volatility in commodity prices, and geopolitical uncertainty, agricultural lending by U.S. farm banks increased 8.1% in 2022 to $103.1 billion, according to the American Bankers Association's annual Farm Bank Performance Report.


The report attributed the change to a 9.7% increase in outstanding loans secured by farmland and a 5.9% increase in agricultural production loans. According to the report, farmland continues to provide a strong equity base for producers to tap as land values saw strong growth in 2022 after plateauing for several years.


The Farm Bank Performance Report also provides regional summaries:


The Northeast region's 9 farm banks decreased farm loans by 13.08% to $1.3 billion in 2022. Ag production loans fell 2.96% from the year before while farmland loans increased 14.53%.


The South region's 137 farm banks increased farm loans by 11.98% to $8.5 billion in 2022. Ag production loans rose 14.87% from the year before while farmland loans rose by 11.00%.


The Cornbelt region's 694 farm banks increased farm loans by 8.83% to $49.0 billion in 2022. Ag production loans rose by 7.44% from the year before while farmland loans rose by 9.80%.


The Plains region's 574 farm banks increased their farm loans by 5.98% to $37.7 billion in 2022. Ag production loans rose 2.51% from the year before while farmland loans increased 9.07%.


The West region's 45 farm banks increased their farm loans by 10.47% to $5.2 billion in 2022. Ag production loans rose by 13.86% from the year before while farmland loans rose 8.27%.


Read the 2022 Farm Bank Performance Report here.


Read ABA's infographic summarizing the report here.


Formal educational attainment in rural America has grown over time, but rural (nonmetro) areas still lag urban (metro) areas. From 2000 to 2017-21 (the most recent estimate period from the American Community Survey), the share of adults ages 25 and older with a bachelor's degree or higher increased in rural areas from 15 to 21 percent.


In the same time span, the share of adults in urban areas with a bachelor's degree or higher increased from 26 to 36 percent, widening the rural-urban gap from 11 to 15 percentage points in these two reference periods.


This rural-urban gap in the share of people with at least a bachelor's degree is even larger for younger age groups. In 2017-21, the share of working-age adults (ages 25-64) with at least a bachelor's degree was 37 percent in urban areas and 21 percent in rural areas, while the share of younger adults ages 25-44 with at least a bachelor's degree was 40 percent in urban areas and 22 percent in rural areas.


One explanation for the persisting and widening gap may be the higher pay that more highly educated workers can often earn in urban labor markets. This chart appears in the USDA, Economic Research Service data product Charting the Essentials, published in January 2023.


A livestock economist says the latest Cattle on Feed report marks the sixth consecutive month with declines in cattle placed into feedlots.


But, University of Missouri's Scott Brown tells Brownfield that wasn't a surprise. "It just continues to tell us we're going to get tighter in terms of slaughter-ready numbers in the second half of 2023," he says.


He says the report was relatively close to pre-report expectations, and reflects the large number of cattle that were pulled forward due to drought conditions in 2022. "When you look at the by-weight categories of placements," he says. "A majority of the decline is in the lighter weight classes. Which won't be slaughter-ready for a few months."


Marketings for February dropped 5% on the year and the total number of cattle on feed on March 1 was 5% below year-ago levels.


The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) forecast that Brazil will export more corn than the United States this year has shaken the global corn market. Brazil exported more corn than the U.S. only once before, in the drought year of 2012/13. If Brazil emerges as the largest exporting nation, its front-runner status might not be temporary.


The continued expansion of corn as a second crop and the recent opening to the Chinese market could mean that Brazil will keep competing with the U.S. for the title of world's top corn exporter more often in the coming years. This article examines the main factors that could push Brazil into first place.


In its March "World Agricultural Supply and Demand Estimates (WASDE)" report, the USDA raised its forecast for Brazilian corn exports to 50 million tons for the 2022-23 marketing year (October-September). That would put Brazil above the United States, the long-established world leader in corn exports.


The United States is expected to ship 47 million tons to foreign buyers, two million tons less than the February forecast. Brazilian exports have risen sevenfold in 15 years, jumping from 7 million tons to 50 million tons (Figure 1).


Brazil and China signed an agreement on phytosanitary requirements for corn trade last year, and the first shipment of Brazilian corn to China occurred in November 2022. In the 2021-22 marketing year, the primary destinations of Brazilian corn were Iran, Spain, Japan, Egypt, and Colombia.


Male-sterile sorghum may offer dairy cows needed energy with less water use - Texas A&M AgriLife research indicates water-efficiency and highly digestible fiber is possible

Texas A&M AgriLife


With dairy cattle numbers increasing in Texas, especially over the Ogallala Aquifer where water resources are limited, producers and researchers are seeking drought-tolerant, quality forages to meet the demand for cattle feed.

Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service dairy specialist Juan Piñeiro, Ph.D., DVM, and graduate student Douglas Duhatschek, both in Amarillo, look at sorghum varieties in the agency’s trial near Bushland. (Texas A&M AgrILife photo by Kay Ledbetter)


Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service dairy specialist Juan Piñeiro, Ph.D., DVM, and graduate student Douglas Duhatschek, both in Amarillo, have spent the past two years trying to determine how sorghum can fill that demand.


Corn silage historically has been the silage of choice, but corn requires more water than sorghum. On the flip side, sorghum produces less metabolizable energy than corn. And nutrition, or energy, is the biggest concern for lactating dairy cows.


Piñeiro and Duhatschek’s latest research indicates the high sugar content in male-sterile sorghum hybrids may offer a big opportunity to produce water-efficient forage with highly digestible fiber and good energy content.

The research projects are being funded in part by United Sorghum Checkoff Program, Dairy Management Inc. and Richardson Seed Co.


In the sorghum research fields


The starch in whole-plant forage sorghum silage is less digestible than the starch in corn silage because sorghum berries do not break down enough in processing to allow for maximum digestibility.


“We initially evaluated the starch digestibility of forage sorghum by growing hybrids with a larger berry size to see if that might be better processed and increase the starch digestibility,” Piñeiro said. “However, that study did not show any improvement in starch digestibility, so we tried a different approach in 2022.”


The team conducted two studies in 2022. In one study, the researchers worked with shorter plants that had proportionally more grain than leaves and stems. They wanted to see if the increase in the reproductive-to-vegetative plant parts ratio would increase the overall starch digestibility.


The second study utilized two male-sterile hybrids that do not develop grain: a brown midrib, BMR, hybrid and a non-BMR hybrid.


“We focused on forage digestibility and noticed that since these hybrids do not develop grain, the content of sugars at harvest is four to five times higher than with other sorghums that develop grain,” Piñeiro said. “For these male-sterile hybrids, we only have some preliminary results, but they look promising.”


He said the fiber digestibility of BMR hybrids is similar to that of conventional corn silage. In addition, both BMR and non-BMR male-sterile hybrids store high sugar content because they do not develop grain and also store much less starch. These plant sugars could partially replace the energy loss due to low starch concentration.


“We know fiber digestibility of most BMR sorghum hybrids can be as good as conventional corn hybrids from previous research,” Piñeiro said. “The challenge now is how to bring back the energy loss, mostly due to starch loss, in rations, after replacing corn silage with BMR sorghum silage with a lower starch concentration.”

Most feed sorghums must be harvested at the “soft dough” growth stage, when over 80% of the starch can be utilized by cattle after processing, instead of closer to 60-70% at the later growth stage known as hard dough. But Piñeiro said the rule does not apply to male-sterile sorghum hybrids because they store sugars instead of starch for energy.


Furthermore, research conducted in New York has shown that waiting six to eight weeks until after the “boot” growth stage — the last vegetative stage before flowering — to harvest a sterile hybrid greatly increases the sugar content from roughly 4% to 19%. This increase offers producers a harvest window of weeks, not just days.


“The preliminary data from our trial indicate that similar results can be achieved in Texas,” Pineiro said. “Water-soluble carbohydrates are nonstructural carbohydrates, just like starch, and they have a higher rate of digestibility compared to starch.”

What’s next?


This growing season, the researchers will replicate the trial that evaluates the effect of plant proportions — reproductive to vegetative parts ratio — on the berry processing score. In addition, the researchers will feed the male-sterile sorghum to cows to evaluate performance such as milk yield and milk composition. 

Piñeiro said they would also like to evaluate management practices that allow forages with low dry matter content to be harvested to produce silage.


Sorghum harvested in the late vegetative stage, where it has very high fiber digestibility, usually has low dry matter. In turn, this low dry matter at harvest, anything below 30%, can raise the risk of losses due to leachate – liquid that seeps out of silage structures and carries with it sugars — and undesirable fermentation.


Overall, these research projects could increase the nutritional value of sorghum silage, which in turn could replace part of the corn silage fed to lactating cows and decrease drought-stress impacts, as well as potentially save water on forage production.


Source: Sorghum Marketing Transformation Program news release


Lubbock, Texas -- The Collaborative Sorghum Marketing Transformation Program (cSmart) today announced the launch of the first-ever venture capital platform dedicated exclusively to attracting capital for companies, projects and innovations that create opportunities for sorghum farmers.


"The number of opportunities to add value to sorghum farmers by attracting capital to our industry is truly unprecedented," cSmart board director and sorghum farmer from Keyes, Oklahoma, JB Stewart said. "From San Francisco to New York, businesses across the U.S. are seeing the value in investing in agriculture, and cSmart is proud to come alongside these businesses to facilitate investment in Sorghum: The Resource Conserving Crop."


cSmart matches private capital with funding to support startups and established companies investing in sorghum and also facilitates a network of private investors seeking opportunities for competitive returns in agriculture.


"To date, cSmart has invested in support of a container facility for specialty sorghum exports, matched private investment with funds for marketing efforts for an all-female run sorghum food startup and facilitated networking and due diligence for an industrial sorghum starch project," cSmart consultant John Duff said. "The diversity of these investments demonstrates the wide net cSmart intends to cast, supporting and financing innovation in American agriculture--a necessity we are proud to announce this National Ag Day."


Fueled by relationships across the sorghum industry and the supply chain, cSmart leverages knowledge and financial flexibility to support startups, existing companies and investors bringing innovation to the sorghum industry.


"Out of necessity bred by difficult growing environments, innovation is the American sorghum farmer's most important tool," cSmart board director and MOJO Seed president Jerry O'Rear said. "As a reflection of this inventive spirit, the launch of cSmart is a groundbreaking step toward financing even more innovation and doing so in a way that adds maximum value to sorghum farmers."


For more information on investing or obtaining support for sorghum innovation, contact cSmart consultant John Duff. Duff can be reached at  or 806-638-5334.


Editor's Note: MOJO Seeds and Jerry O'Rear are valued members of the Texas Seed Trade Association


BrownfieldAgNews reports:


A District Court judge in Texas has denied a nationwide preliminary injunction that would have prevented the Biden administration's Waters of the United States rule from taking effect.


However, Mary-Thomas Hart, chief counsel for the National Cattlemen's Beef Association says an injunction was granted for the states of Idaho and Texas. "So if you're in the other 48 states, you are subject to the Biden administration's WOTUS rule beginning March 20th," she says.


NCBA president Todd Wilkinson, a South Dakota cattle producer says the injunction of the rule in those states is appreciated, but the group is disappointed that the rule was kept in place for the 48 other states. Wilkinson says the Biden administration's WOTUS rule places more burdens on family farms and ranches, drives up costs, and prevents cattle producers from making investments in their land.


She tells Brownfield the Texas judge outlined issues with the Biden administration's WOTUS rule. "With the use of the significant nexus test," she says. "In addition to asserting they had near absolute federal authority over all interstate water features, regardless of their contribution to downstream water quality or nationwide water quality."


Hart says farmers and ranchers who have water-related projects in the works should proceed with caution. "I'm not saying don't do it," she says. "I'm saying make sure you talk to someone first. Get some technical assistance before you start any project or you continue any project that's manipulating a water feature on your property. Just to doubly sure you can operate without some unexpected enforcement action down the road." She added that the Supreme Court case, Sackett v. EPA is expected within the next few weeks.

Farmers in Nigeria urged to buy hybrid seeds to boost food security

AATF (African Agricultural Technology Foundation)


Farmers in Nigeria have been urged to stop using grains as seeds in order to increase harvests.


Speaking in Kaduna during a meeting with farmers, Mr. Brighton Karume, Managing Director of ECOBasic Seeds Company Limited, said the country would be food secure if small-holders used certified hybrid seeds every planting season.


“The federal government has a robust agricultural policy framework and a conducive environment to ensure the country becomes self-sufficient in food production. However, government efforts and goodwill are not recording the appropriate results because only a few farmers plant quality and healthy seeds, while others plant grains that are meant for consumption,” he said.


He blamed this on misinformation, noting that most farmers consider purchasing seeds from accredited seed companies to be a waste of money.

“Unfortunately, what they plant every year and store for the next planting season is grain, the purity of which is questionable and the germination rate cannot be guaranteed,” he warned.


Mr Karume called for a national drive to educate farmers on the differences between seeds and grains. “Grains are meant to be used for food, so they are not treated and have low germination rate. On the other hand, seeds are not meant to be eaten because they are treated to protect them from diseases and pest attacks and are meant to be planted,” he added.


ECOBasic was established two years ago to produce foundation seeds that are used by seed companies to produce certified seeds for farmers.


“ECOBasic serves as an important link between research institutions that have the mandate to develop/produce, and release breeder seeds, and seed companies that produce certified seeds and sell them to farmers. The absence of intermediaries like ECOBasic Seed Company in the Nigerian seed sector is blamed for the proliferation and adulteration of seeds and the existence of fake seeds in the country,” he said.


Mr Karume said advocacy drives were paying fruit, with many smallholders gradually taking up certified seeds. “We are uniquely positioned to make the highest quality hybrid seeds available to seed companies for distribution to farmers. If a quarter of maize farmers in Nigeria plant hybrid seeds in the coming planting season, Nigeria’s quest for self-sufficiency in maize production will receive a significant boost,” he said.


Editor's Note: At a time when we are struggling to convince Texas farmers to plant certified wheat seed rather than brown-bagged grain this report from Nigeria rang a bell. We may be tempted to consider Nigeria a less developed place with less sophisticated farmers and farming techniques; but is it so in all respects?


TSTA staff


Germany’s agriculture ministry has come out against deregulating new genomic techniques and could tip the scale on the matter within the Berlin government, in a departure from its previous non-committal stance.


The European Commission is expected to table proposals for loosening EU rules on gene editing, more specifically, new genomic techniques (NGTs), in June this year.


NGTs, also known as plant breeding techniques, are a number of scientific methods used to alter genomes with the aim of genetically engineering certain traits into plants, such as drought tolerance.


With the Commission gearing up to push for the liberalisation of the gene editing legislation, Germany could be a key player in determining how such a proposal will go down with member states.


The country’s green-led agriculture ministry has now put its cards on the table and came out against deregulating NGTs after minister Cem Özdemir had so far refused to take a stance on the matter.


Editor's Note: Remember when Germany led in virtually all things technological? Not that we are above politics triumphing over science.


RiceTec has announced the appointment of Van McNeely as President, Head of US for the US Business Leadership Team. In this new capacity, McNeely will lead RiceTec’s high-quality seed business in the US across production, marketing, and sales.   

“I’m very excited for Van to take on the leadership of our US business,” stated Karsten Neuffer, RiceTec CEO. “His more than 20 years of experience in RiceTec, intimate know-how of Rice agriculture, and close relationships with US Rice Growers and the US Rice Industry make him the perfect, trusted leader. I am convinced that under his leadership RiceTec will continue to help US farmers get the best technologies to sustainably grow a high-yielding and profitable rice crop.”

Since first joining RiceTec in 1997, McNeely has been instrumental in building the company’s Technical Services department before transitioning into Sales. When RiceTec introduced the first commercial hybrid rice seed to the US market in 2000, McNeely led the team that has grown the product to be a market leader.


Editor's Note: RiceTec is a valued member of the Texas Seed Trade Association


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