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Ruby Crush tomato named Texas Superstar plantRuby Crush tomato named Texas Superstar plant
Apr 06

TSTA Weekly Update, 04/06/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


TSTA legislative update

TSTA staff


The Texas House votes on the state budget today. Likely the vote will not come until much later today in the evening hours. Included in the budget is the emergency exceptional item allocating $15M towards the reconstruction of the Texas Foundation Seed facilities at Vernon. TSTA staff has made the rounds at the Capitol ensuring that Members received information on how critical this budget item is to the agricultural economy of Texas.

Growout invoices were mailed in late January. If you have not already returned payment for the winter growouts please remit soon. We've paid all the bills for land rent, TDA expenses, seed shipment, phytosanitaries, local transportation and the cash flow would be very helpful. Thank you!

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!


4/06/2023 - 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


The U.S. lost a total of 1.9 million acres of farmland in 2022 according to the USDA.


New housing additions are continuing to pop up on what used to be farmland, which was a trend that started before interest rates started climbing.


Renewable energy companies are also buying up significant amounts of farmland.


Solar and wind development have really increased their footprint. Wind development takes up a smaller footprint for each turbine, but they are spread out over a larger region, where the solar is a much tighter footprint, but it takes out typically entire fields.


Since the year 2000, 50 million acres of farmland have been lost across the U.S. That works out to 4.3 acres of farmland lost every minute of every day.


Retail fertilizer prices tracked by DTN for the second full week of March 2023 continue to show lower levels. This trend has been in place for two and a half months.


All eight of the major fertilizer prices are once again lower compared to last month. Five of the eight fertilizers had a substantial price decline. DTN designates a significant move as anything 5% or more.


Leading the way lower was anhydrous. The nitrogen fertilizer was 13% lower compared to last month and had an average price of $1,059/ton.


UAN28 was 11% less expensive looking back a month and had an average price of $428/ton. UAN32 was 9% lower compared to a month earlier and had an average price of $521/ton.


Urea was 7% less expensive compared to the previous month with an average price of $638/ton. Potash was 5% lower compared to last month with an average price of $655/ton.


The remaining three fertilizers were all just slightly lower compared to the prior month. DAP had an average price of $825/ton, MAP $821/ton and 10-34-0 $740/ton.


On a price per pound of nitrogen basis, the average urea price was at $0.69/lb.N, anhydrous $0.65/lb.N, UAN28 $0.76/lb.N and UAN32 $0.81/lb.N.


The United Sorghum Checkoff Program (USCP) has announced its strategic partnership with Google to increase sorghum consumer awareness through innovative marketing strategies. USCP is a producer-funded national organization dedicated to improving the sorghum industry and representing sorghum farmers across the United States.


USCP will leverage Google's expertise in digital marketing to create consumer awareness campaigns that promote the sustainability and health benefits of sorghum and its versatility as a food ingredient. USCP recently led efforts to develop and launch a new campaign for this partnership, titled "Sorghum. Food's Best Kept Secret." to showcase and offer a new whole-grain option for consumers. The campaign's ads can be viewed on The Sorghum Checkoff's Youtube channel, Sorghum. Nature's Super Grain and are powered by Google Ads, leveraging Google's expertise in digital marketing.


"Our partnership with Google will allow us to take sorghum consumer awareness campaigns to the next level," USCP Director of Communications Clint White said. "Sorghum is a powerhouse grain with so much to offer consumers who value nutrition, sustainability and versatility in the kitchen. By leveraging Google's expertise in digital marketing, we can raise awareness about sorghum's benefits and offer a viable solution to individuals seeking healthier alternatives."

Ruby Crush tomato named Texas Superstar plant - Top-performing tomato in taste, consistent production

Texas A&M AgriLife


Ruby crush, a determinate grape tomato variety with a long-standing reputation for performance and taste, has been named the newest Texas Superstar plant.


Ruby Crush grape tomato variety was named a Texas Superstar plant for its consistent performance in trials around the state. (Texas A&M AgriLife photo by Mike Arnold)


Larry Stein, Ph.D., Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service horticulturist and Texas Superstar executive board member, Uvalde, said the variety has performed exceptionally well in field trials under less-than-ideal growing conditions around the state.


Stein said the variety has been a top-performing tomato plant in field trials over the past several years, despite it being a grape variety. Ruby Crush has also performed well in taste tests over the years, including at the San Antonio Rodeo, where it was named the 2021 Rodeo Tomato.


“It’s been extremely consistent since day one,” he said. “It performs even where fields or planting conditions are poor. Other varieties don’t do that year upon year.”

To be designated a Texas Superstar, a plant must perform well for growers throughout the state. Texas Superstars must also be easy to propagate, ensuring the plants are widely available and reasonably priced.


Get to know the Ruby Crush tomato


Ruby Crush is a truly determinate plant that can reach 3-4 feet tall, Stein said. The plants are perennial but are grown as an annual in Texas due to the cold. They perform best in gardens when grown in a cage, but are also ideal for containers.


Ruby Crush can spill over the top of a 4-foot cage when caged and adequately fertilized, Stein said. The compact plants produce trusses of tomatoes, which can be 1.5 inches wide by 1.25 inches long and weigh half an ounce, roughly the weight of a AAA battery.


The plant is highly resistant to several fungal diseases, including fusarium crown and wilt; root rot and tomato mosaic virus 0-2. Plants show medium resistance to gray leaf spot.


It is best to plant Ruby Crush tomato plants in the spring but they also can be planted in mid-summer for fall harvests. Stein said white flies are problematic and can hinder production later in the growing season.


Fruit matures early, often 60 days from transplanting, Stein said. The tomatoes are scarlet red, oblong and weigh about half an ounce, with a flavorful sweet taste. Tomatoes do continue to ripen after being picked and are typically harvested when they start to “break” or change color.


“They really do produce nice clusters of grape-shaped tomatoes,” he said. “You don’t necessarily have to pick the whole cluster if they don’t ripen all at once.”


Recommendations for Ruby Crush


Ruby Crush requires full sun for optimal fruit production and tolerates any soil that drains well, Stein said.

Stein said Ruby Crush have produced under various field conditions under sub-optimal treatments, such as poor soil and no fertilizer. But, he said, plants perform and produce fruit best when side-dressed with slow-release fertilizers.


“They do load up with fruit when properly fertilized,” he said. “Ruby Crush performs better than other varieties under less-than-ideal conditions, but it can be really spectacular with fertilization and in a cage.”


The red tomato is listed on most nutritional lists as a superfood. It is packed with the antioxidant vitamins A and C, potassium and the B vitamins for heart health, and above all a powerful carotenoid called lycopene. 


Texas Superstar is a registered trademark owned by Texas A&M AgriLife Research. Plants are designated by the Texas Superstar executive board, which comprises nine horticulturists from AgriLife Research, AgriLife Extension and Texas Tech University in Lubbock


University of Illinois & Ohio State University release

by Nick Paulson, Gary Schnitkey, Sarah Sellars, Jim Baltz, Department of Agricultural and Consumer Economics, University of Illinois and Carl Zulauf, Department of Agricultural, Environmental and Development Economics,

Ohio State University


High commodity prices, excellent yields, and large ad hoc government programs have contributed to higher farm income levels for the 2020 to 2022 crop years. However, production costs have also increased substantially leading to potential concerns over profitability in 2023 and 2024 if commodity prices decline while costs remain at current levels or have further increases.


This article provides growth rates of direct costs - fertilizer, pesticides, and seed - from 2000 to 2022 using data from Illinois Farm Business Farm Management (FBFM) for corn production on high productivity farmland in central Illinois. This article builds on a previous article documenting cost changes from 1990 to 2015 (farmdoc daily July 12, 2016).


Costs tend to adjust upward with rising corn prices and corn revenue. However, cost adjustments have been more muted than price and revenue increases, and typically occur with a 1 to 2 year lag. Thus, expectations for continued cost increases for 2023 and into 2024 should be expected even if, as market expectations suggest, prices and revenues level off or decline relative to the high levels experienced over the most recent crop years.


Changes in Production Costs over Time


Table 1 reports per acre costs for fertilizer, pesticides, and seed on high-productivity farmland in central Illinois since 2000. Also included in table 1 are actual corn yields and prices received in the region over the same timeframe. Corn prices increased significantly from the mid-2000s through 2012, then declined to lower levels through 2019 before increasing again over the three most recent crop years.




Unsurprisingly, history shows that input costs adjust to market conditions. Since 2000, fertilizer, pesticide, and seed costs have increased, on average, at roughly the same rate as corn revenues per acre - about 6 to 7% annually. Costs tend to increase more rapidly during periods of elevated prices, and can level off or decline during extended periods of lower prices. However, downward cost adjustments tend to occur with a 1- to 2-year lag relative to prices and revenues.


Market based indicators suggest commodity prices will likely be lower for the 2023 and 2024 crop years relative to levels in 2021 and 2022. Costs will likely continue to increase in 2023 and even into 2024 given the historical lag in adjustment timing. Producers should be aware and consider this as they finalize remaining input and marketing decisions for the 2023 crop and look ahead to those decisions for 2024.


To read the entire report click here.


Editors' Note: Hybrid corn seed costs in 2022 are 3.5 times what they were in 2000 while fertilizer prices have increased 4.5 times. Meanwhile yields have increased just under 1.5X.


Purdue University release

Farmer sentiment weakened again in March as the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer fell 8 points to a reading of 117.


Both the Index of Current Conditions and Index of Future Expectations declined 8 points in March leaving the Current Conditions Index at 126 and the Future Expectations Index at 113. Weaker prices for key commodities including wheat, corn, and soybeans from mid-February through mid-March were a key factor behind this month's weaker sentiment reading.


The Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer sentiment index is calculated each month from 400 U.S. agricultural producers' responses to a telephone survey. This month's survey was conducted from March 13-17, 2023 which coincided with the demise of Silicon Valley Bank and Signature Bank.


Although the March survey did not include any questions directly related to the bank closures, it did reveal that rising interest rates have become a bigger concern among farmers. Additionally, when responding to the open-ended comment question posed at the end of each survey, multiple respondents voiced concerns about the banking sector's problems and its potential to hurt the economy which likely also weighed on producer sentiment.

The Farm Financial Performance Index reading of 86 was unchanged from February and nearly identical to a one-year earlier. Although the index was unchanged, farmers continue to express more concern about rising interest rates with 25% of respondents choosing that as one of their top concerns for the upcoming year.


The percentage of farmers choosing rising rates as a top concern has been increasing steadily since last summer when just 14% of respondents identified it as a top concern. Higher input costs remain the number one concern, chosen by 34% of producers this month, but concern about input costs has been falling since last summer's peak when it was chosen by 53% of producers.


TSTA staff



By Jason Jenkins, DTN


Six farmers from southeast Missouri find themselves at odds with Bayer CropScience after allegedly saving and subsequently planting soybean seed that contained the company's Roundup Ready 2 Xtend technology.


Bayer also alleges that four of the six growers illegally applied dicamba formulations not approved for over-the-top (OTT) use on Xtend soybeans and did so after the June 30 cutoff date for OTT dicamba application set by EPA and the state of Missouri.


In complaints filed in late January with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri in St. Louis, Bayer claimed the Bootheel farmers' alleged actions infringe upon its patents and breach the terms of contracts and technology stewardship agreements (TSAs) the farmers signed. The company seeks damages and a permanent injunction against the farmers to prevent future infringements on patented technologies.


In response to DTN's request for comment on the lawsuits, a Bayer spokesperson wrote that "deciding to pursue litigation against growers is not easy for us. We exist to serve and support growers. The vast majority of growers abide by the law and honor their contractual agreements. In these cases, there was clear evidence of irresponsible and illegal use.


"Illegal use threatens law-abiding growers' access," the spokesperson wrote. "These lawsuits are about ensuring proper use of the technologies and protecting grower access to the technologies."


(Reuters) - Mexico has found unexpected allies as it tries to limit imports of genetically modified (GM) corn: some U.S. farmers who grow the crops.


Farmers have for decades planted GM corn, which protects against insects and weedkillers, with seeds sold by companies like Bayer AG (BAYGn.DE), Corteva Inc (CTVA.N) and ChemChina's Syngenta.

But as believers in a free market, some say the U.S. should agree to sell Mexico non-GM corn, rather than deepen a trade dispute over the proposal, and note they could earn a premium for growing more conventional corn.


"I'm all for free and fair trade," said Fred Huddlestun, who grows GM corn and soybeans in Yale, Illinois. "When they get to the point they're pushing somebody to buy something they don't want, then I have concerns about that."

Mexico is the largest buyer of U.S. corn and the proposed restrictions threaten to disrupt some of the nearly $5 billion of corn the U.S. ships to Mexico annually, or 95% of Mexico's total corn imports.


Mexico said in February it would ban GM corn for consumption by people, backpedaling from previous plans that clouded the future of imports for livestock feed, the destination of the vast majority of its imported corn.


Supporters of the policy say GM corn can contaminate Mexico's age-old native varieties and have questioned its impact on human health.


The Biden administration says restrictions would violate the U.S.-Mexico-Canada Agreement (USMCA) and last month requested trade consultations with Mexico in the first formal step toward a request for a dispute settlement panel under the pact. U.S. officials met with counterparts in Mexico last week.


Mexico's proposed restriction on corn for human consumption is expected to affect white corn imports, used primarily for tortillas, according to a U.S. Department of Agriculture report.


Agriculture Tom Vilsack said on March 30 that he expects the administration will "ultimately compel" Mexico to reverse its policy. The restrictions are not supported by science and fail to adhere to a rules-based trading relationship, he has said.


Industry groups including the Biotechnology Innovation Organization (BIO), which represents biotech companies, and the National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) have lobbied U.S. officials to oppose Mexico's proposals.


Mexico is drawing a "safety distinction" between corn used for food and animal feed without material scientific justification, the groups told Biden in a letter praising Washington's step toward a settlement panel.


On Tuesday, BIO said the U.S. should launch the formal dispute process "without delay" if consultations do not produce a science-based outcome.


But some U.S. farmers say the U.S. should back off.

NCGA has appeared intent on "ramming potential unwanted grain down our trade partners (sic) throats," Matt Swanson, a farmer who grows non-GM corn, wrote on Twitter.


Companies like Bayer have spent hundreds of millions of dollars developing GM crops and defending the safety of GM foods. Four companies sell more than 75% of corn and soybean seeds, according to data cited by the USDA.



U.S. farmers have long had a conflicted relationship with seed companies. Growers benefit from yield-improving and pest-killing agricultural technology, but some are unhappy with consolidation in the sector and the amount of sway the companies have over U.S. agriculture.


"It seems to me like the secretary and this administration are not standing up for all farmers," said Greg Gunthorp, an Indiana pork and poultry farmer who feeds non-GM corn to livestock to produce premium meat products. "What they're really standing up for is the big companies."


Bayer said it works with BIO, NCGA and other groups to promote the need for a science-based regulatory system. NCGA said GM corn is safe and it will fight all illegal trade barriers for farmers.


Some sector experts have warned Mexico's restrictions, if implemented, could prompt other countries to seek bans.


Though there is no hard data on U.S. farmers' opinions, Reuters spoke to about 10 growers and grain traders who said the U.S. should not require Mexico to continue importing GM corn.


Other growers worry about the extra work required to grow non-GM crops, instead of GM grain, and the potential for a new government in Mexico to eventually change the policy again. But many would consider growing more non-GM corn, if the price were right.


"You need to make it worth my while," said Illinois farmer Dave Kestel, who grows GM corn and sells seed for Corteva. "Twenty percent premium would probably be the minimum."



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