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Newly discovered gene overcomes limitations of earlier dwarf wheatNewly discovered gene overcomes limitations of earlier dwarf wheat
May 04

TSTA Weekly Update, 05/04/2023

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.


Johnston Seed Company Celebrates 130 Years in Business!

read the article here


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

TSTA Legislative Update

TSTA staff


The supplemental appropriation (SB 500) containing the funding for the Texas Agri-Life Foundation Seed reconstruction went to conference committee this week after the Senate refused to concur House Amendments. House conferees are required to be appointed by the Speaker, in order, for the Conference Committee to reconcile differences.


Rep. Cody Harris’ legislation banning the ownership of agricultural land by foreign corporations is still pending in House State Affairs Committee. It has no Senate companion and must be voted out of committee by May 8th to be viable. We continue to work with his staff to convey how the bill would hinder our member companies ability to do business in Texas.


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!


5/4/2023 - 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


U.S. soybean planting made a big jump over the past week.


The USDA says 19% of the crop is planted, compared to 9% last week and the five-year average of 11%, with generally ideal conditions in parts of the Midwest and Plains canceling out weather-related delays in other areas.


26% of corn is planted, matching the usual pace, with 6% of the crop emerged, compared to 5% on average.


28% of winter wheat is rated good to excellent, 2% above a week ago, but still historically low because of drought in the southern Plains, with 25% headed, compared to 23% on average.


12% of spring wheat is planted and 2% has emerged, both much slower than normal due to the wet, cool conditions persisting in much of the northern Plains.


15% of cotton is planted, compared to 14% typically in early May.


63% of rice is planted and 29% has emerged, both well ahead of the respective paces.


21% of sorghum is planted, compared to 22% on average.


Farm sector debt tied to real estate is expected to be at a record high of $375.9 billion in 2023, according to data from the USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS). Farm sector real estate debt has been increasing continuously since 2009 and is expected to reach an amount that is 87.5 percent higher in 2023 compared with 2009 in inflation-adjusted dollars.


Real estate debt now far outpaces debt that is not secured by a mortgage (non-real estate debt). Historically, real estate debt and non-real estate debt have trended similarly, but they have diverged in recent years. Non-real estate debt showed an 11.9-percent year-to-year increase in 2014 in inflation-adjusted dollars but has shown decline after 2017.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) today announced that nearly $130 million in additional, automatic financial assistance has been obligated for qualifying farm loan program borrowers who are facing financial risk. The announcement is part of the $3.1 billion to help distressed farm loan borrowers that was provided through Section 22006 of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA).


Since the IRA was signed by President Biden in August 2022, including the payments announced today, USDA is providing approximately $1.1 billion in immediate assistance to more than 20,000 distressed borrowers.


Editor's Note: Are we missing something? "Farmers facing financial risk?" Is there another kind of farmer?


Farmland prices in Brazil have increased significantly over the last 3 years, driven by the combination of higher net farm income, low-interest rates, and strong demand from investors. The record appreciation of land has been driven by high commodity prices, robust global demand, and a favorable exchange rate for Brazilian exporters - leading to positive operating margins for corn and soybeans, despite high costs in agriculture.


A sausage at Washington State University has made history.WSU received U.S. Food and Drug Administration authorization to have gene-edited pigs enter the food chain for human consumption — in this case, as tasty, German-style sausages.

“It’s important for a university to set the precedent by working with federal regulators to get these animals introduced into the food supply,” said Jon Oatley, a professor in the School of Molecular Biosciences in WSU’s College of Veterinary Medicine. “If we don’t go through that process, all of the research we’re doing is for naught because it will never make it out into the public.”


Editor’s note: Approval is a food use authorization of 5 experimental pigs under INAD guidance (Investigational New Animal Drug) at a cost of $200,000, $40,000 per experimental pig


Oatley uses the gene-editing tool CRISPR to improve genetic traits in livestock and is working toward an FDA approval for a line of gene-edited pigs. He undertook the investigational food use authorization process for five gene-edited pigs to demonstrate that food made from the animals is safe to eat and that it is possible for an academic institution to achieve this type of FDA authorization. Gene-editing can make changes in an organism’s DNA that could occur in nature or through selective breeding but would take much longer without a tool like CRISPR.


The pigs were originally gene-edited in a way that would enable researchers to use them to sire offspring with traits from another male pig. Known as surrogate sires, this technology first gene-edits male animals to be sterile by knocking out a gene called NANOS2 that is specific to male fertility. These animals can then be implanted with another male’s stem cells that create sperm with that male’s desired traits to be passed on to the next generation.


Essentially a high-tech form of selective breeding, surrogate sire technology can greatly expand dissemination of valuable genetics in livestock. It has the potential to not just improve meat quality but the health and resilience of livestock in the face of changing environmental conditions, a critical goal for increasing protein sources in developing nations.

Second revolution ahead for Green Revolution grains - Newly discovered gene overcomes limitations of earlier dwarf wheat

University of California-Davis news release

A gene has been discovered in wheat, called PLATZ1, that both reduces the height of the plant in comparison to wild wheat varieties, and also keeps the plant sensitive to a growth hormone that controls other factors. This combination of traits solves some problems that limit the grain production of Green Revolution wheat in conditions where water is not plentiful. The discovery comes from the lab of Jorge Dubcovsky, in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences. (Zhang et al/PNAS)


Dwarfing genes in cereal crops made the Green Revolution of the 1960s possible, but they have limitations. Scientists at UC Davis have discovered a gene that can overcome some of those limitations in wheat by controlling plant height, while boosting yield in fields where water is less plentiful. Their discovery was published today in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


The new gene, dubbed PLATZ1, can be used to fine-tune the height of wheat plants: Green Revolution wheat grows shorter than its ancestors, so the plant can spend more energy producing grains. But in some environmental conditions where water is scant, the slightly taller PLATZ1 dwarf plants may produce more grains.


The new gene also results in longer coleoptiles – the protective sheaths that cover the emerging shoots. The longer coleoptiles of the PLATZ1 dwarf plants allow seeds to be planted deeper, giving plants access to moisture deeper in the soil – a plus for drier areas, said lead author Junli Zhang, an assistant project scientist in the UC Davis Department of Plant Sciences.


Jorge Dubcovsky, a distinguished professor in the department and whose lab produced the discovery, explained: “Wheat dwarfing genes that were essential for the Green Revolution are insensitive to the plant growth hormone gibberellin (gibberellic acid, or GA), which results in some limitations,” he said. “This has triggered new research interest in identifying and testing new dwarfing genes that are sensitive to GA. The PLATZ1 dwarfing gene is sensitive to GA and can be used to replace the GA-insensitive dwarf genes of the Green Revolution.”


From short coleoptile to longer coleoptile

A gene that was key to the Green Revolution is RHT1, named for “reduced height 1.” This gene makes wheat grow shorter, and it also controls the length of the coleoptile. In Green Revolution wheat, the coleoptiles are also short.


When water is plentiful, there’s no problem. But with less irrigation, the seeds need to be planted deeper to reach moisture below, so coleoptiles need to grow longer to emerge from the soil. In this case, the hormone GA would signal the sheath to grow a little longer – but Green Revolution wheat ignores the signal.


The PLATZ1 gene solves that problem: The mutated version reduces overall plant height without affecting coleoptile length. The plant responds to the GA signal, growing a longer coleoptile, and allowing the more-deeply-planted wheat to reach deeper moisture, Zhang said.


In addition, the GA hormone promotes plant growth, so dwarf plants that are sensitive to GA also can grow faster and produce more green tissue, or biomass, which is essential to support higher yields, Dubcovsky added.


The PLATZ1 gene also helps plants resist lodging – when stems fall over at ground level, typically bent by wind. Lodging leads to major losses of grain production around the world, and resistance to it was another essential improvement bred into Green Revolution plants.


Field tests in future


The Dubcovsky team has identified five natural variations of the PLATZ1 gene that lead to loss of function or reduced function. These variations can be used to modulate wheat plant height to different levels. The team plans to grow wheat with different combinations of GA-sensitive genes to see which ones produce the optimum height and biomass in different conditions, Zhang said.


The discovery builds on the work of another Dubcovsky lab colleague, Ph.D. student Youngjun Mo, Zhang said.




National Association of Wheat Growers (NAWG) reports:


Washington, D.C. - National Association of Wheat Growers President and Klamath Falls, OR wheat farmer Brent Cheyne, testified in front of the Senate Agriculture Subcommittee on Commodities, Risk Management, and Trade during the "Commodity Programs, Credit, and Crop Insurance - Part 1: Producer Perspectives on The Farm Safety Net" hearing.


"With the rising input costs, decreasing net farm income, and the smallest winter wheat crop since the 1960's it is very important that we take this opportunity to enhance the farming safety net," said Brent Cheyne. "The commodity, crop insurance, and trade programs play an important role in preserving rural economies, keeping food supplies stable, and keeping farmers on their family land."


Cheyne emphasized NAWG's number one Farm Bill priority is protecting the crop insurance program. In discussing crop insurance, Cheyne highlighted that the cost of purchasing crop insurance has risen in recent years and urged Congress to enable more reasonable premiums for higher coverage levels. Cheyne also discussed NAWG's request for Congress to make a meaningful increase in the wheat PLC reference price and double funding for Market Access Program (MAP) and Foreign Market Development program (FMD). The current wheat PLC reference price has never changed, and prices have risen to the point that it would take a 38% decrease before triggering a payment. Likewise, funds for trade promotion programs like MAP and FMD have lost their effectiveness from inflation and sequestration. Funding has been unchanged for over 20 years, and the dollars do not go as far as they once did.


"NAWG knows that these requests require money. However, the Farm Bill has received spending cuts in the past," said Cheyne. "It is essential to keep food supplies stable and rural economies thriving... It would be a waste of an opportunity to not make these investments in the Farm Bill."


As Congress continues to have hearings on programs authorized under the 2018 Farm Bill, NAWG looks forward to working with the members to help craft a Farm Bill that works for wheat growers in the United States.


Read Brent Cheyne's written testimony or watch the hearing.



TSTA staff


Have You Tried Chat GPT?


Artificial Intelligence (AI) has certainly been in the news lately. From Elon Musk to government officials there is a mix of concern and excitement bout AI. Chat GPT on-line gives one a chance to experience a small bit of what it's all about.


We recently read an article about pastors, priests, and rabbis using the "service" when pressed for time, or as simply an experiment, concerning preparation of a homily or sermon. Some claimed they received more compliments on their AI-generated sermons than ones they'd labored over. As my turn approached for delivering the message at a local gathering of a religious men's group I thought I'd give it a shot. The results, after simply asking "a devotional for a Christian men's group" the result was not at all bad though I preferred, and used, my own.


There's been lots of lament that students may never actually prepare a term paper or lengthy writing assignment again preferring to let AI plagiarize one for them. Though there are, apparently, methods to detect a "work" written by AI it's both a fascinating technology and a little scary at the same time.


The following "piece" was generated by AI in response to the query "explain seed certification." You may agree, it's pretty good.


Seed certification is a process that ensures the quality of seeds used for crop production. It involves testing and verifying that seeds meet specific standards, including genetic purity, physical purity, and germination capacity.


The process begins with the production of the seed, during which careful measures are taken to prevent cross-pollination and maintain the genetic identity of the seed. The seeds are then harvested, cleaned, and tested to ensure they meet the necessary standards.

Seed certification programs are typically administered by government agencies or other authorized organizations. They involve inspections and testing of the seed by trained professionals to verify that the seeds meet the required standards.


Certified seeds are labeled with a tag or certificate that indicates the variety, the source, and the quality of the seed. Farmers who use certified seeds can be assured that they are planting a high-quality product that will produce a reliable and consistent crop.


Overall, seed certification is an important process that helps ensure the quality and purity of seeds used for crop production, which can have a significant impact on the yield and quality of the resulting crops.



by Jan Johnson, President, Millennium Research


I was recently listening to a marketing guru share her amazing words of wisdom for increasing sales. "Facts tell, stories sell," she declared with a doe-eyed look of "Aren't I smart?!"


And stories have been used to sell a lot in the past few years. I'm sure they've been used to sell since marketing began. But lately the stories have gotten more assertive, more brazen - more like lies - and we are supposed to be good little consumers, nod our heads, and whip out the credit cards.


You know what farmers like?








You know what keeps a farmer in business?


A good BS detector. Without this, they may as well be just babes in the woods, ripe to be taken by every salesperson who comes down the road.


So, first off, if someone recommends a story to market your product, ask if it's a true story? Does it include facts, tests, trials, and satisfied users to backup the story? Is it a story filled with hope or fear? Is it believable? Can farmers see it with their own eyes?


Because if it doesn't have those elements, you'll probably still get head nods... Farmers are polite that way.


But the wallets will stay in their pockets.


By Tyne Morgan,


It's been two weeks since a massive fire broke out at a Texas dairy killing more than 17,000 cows. The Texas State Fire Marshal's Office released a report from its investigation, ruling the fire as accidental with no reported evidence of foul play.


The explosion and fire occurred at South Fork Dairy, which is located just southeast of Dimmitt, on the evening of Monday, April 10, 2023. According to a new release from the Texas State Fire Marshal's Office, the investigation found the fire originated in the northern end of the dairy, and was the result of a "failure of a piece of equipment that is used within the dairy on a daily basis."


The release also stated, "Because of the size of the fire, the insured loss amount, the number of cattle killed, and the fact that two other pieces of equipment, identical to the one that caught fire, have burned previously. One at this dairy and one at another dairy. There will be a more in-depth investigation of the reason for the failure by other origin and cause investigators and engineers that are experts in the field of equipment failures."


Officials also said the explosion was the result of flammable liquids, including liquid fuel, hydraulic oil and other materials, "expanding rapidly," causing a "smoke explosion."


The State Fire Marshal's report aligns with what was reported on AgWeb the same week as the fire broke out. The local sheriff speculated a "honey badger" - a machine which he described as a "vacuum that sucks the manure and water out" - may have been the cause. However, as Farm Journal first reported, it seems the sheriff misspoke, as there's no piece of equipment called a "honey badger" in dairy. Instead, it's called a "honey vac."


The sheriff also stated his initial assessment was the insulation catching fire is what caused the fire to spread.


Based on the current information from officials, and aerial video that shows a charred roof evenly across the barn, Farm Journal reached out to several dairy producers that week, as well as insurance experts, to see if the honey vac and insulation would cause such a large fire.


To read entire article, Click Here

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