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The first 3D-printed biodegradable seed robot, able to change shape in response to humidityThe first 3D-printed biodegradable seed robot, able to change shape in response to humidity
Apr 20

TSTA Weekly Update, 04/20/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


A meeting of the TSTA Board of Directors is scheduled for July 13-15, at the Horseshoe Bay Resort. If you have question please contact the TSTA office.


Surveys to ascertain the level of certified wheat seed carryover from last year, anticipated certified wheat that will be available for sale this year, and a ranking of the most favored/best suited varieties was mailed to over 100 Texas seed sellers this week by the TSTA. Mailings included self-addressed, stamped envelopes, for return of the surveys to the association office. The survey is designed to assist the Texas Foundation Seed Service, and others, to determine the potential need to enter a recertification process. Results will be made available as soon as possible.

TSTA legislative update

TSTA staff


Texas’ standing policy to defend the right-to-farm is being strengthened by legislation to limit the authority of municipalities to regulate agricultural practices within their local boundaries. Local governments continue to chip away at agricultural production through  regulation particularly in areas where farm and ranch land overlap residential development. Representatives DeWayne Burns (R-Cleburne) and Ryan Guillen (R-Rio Grande City) have legislation spelling out what local governments must review and prove before levying requirements for agricultural land practices within their domain. Representative Guillen address a very specific issue regarding the height of vegetation and a city’s ability to force a landowner to destroy his crop or destroy it and send the producer a bill. Representative Burns’ legislation is a broader bill to limit municipalities from using public safety and health as a reason for banning livestock and crop production. Both bills have passed the House with overwhelming support and are in the Senate for consideration.


After a substitute was developed Senator Lois Kolkhorst’s legislation to require alternative energy facilities to be regulated by the Public Utilities Commission has passed out of Senate and Commerce Committee and referred to the Senate Intent Calendar. There is a House companion bill by Representative Jared Patterson (R-Frisco) and referred to House State Affairs Committee. It has not had a hearing.


U.S. House leadership is proposing the repeal of green tax credits in the major fiscal policy legislation, Limit, Save & Grow Act of 2023, as a component tied to the management of the debt ceiling. Programs identified in the legislation as distorting the market include incentives for biodiesel, renewable diesel and alternative fuels; the credits for solar and wind facilities, second generation biofuel; zero-emission nuclear power production, sustainable aviation fuel credit; clean hydrogen; nonbusiness energy property; clean vehicle; previously-owned clean vehicles; alternative fuel refueling property; clean electricity; and, clean electricity investment. Modifications are proposed for carbon oxide sequestration and new energy efficient home credits. Twenty-one programs are recommended for either repeal, reverse or modification. The broad fiscal policy proposal also repeals student loan forgiveness and the natural gas tax; expedites permitting for critical energy facilities for national and energy security; and, places work requirements and recalibrates programs for those receiving assistance who are able to work.


Growth in farm lending activity at commercial banks was limited in the first quarter of 2023 as interest rates climbed higher. Alongside additional increases in the federal funds rates, interest rates on farm loans rose sharply. The rapid rise has shifted the range of rates offered to borrowers upward considerably. Non-real estate farm loan volumes decreased about 10% from the previous year in the first quarter of 2023, following average growth of 15% in 2022. Lending activity was pushed down by fewer new loans and smaller-sized operating loans.


The outlook for farm finances remained favorable alongside elevated commodity prices, but higher interest rates, increased production costs and drought remained key ongoing concerns. Remarkably strong farm income during recent years has bolstered liquidity for many producers and supported historically strong farm loan performance. The availability of credit at agricultural banks remained ample and while higher expenses could increase borrowing needs for some operations, substantially higher interest costs could also put downward pressure on demand for credit.


The UK has been upfront for years that it wants a free trade agreement with the U.S., but the British are now settling for pacts with individual American states as the broader nation-to-nation negotiations appear to be going nowhere.


British Trade Minister Nigel Huddleston and Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt this week signed a deal to boost trade and investment. Agriculture is one of the "priority areas for cooperation" with a focus on crops such as cotton and hemp, according to the deal.


It's the fourth such state-level pact with the UK after the British reached agreements with Indiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.


"The U.S. is our largest trading partner, and these wins reflect our successful twin-track approach to trade with the US, strengthening links with individual states in parallel with work with the federal government," Huddleston said.


What's next? "We are currently discussing future agreements with states including Utah, Texas and California," the British government said in a statement.

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!


4/20/2023 - 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


Early U.S. corn and soybean planting is ahead of average.


Much of the Midwest and Plains saw good planting weather last week, but there could be some delays this week with a cooler, wetter pattern covering large parts of the region.


The USDA says 8% of U.S. corn is planted, compared to the five-year average of 5%, and 4% of soybeans are planted, compared to 1% on average.


27% of U.S. winter wheat is in good to excellent shape, unchanged from last week, but 39% of the crop is called poor to very poor, up 2%, while 10% has headed, a little bit ahead of most years.


3% of spring wheat is planted, compared to 7% on average.


8% of cotton is planted, compared to the normal pace of 9%.


38% of this year's rice crop is planted, compared to 28% typically in mid-April, while 18% has emerged, compared to the usual rate of 15%.


Sorghum is 15% planted, compared to 17% on average.


Prices being paid for Illinois farmland continue their upward curve, a trend that applies to all classes of farmland across the entire state. This is according to the information released here today at the 2023 Illinois Farmland Values Conference sponsored by the Illinois Society of Professional Farm Managers and Rural Appraisers.


According to Luke Worrell, AFM, ALC, Worrell Land Services, Jacksonville, IL, overall chair of the event, "2022 continued to see a sharp rise in land values. While certain pockets of Illinois experienced more strength than others, in general, Illinois land was up across the board.


Across all of the regions that have "Class A" Excellent acreage, we saw an increase of 16 percent. "Class B" Good farmland was up 17 percent, "Class C" Average up 7 percent, "Class D" Fair up 7 percent and recreational land was up 17 percent on average."


He told those at the conference "If you factor in 2021 results, Class A land across Illinois saw an increase of over 45 percent during a 24-month time span. While premium acreage always carries the flag, lesser quality acreage saw increases in excess of 25 percent and in some instances over 40 percent over the same time period. Mixed use and recreational properties have seen a strong increase as well with this year's study showing an increase of 14 percent in 2022 alone."


Schnitkey reports that average cash rent levels increased substantially from 2022 to 2023 for all land productivity classes with the higher quality land experiencing the greatest absolute increase. For Excellent productivity farmland, the $412 per acre cash rent for 2023 was $43 higher than the $369 per acre cash rent in 2022. Cash rents for Good quality land increased by $31 per acre from $322 in 2022 to $353 per acre in 2023. Average quality farmland increased from $275 per acre in 2022 to $285 per acre in 2023, an increase of $10 per acre. Fair quality farmland increased $8 from $215 per acre in 2022 to $223 per acre in 2023.


The current fiscal debt of the United States is right at $32T, that's trillion, with a "T." If $32T was represented by a stack of $100 dollar bills the stack would be over 20 thousand miles high.


The Royal Barenbrug Group, a world leader in grass technology, today announces the appointment of Justin Burns as the new CEO of Barenbrug USA, effective May 1st, 2023.


“It has been the privilege of a lifetime to get to know so many of our suppliers, growers, distributors, retailers, and sod farms over the past ten years,” states James Schneider, outgoing CEO. “We are in a relationship business, and when relationships turn into friendships, it makes business enjoyable.”


The current CEO, James Schneider, will leave Barenbrug on June 1st, 2023.

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

Federal Reserve: Observations on the Ag Economy- April 2023

April 20, 2023

By Keith Good, FarmDoc


On Wednesday, the Federal Reserve Board released its April 2023 Beige Book update, a summary of commentary on current economic conditions by Federal Reserve District. The report included several observations pertaining to the U.S. agricultural economy.


* Sixth District- Atlanta– “Agricultural conditions were mixed. Domestic supplies of chicken exceeded demand as the Avian Flu limited exports. However, foreign demand for poultry improved as some countries loosened import regulations. Demand for eggs exceeded supply but softened in response to elevated prices. Cattle supply remained low, and beef producers expressed concerns that falling chicken prices may cause consumers to substitute chicken for beef. Demand for cotton and soybeans fell from already low levels. Contacts expect reduced plantings of cotton this year as discretionary spending softens. Contacts noted continued supply chain improvements.”


* Seventh District- Chicago–

With input costs remaining elevated and many product prices down, contacts expected lower agricultural in-come for the District in 2023 compared with a strong 2022.

“Wheat prices were generally lower over the reporting period, during which the agreement for exporting grain from Ukraine was extended into May. Corn and soybean prices were also lower despite smaller estimates for the South American harvest. Planting delays were likely in some places in the District due to excess precipitation, though contacts noted the extra moisture could also recharge ground water levels for use later in the growing season. Although fertilizer costs fell, the cost of most other inputs remained high for crop farms. Cattle prices increased as the U.S. herd was squeezed by drought and a harsh winter. Egg prices moved up, while dairy and hog prices were down. High feed costs continued to compress most livestock margins. Prices for agricultural land continued to rise, reportedly at a slower pace.”


* Eighth District- St. Louis– “District agriculture conditions have seen little change since our previous report. The number of acres planted in the District for corn, cotton, rice, and soybeans increased around 1% compared with last year; outcomes were similar for all District states. The composition of the crops has changed; cotton and soybeans were planted in lesser quantities compared with last year, while corn and rice increased in acreage. Southern parts of the District have planted significantly fewer acres of cotton and replaced it with corn and rice.”


* Ninth District- Minneapolis– “District agricultural conditions were stable at strong levels entering the planting season. Most contacts reported that farm incomes continued to increase from a year earlier, while capital spending was steady. However, persistent wintry weather, including a severe snowstorm, delayed preparation for spring planting in many areas.”

* Tenth District- Kansas City– “Agricultural economic and credit conditions in the Tenth District were reportedly strong.

Elevated commodity prices continued to support profit opportunities for many producers.

“Farm loan repayment rates improved at a gradual pace in the first quarter and indicators of credit challenges were limited. Agricultural bankers throughout the region also reported that their liquidity was adequate to meet current credit demand and deposit withdrawals. The impact of higher interest rates on borrower finances and farmland markets was reportedly a growing concern. More broadly, drought and elevated production costs continued to affect many areas of the region.”


* Eleventh District- Dallas– “Drought conditions persisted in the western part of the district while soil conditions were quite favorable elsewhere. The La Niña weather pattern has ended, and rainfall is expected to increase moving into summer and fall. Cotton acres are expected to be down significantly this year, with farmers favoring crops with a relatively higher price and drought tolerance. On the livestock side, cattle prices increased dramatically over the past six weeks and were up from this time last year, and demand was solid.”


* Twelfth District- San Francisco– “Activity in agriculture and resource-related sectors decelerated slightly. Exports of agricultural goods weakened, and domestic demand for agricultural products was mixed. While growers in the Pacific Northwest reported weaker sales overall, producers in California noted strong, stable demand for fresh produce and other agricultural goods. Persistent rains and flood conditions in California affected plant pollination, delayed the planting of crops like tomatoes and cotton, and cast doubt on the viability of some orchard crops. One contact in Central California reported that the recent rains made large portions of grazing lands unsuitable for cattle.”

The first 3D-printed biodegradable seed robot, able to change shape in response to humidity

Istituto Italiano di Technologia

The seeds of the South African geranium inspired the realization of the prototype. Developed at IIT by Barbara Mazzolai’s group, it is part of the European project “I-Seed”.


A robot with the shape of a seed and with the ability to explore the soil based on humidity changes. It is made of biodegradable materials and able to move within the surrounding environment without requiring batteries or other external sources of energy. These are the main features of the first I-Seed, the first 3D-printed seed-robot created at the Istituto Italiano di Tecnologia (IIT-Italian Institute of Technology) in Genoa, by the researchers of Bioinspired Soft Robotics (BSR) Lab coordinated by Barbara Mazzolai, in collaboration with the University of Trento. The artificial seed is capable of transforming itself and moving around the environment autonomously, and may find applications in various fields, from environmental monitoring to reforestation.


The research paper that describes the prototype has been published in Advanced Science and featured on its cover. The result originates from the European project I-Seed, coordinated by IIT, whose main goal is to creating innovative robots inspired by plant seeds and able to act as sensors for monitoring soil quality parameters – including the presence of pollutants such as mercury – and air metrics, such as CO2 levels, temperature and humidity. The I-Seed project has been started on January 2021.


The first I-Seed is inspired by the seed structure of a South African geranium, the Pelargonium appendiculatum, whose ability to change shape in reaction to variations in humidity in the surrounding environment, the so-called hygromorphic structure, is replicated.


“Our studies started from the observation of nature, with the aim to imitate the strategies of living beings or their structures and replicate them in robotic technologies with low environmental impact in terms of energy and pollution“, explained Barbara Mazzolai, Associate Director for Robotics of the IIT and coordinator of the EU-funded project I-Seed.


Plants are a constant source of inspiration for the research group of the IIT-BSR Lab coordinated by Mazzolai, who is a pioneer in the field. After mimicking the growth and movement strategies of the roots and climbing plants, the group focused on studying the movement and dispersal features of the seed-carrying structures typical of the Gerianaceae plants.


When the right environmental conditions occur, these seeds detach from the plant and, exploiting the hygroscopic properties of the materials they are composed of, they change shape and move independently to explore and penetrate the soil, thus increasing the chance of germination. What researchers find interesting is that these seeds exploit dead cellulose-based tissues that lack metabolism and are able to deform, exploiting only changes in environmental humidity.


By analyzing these tissues histologically, the researchers replicated the seed design by using and combining 3D printing and electrospinning techniques. To identify the best solution, different materials with characteristics adaptable to the desired application were tested, such as materials capable of absorbing humidity and expanding like cellulose nanocrystals and polyethylene oxide, coupled to biodegradable and thermoplastic polymers based on Polycaprolactone.

“With this latest research – added Mazzolai – we have further proved that it is possible to create innovative solutions that not only have the objective of monitoring the well-being of our planet, but that do so without altering it“.


“These biodegradable and energy-autonomous robots will be used as wireless, battery-free tools for surface soil exploration and monitoring. This bioinspired approach has allowed us to create low-cost instruments that can be used to collect in-situ data with high spatial and temporal resolution, especially in remote areas where no monitoring data are available,” added Luca Cecchini, a PhD student at IIT in collaboration with the University of Trento and first author of the study.

Paper: “4D Printing of Humidity-Driven Seed Inspired Soft Robots”, Advanced Science


Source: House Committee on Agriculture news release


WASHINGTON, DC -- Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson (PA-15), Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, delivered the following opening remarks at today's full committee hearing to receive testimony from U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael Regan.


Remarks as prepared for delivery:


"Good morning. Administrator Regan, thank you for taking the time to be here with us today. While the scope of this Committee's jurisdiction over EPA actions is limited, nearly every decision coming from the EPA has the potential to disproportionately impact rural America and those living and working there.


"I think we can all agree farmers, ranchers, and foresters are the original conservationists, and no one cares more for the environment than those whose livelihoods depend on it.


"In the first hearing I hosted as the Chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture, Members heard about a variety of challenges American farmers and ranchers are currently facing. A recurring theme throughout that hearing was uncertainty, mostly stemming from nonsensical regulations and policies perpetuated by the Biden Administration. From my vantage point, it appears EPA and USDA are not only playing in one another's sandbox, but are perpetuating wrongheaded priorities: EPA wants to dictate what producers grow, and how to grow it, and USDA is laser focused on expanding funding and policies related to climate.


"Historically, EPA has overregulated the agriculture industry. This continues today, whether it be the war against crop protection tools, regulatory whiplash about what defines a water of the United States (WOTUS), or a top-down prescription of electric vehicles.


"American farmers and ranchers need access to crop protection tools to control damaging pests and weeds, increase yields with fewer inputs, and implement voluntary, incentive-based conservation practices such as reduced- and no-till. Until recently, producers relied on the science-driven, risk-based registration and registration review process established under the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (FIFRA) to provide certainty surrounding the use of these tools.


"In the past two years, the Agency has sought to restrict or cancel several important chemistries including chlorpyrifos, atrazine, rodenticides, organophosphates, and many more. Additionally, it is concerning to hear USDA expertise and advice was ignored in many of these decisions.


"These actions erode public trust in the regulatory process, undermine confidence in the scientific integrity of the EPA, and cause extreme uncertainty for producers who seek to provide the world with the safest, most abundant, and most affordable food and fiber supply in the world.


"Simply put, any decisions related to crop protection tools should be based on actual science--not political science.


"Additionally, and something of bipartisan interest, is uncertainty created by the Biden Administration's efforts to redefine WOTUS.


"This is the third time in seven years the Agency has attempted to rewrite this definition under the Clean Water Act and comes only two years after the Navigable Waters Protection Rule finally provided long awaited certainty for farmers, ranchers, and landowners.


"While producers wait for the Supreme Court's decision on a case related to WOTUS regulations, the Biden Administration's definition is far from being 'durable,' as claimed by the EPA. In fact, the rule has already been blocked from going into effect across 26 states. Further, both the House and Senate recently passed a bipartisan resolution of disapproval. I was proud to cosponsor that resolution and would like to thank Ranking Member Scott for joining us in the effort to provide certainty for those who need it most. I am disappointed President Biden once again turned his back on rural America and vetoed this resolution.


"In your confirmation hearing, you, Administrator Regan, promised to have an 'open door policy' for farmers. This commitment to listen, combined with your understanding of agriculture, seemed promising to many; however, the regulatory agenda being pursued by this Administration constantly misses the mark and exposes rural America to further ambiguity and wrongheaded policies.


"In 1956, President Eisenhower said, 'Farming looks mighty easy when your plow is a pencil, and you're a thousand miles from the corn field.' This rings true today, and I implore the Agency to spend more time in the field and less time proposing disastrous, untested rulemakings.


"Administrator Regan, thank you again for being with us today. This hearing is long overdue, and I know my colleagues are looking forward to this discussion.


"I now yield to the distinguished Ranking Member, Mr. Scott."


TSTA staff


By Fran O'Leary, Farm Progress


About 6% of U.S. dairy farms quit milking cows in 2022, but that was a slower rate of decline than in the past five years, according to the annual USDA Milk Production Report, which summarizes the previous year. The report was published on March 20.


Twenty years ago, there were 70,375 dairy herds in the U.S. In 2022, there were 27,932 herds, down from 29,842 in 2021, according to Greg Bussler, state statistician for USDA's National Agricultural Statistics Service Wisconsin field office. Calendar-year 2022 saw an exit of 1,910 dairy herds nationwide, or about 6% of the country's dairy operations. That compares to a loss of 1,794 herds nationwide, or 5.7% of the country's total, in 2021. But the decline in herd numbers in the three previous years was bigger: 2,535 (7.4%) in 2020; 3,281 (8.8%) in 2019; and 2,731 (6.8%) in 2018. Over the past 20 years, the U.S. has lost, on average, about 2,300 dairy herds per year.


Meanwhile, dairy cow numbers declined slightly; the average herd size is growing; and per-cow and total milk production have increased. Through 2022, the average number of milk cows in the nation's dairy herd shrank by 0.5% to 9.4 million head, or 100,000 fewer cows than in 2021, according to Bussler.


The average dairy herd size reached a record-high of 337 head in 2022. That number has grown steadily in the past 20 years, from 129 cows in 2003. The average dairy herd size in Wisconsin has jumped to 208 cows today, up from an average of 140 cows just five years ago.


Production per cow increased year over year by 138 pounds to an average of 24,067 pounds per head. Total milk production climbed 169 million pounds to a record total of 226.4 billion pounds in 2022.


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