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Apr 07

TSTA Weekly Update, 04/07/2022

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
Member News
Registration is officially open for ASTA’s new Leadership Summit, June 25-29 in Indianapolis! Make plans now to send your team to a professional development, advocacy and training opportunity that will benefit your company and your industry for years to come.
For more information, including the latest schedule of events, visit the conference webpage.
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4/7/2022 - 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!
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The Three Things All Employees Want
The Jeff Havens Company
To be fair, there are probably more than three things all employees want. Most employees would probably take a million dollars if you felt like giving it to them. Or a jetski, the ability to talk to animals, telekinetic powers – the list goes on. But in this article we’re going to talk about three things all employees want that you can pretty easily give to them.
#1 – Flexibility
To be clear, flexibility does not necessarily mean the ability to work from home. A lot of people do want that, but some jobs don’t allow for that, and some people don’t actually want to work from home. (Specifically people with young children in the house, like me, but I digress.) But what every employee does want, however, is to know that they won’t get punished for leaving work an hour early because their kids are sick and need to get picked up from school. They want to know they themselves can afford to get sick, miss work for a few days, and not have it held against them. Flexibility comes in a lot of different forms, and the best employers are (wait for it) flexible in their thinking about what flexibility looks like. But if you’re offering one way to work and won’t entertain any approaches other than the one you’ve established, odds are your employees are actively thinking that there are probably better places to work.
#2 – Community
With the exception of full-blown sociopaths (whom you probably don’t want to employ anyway), pretty much everyone wants to belong to something – a family, a group of friends, a fantasy sports league, you get the idea. And since most working people spend most of their waking hours working, it follows that pretty much everyone would like to feel connected to their colleagues, at least in some way. (This is also true of remote workers, by the way, which is why most businesses are adopting a hybrid model post-pandemic rather than a fully remote model, since fully remote workers have a hard time feeling like a full part of the team.) Again, it helps to be flexible in your understanding of what ‘community’ involves. It could be regular happy hours, or occasional lunches; it could be attending a conference or trade show together; it could be birthday celebrations, inter-office competitions, volunteering together on the weekends, or almost anything else you can think of. As long as you’re working to give people a place where they can feel connected, you’re giving them a reason to want to show up every day.
#3 – Meaning
Having a pointless job is neither fun nor motivating. People want to feel as though the work they do is important in some larger way, that it is helping to make a worthwhile difference somehow. Most of our interactions with one another involve talking about what work has to get done, and comparatively little involves talking about why we do the work in the first place. To get paid? That’s all well and good, but people can get paid anywhere. So don’t forget to talk occasionally (or more than occasionally) about why you do what you do, what value it brings beyond hitting your numbers or checking items off a to-do list.
Focusing on these three areas will almost certainly improve your employees’ drive and engagement. And none of them should cost you a thing – except maybe a few cupcakes now and then, but I’m pretty sure you can afford them.
News Bits
The USDA released its first crop progress report of the year showing most crops at or near the five-year average planting pace.
Corn is on pace with last year and the five-year average with two percent of the crop planted. Texas' crop is past halfway planted, Kansas is at two percent and Missouri is at one percent.
Cotton is six percent planted nationally.
Oats are 23 percent planted, two percent behind last year. Iowa is 10 percent complete; Minnesota is three percent complete; Nebraska is 16 percent done; South Dakota is five percent planted, and Wisconsin is three percent planted.
Winter wheat is rated 53 percent good to excellent. Four percent of the crop has headed.
Spring wheat is three percent planted. Nine percent of South Dakota's crop is planted, one percent of Minnesota's crop is planted.
Topsoil moisture is rated 57 percent adequate with 23 percent short and 12 percent very short. Subsoil moisture is 57 percent adequate with 24 percent short and 12 percent very short.
The USDA's next set of production estimates is out April 11th.
U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Assistant Administrator for Water, Radhika Fox, released a new policy memorandum on Accelerating Nutrient Pollution Reductions in the Nation's Waters.
This memo reaffirms EPA's commitment to working with federal agencies, state co-regulators, Tribes, water stakeholders, and the agricultural community to advance progress in reducing excess nutrients in our nation's waters.
"Nutrient pollution is one of America's most widespread, costly, and challenging environmental problems," said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water Radhika Fox. "At the same time, promising innovations, creative partnerships, holistic One Water solutions, and unprecedented opportunities to invest in clean and safe water through the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law have the potential to rapidly accelerate progress on nutrient pollution.
Editor's Note: Well-timed announcement given all-time record fertilizer prices and widespread shortages.
USDA has announced a new export sale of more than 1 million metric tons of corn to China.
The sale is a mix of old and new crop corn with 676,000 metric tons for delivery this marketing year and 408,000 metric tons for next marketing year.
China has been unable to take delivery on corn purchased from Ukraine.
Ag secretary Vilsack poured cold water on Republican and industry calls to pull land out of the Conservation Reserve Program and put it back into production, even as the conflict in Ukraine poses food security risks worldwide.
"Quickly converting this land to crop production is clearly unfeasible, even if we were to overlook the negative consequences of increased erosion and reduced water quality, wildlife habitat reduction, and decreased carbon sequestration and storage," Vilsack wrote in a letter to the National Grain and Feed Association obtained by MA.
The World’s First Genetically Engineered Wheat Is Here
Argentina’s new genetically engineered, drought-tolerant wheat could have large environmental benefits
from: The Breakthrough Institute
In October 2020, Argentina approved the world’s first genetically engineered wheat for cultivation and consumption. Production expanded dramatically in 2021, and will continue to expand in 2022, after Argentina received regulatory approval in late 2021 for exports to Brazil, a major consumer of Argentina’s wheat.The lessons from Argentina’s experience are important as other countries decide whether they want to follow suit. Argentina’s genetically engineered, drought-tolerant wheat — named HB4 — could have large environmental benefits, but other countries’ choices will determine their scale.
Argentina is increasingly struggling with drought and saw an opportunity for HB4 wheat to help stabilize production and revenue. Yields have been steadily decreasing since 2017, partially due to drought, with the 2020/21 season yields the second-lowest in ten years. Yields in the 2021/22 season bounced back thanks to sufficient rainfall at critical times. HB4 wheat, genetically engineered to be drought resistant, can help protect against such variability by maintaining high yields even under drought conditions. HB4’s drought resistance gene comes from sunflowers, so it qualifies as transgenic — containing genes from a different species — and therefore as bioengineered, genetically modified, or a GMO.
HB4’s ability to grow better with less water could help reduce land use. As Argentina’s wheat yields have fallen, there has been an expansion in the area planted. This is a pressure faced worldwide: in order to meet the growing global demand for crop products like wheat, there must be an increase in yield and/or the total area cultivated. On a global scale, such farmland expansion leads to deforestation, which releases greenhouse gasses and has negative impacts on biodiversity, as well as ecosystem services like water filtration. Since 2000, 102 million hectares of land — nearly the size of Egypt — globally have been converted from native vegetation to cropland (not including pasture and rangeland). Increasing yields is key to meeting growing food demand without farmland expansion. Without any increase in agricultural productivity, over 1 billion hectares of cropland — greater than the size of China — would need to be cleared globally by 2050 to meet projected demand.
HB4 wheat developer Bioceres says the trait increases yields by up to 20% compared to other similar varieties that are not genetically engineered for drought resistance. A larger-scale set of plantings spread across Argentina in the 2021/22 season provided additional data. Compared to similar wheat varieties without the HB4 trait, HB4 wheat showed an average yield increase of 49% under poor growing conditions, 12% under moderate growing conditions, and a yield decrease of 11% under good growing conditions (the quality of growing conditions may include other factors in addition to drought). The yield decrease under good growing conditions has been addressed, and the improved seed will be phased in during the following seasons. In the meantime, it will be important to strategize planting locations for HB4 wheat based on expected drought conditions. The average yield benefit of HB4 wheat across all conditions in the 2021/22 season was 13%, and though drought was prevalent, sufficient rainfall at critical times reduced the impact of drought on yields. Farmers have been satisfied with HB4 wheat, with satisfaction higher in regions where it increased yields the most.
We estimate that growing drought-tolerant HB4 wheat on one-third of Argentina’s wheat-growing area could reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by at least 0.86 million metric tons of CO2 equivalents per year (MtCO2e/yr) if yields increase 13%, and up to 1.29 MtCO2e/yr if yields increase 20%. These greenhouse gas emissions savings are equal to 34% and 51% of the yearly on-farm emissions from Argentina’s wheat production, respectively
.Understanding the potential, in 2020, Argentina approved genetically engineered HB4 wheat for cultivation and consumption, meaning it approved the planting of seeds by farmers for food production. In the 2021/22 wheat season following commercialization, HB4 wheat was planted on 55,000 hectares in Argentina — 0.8% of the total area planted to wheat — with the goal of producing enough seed for a larger-scale planting in 2022. Wheat harvested in the upcoming 2022/23 season will be processed into flour and exported to Brazil.
If more countries allow farmers to grow genetically engineered drought-tolerant HB4 wheat, even more cropland expansion and greenhouse gas emissions can be avoided, while also improving yields and food security. Many other countries are currently in the process of deciding whether or not to import HB4 wheat or grow it domestically. Their decisions matter because wheat is the staple crop for 35% of the world’s population and provides 20% of food calories worldwide, but climate change is threatening its production. The more countries accept HB4 wheat, the more they will adapt their wheat production to a drier climate.
In addition to countries’ decisions about whether to grow HB4 wheat domestically, their decisions about whether to import it also impact the extent of global cultivation, and thereby the food security, climate, and environmental benefits that could come from the wheat. For example, before commercializing HB4 wheat, Argentina waited for import approval from Brazil, which imports about 85% of its wheat from Argentina.
Currently, HB4 wheat is being considered for regulatory approval for grain import and cultivation in Brazil, and for import of processed products in Australia. Additionally, the company plans to target the US, Australia, and South Africa for cultivation approval.
The company has also previously said that regulatory processes for HB4 wheat are underway in the US, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, and potentially will be in Russia and parts of Asia and Africa. Except for Russia, all of these countries — Australia, Brazil, the US, South Africa, Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia — already cultivate various genetically engineered crops. Argentina makes up 2% of 2020 total world wheat production, and together Argentina, Australia, Brazil, South Africa, and the US make up 10% of total current world production. With the addition of Uruguay, Paraguay, and Bolivia, together these eight countries make up 11% of world wheat production. China, India, and Russia are the top three wheat-producing countries worldwide, and while Bioceres may potentially pursue regulatory approval in Russia, neither China nor India has thus far been mentioned as considering cultivating HB4 wheat.
Climate change is threatening crop production through changes in temperature, precipitation, and pest and disease damage, all of which decrease crop yields. In order to maintain yields, technological advances and improvements to production must keep up. For now, the global wheat trade can somewhat balance low production years in some countries. In 2020/21, Argentina had low yields, and other major exporters were split between shortfall and surplus, meaning that global production stayed consistent. But as the impacts of climate change on agriculture increase worldwide, a favorable balance between high and low production globally in a given year becomes less likely. Geopolitical concerns only add to this uncertainty; for example, with the Russian invasion of Ukraine threatening the global wheat supply and increasing wheat prices.
To be sure, genetically-engineered wheat is not the only option for increasing yields, and growth in wheat yields has historically been impressive compared to other crops. However, a greater variety of tools provides flexibility for the challenge of continuing crop yield growth in the face of intensifying climate change. As the speed of climate change increases, faster tools like genetic engineering and genome editing will enable faster adaptation compared to slower tools like conventional breeding.
Import and cultivation approvals by more countries can help HB4 wheat reach its potential to support global wheat production in the face of climate change. This is not only an agricultural issue, but has wide-ranging implications for food security, the environment, and the climate.
Our analysis is based on the 2020/2021 wheat production year in Argentina because this year had the lowest yields of the last five years, due in part to drought. We conducted this analysis using the Searchinger et al. (2018) Carbon Benefits Calculator, with methods described in our preprint on bioRxiv (paper published in Trends in Plant Science), with the following modifications:
  • Bioceres, the company that developed HB4 wheat, estimates that it will eventually be grown on one-third of Argentina’s wheat production area, which we used in our analysis.
  • We used the average 13% yield increase due to HB4 wheat in country-wide trials in the 2021/22 season for our low estimate, and the up to 20% yield increase generally cited by the company for our high estimate.
  • We assumed that only half of the increased crop production in Argentina due to HB4 yield increases leads to decreased crop production elsewhere, so we reduced the percentage of replacement crops attributed to intensification to 50%.
  • We increased fertilizer application by 13% or 20% to match the yield increases due to HB4 wheat.
  • We used data on Argentina’s wheat production from the Buenos Aires Grain Exchange (Bolsa de Cereales), including 2020/21 average wheat yield of 2.82 t/ha, total area planted to wheat of 6.5 million hectares, average nitrogen fertilizer application to wheat crops of 69 kg/ha, and greenhouse gas emissions from wheat production at the farm gate of 148.5 kgCO2eq/t wheat.
Source: American Feed Industry Assn news release
The Institute for Feed Education and Research (IFEEDER) released new research today which shows that if more U.S. food companies are to require feed for their livestock and poultry be free from genetically modified (GM) ingredients, then greenhouse gas emissions on farms could rise, grain elevator and feed mill product handling and production requirements would be greater, and the price of meat, milk and eggs for consumers could increase.
The study, "Impact of Non-GM Livestock and Poultry Feed on the U.S. Feed Industry," conducted by Iowa State University and Decision Innovation Solutions, examined the environmental and economic implications should U.S. animal food manufacturers need to boost the production of non-GM feed.
Partnering with Dairy Management Inc., MFA, the National Corn Growers Association, the U.S. Poultry and Egg Association and others, IFEEDER initiated the research to inform companies throughout the food value chain of the complexities involved with producing GM and non-GM feed lines from the farm to grain elevator to feed mill.
"Like many industries involved in the production of America's food supply, the U.S. animal feed industry is diligently working to be more sustainable and efficient, using all available tools at its disposal, as part of our commitment to consumers to be good environmental stewards," said Lara Moody, IFEEDER executive director.
"The research released today shows that when you limit the use of safe, proven technologies, like GM crops, the costs for both the environment and consumers can increase. As food retailers and manufacturers pursue ambitious sustainability goals in the future, we hope this research will inform their decision making on the value that GM feed provides."
Key findings from the 156-page report include:
• From a monetary viewpoint, GM seeds cost corn and soy farmers more initially, but are typically offset by lower costs for herbicides, insecticides and field operations when compared to non-GM production. For a farmer to consider switching to non-GM farming from GM, the research showed that a significant premium on non-GM would be needed to offset the production cost difference.
• A shift away from non-GM seeds creates land sparing benefits; for example, the use of GM seed traits produced between 6.8 million to 15.9 million acres of land sparing and 35% to 65% less land conversion from grassy habitats to crop production, which would have occurred otherwise for the period from 2007-16.
• The researchers evaluated the impact of on-farm fuel reductions to lower carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions to the environment by using GM crops and found that the GM corn no-till system emits the least CO2 for diesel combusted in field operations at 0.0258 metric tons per acre, based on 2020 corn production budget data.
• Nitrogen efficiency has improved with the expansion of GM seed use and other technologies. Examining corn alone, the research shows that if it takes 4.9% more corn acres to yield the same level of production with non-GM corn as would be expected with GM corn, then total nitrogen volatilization and leaching losses under all non-GM corn production would be expected to be 2.7% and 4.3% higher than with all GM corn production.
• The study found that all participants in the non-GM feed production supply chain would be subject to additional costs related to segregation and isolation of GM and non-GM ingredients. For example, the grain elevator could potentially spend an additional $0.05 to $0.07 per bushel to handle and segregate non-GM soybeans, compared with regular soybeans, and $0.07 to $0.09 per bushel more for non-GM corn.
• The feed mill, at the end of the feed production chain, would be subject to the largest increase in the price of the final product, which would directly impact consumer prices for meat, milk and eggs derived from animals fed non-GM feed.
• The overall consumer retail price of meat, milk or eggs from animals fed non-GM feed is expected to increase over animals fed GM feed.
The full results, along with a six-page executive summary, can be found here.
Whole-genome resequencing of Sorghum bicolor and S. bicolor × S. halepense lines provides new insights for improving plant agroecological characteristics
from: Scientific Reports
Sorghum (Sorghum bicolor L. (Moench)) is the world’s fifth economically most important cereal and is a staple particularly in the semi-arid tropics of Africa and Asia. Genetic gains in this crop can benefit from wild relatives such as Sorghum halepense. Genome sequences including those from this wild species can boost the study of genome-wide and intraspecific variation for dissecting the genetic basis and improving important traits in sorghum. The whole-genome resequencing carried out in this work on a panel of 172 populations of S. bicolor and S. bicolor × S. halepense (SbxSh) advanced lines generated a total of 567,046,841 SNPs, 91,825,474 indels, 1,532,171 SVs, and 4,973,961 CNVs. Clearly, SbxSh accumulated more variants and mutations with powerful effects on genetic differentiation. A total of 5,548 genes private to SbxSh mapped to biological process GO enrichment terms; 34 of these genes mapped to root system development (GO: 0022622). Two of the root specific genes i.e., ROOT PRIMORDIUM DEFECTIVE 1 (RPD1; GeneID: 8054879) and RETARDED ROOT GROWTH (RRG, GeneID: 8072111), were found to exert direct effect on root growth and development. This is the first report on whole-genome resequencing of a sorghum panel that includes S. halepense genome. Mining the private variants and genes of this wild species can provide insights capable of boosting sorghum genetic improvement, particularly the perenniality trait that is compliant with agroecological practices, sustainable agriculture, and climate change resilience.
by Tyne Morgan,
As many U.S. farmers anxiously await spring planting, supply chain concerns continue to plague planting outlooks. And while weather typically has the final say in what farmers plant, input availability issues could be another factor farmers battle all spring.
USDA's Prospective Plantings report shows farmers intend to plant 4% fewer acres in 2022, largely due to fertilizer prices. However, it's chemistry availability that seems to be a growing concern for both ag retail suppliers and farmers. Commodity and input prices have seen a dramatic change since the USDA survey was done at the beginning of March. And if farmers decide to switch acres last minute, finding the necessary inputs may be the biggest hurdle this year.
Farm Journal recently conducted a survey of ag retailers, and it found 87% of retailers say they have had difficulty sourcing inputs this year. And of those who are having trouble with input availability this year, 85% say herbicides are the biggest problem. The next biggest concern is with fungicide as 42% of retailers surveyed say they've seen issues with that input. 38% of respondents reported fertilizer supply problems.
The Farm Journal survey also drilled down further into the chemistry supply concerns. Ag retailers say glyphosate is the biggest concern at this point in the year.
To read the entire report click here.
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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.