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Gene hunting and awn elongation in sorghumGene hunting leads researchers to solve mystery of inhibition of awn elongation in sorghum
Jun 16

TSTA Weekly Update, 06/16/2022

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
Member News
Registration is 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.
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!
6/16/22 - 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!
If you are a certified wheat seed producer and have an interest in participating in re-certification procedures this season please contact Jerrett Stork, Certified Seed Coordinator, Texas Department of Agriculture, at the Giddings Seed Lab as soon as possible. Jarrett can be reached at 979-542-3691. Plan on contacting your local TDA inspector concurrently as it may expedite the process.
Bayer won a Roundup case recently and is awaiting a Supreme Court ruling. Bayer had its third consecutive court win recently as a Missouri jury rejected claims that glyphosate causes cancer. Meanwhile the U.S. Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision very soon concerning whether the court will hear Bayer's bid to dismiss Roundup cases. If the court hears the case, and eventually decides in Bayer's favor, to dismiss, Bayer believes it would end litigation that it has had to enter into since 2018.
Earlier this year Bayer said they have resolved 107,000 cases of the 138,000 overall brough against the company over glyphosate. Bayer has asked the Supreme Court to vacate a settlement resulting from a California case awarding a $25 million jury verdict to a California man who says Roundup caused his cancer.
Editor's Note: Bayer is a valued member of the Texas Seed Trade Association
by Lawrence Hurley, Reuters
WASHINGTON - The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday took no action on Bayer AG's (BAYGn.DE) bid to dismiss legal claims by customers who contend its Roundup weedkiller causes cancer as the German company seeks to avoid potentially billions of dollars in damages.
The case was not mentioned on a list issued by the court on Monday as it decided on whether to hear pending appeals, raising at least the possibility that the justices are considering hearing it. Bayer has asked the justices to take up its appeal of a lower court decision that upheld $25 million in damages awarded to California resident Edwin Hardeman, a Roundup user who blamed his cancer on the pharmaceutical and chemical giant's glyphosate-based weedkillers.
The Supreme Court's decision on whether to take up the appeal is being closely watched as Bayer maneuvers to limit its legal liability in thousands of cases.
U.S. President Joe Biden's administration in May urged the court not to hear the Bayer appeal, reversing the government's position previously taken under former President Donald Trump.
Bayer has lost three trials in which Roundup users have been awarded tens of millions of dollars in each. Bayer has pinned hopes for relief on the conservative-majority Supreme Court, which has a reputation for being pro-business. Bayer has won three trials, including one last week.
To read the entire report click here.
News Bits
U.S. corn and soybean planting should be able wrap up in the next few days if weather cooperates. Most forecasts for the early part of this week do show generally hot, dry conditions in much of the Midwest and Plains.
The USDA says 97% of corn is planted, matching the five-year average, and 88% emerged, compared to 89% on average, with 72% of the crop rated good to excellent, 1% less than last week.
88% of soybeans are planted, in-line with the normal rate, and 70% has emerged, compared to 74% on average, with 70% called good to excellent, 8% above the first rating a year ago.
86% of winter wheat has headed, compared to 90% on average, and 10% has been harvested, compared to the usual pace of 12%, with 31% of the crop in good to excellent shape, 1% higher than the previous week.
94% of spring wheat is planted, compared to 99% typically in mid-June, and 72% has emerged, compared to the five-year average of 93%, with 54% of the crop reported as good to excellent, 17% more than the first rating in 2021.
90% of the U.S. cotton crop is planted, compared to 88% on average, and 14% is squaring, compared to 15% normally, with 46% of the crop in good to excellent condition, a week-to-week decline of 2%.
95% of rice has emerged, compared to the five-year average of 94%, with 73% reported as good to excellent, a gain of 1%.
31% of pastures and rangelands are rated good to excellent, up 3% on the week.
The USDA's planted area totals are out June 30th with updated supply, demand, and production numbers scheduled for July 12th.
Caterpillar news release
DEERFIELD, IL - Caterpillar Inc. (NYSE: CAT) today announced it will move its global headquarters to the company's existing office in Irving, Texas, from its current location in Deerfield, Illinois.
"We believe it's in the best strategic interest of the company to make this move, which supports Caterpillar's strategy for profitable growth as we help our customers build a better, more sustainable world," said Chairman and CEO Jim Umpleby.
Caterpillar has had a presence in Texas since the 1960s across several areas of the company. Illinois remains the largest concentration of Caterpillar employees anywhere in the world.
The company will begin transitioning its headquarters to Irving in 2022.
ASTA is pleased to announce a new, comprehensive resource for information about treated seed. The landing page, housed on ASTA’s website, focuses on treated seed benefits and safety – on the farm, and beyond. The page includes basic information about treated seeds – including what they are, and why and how they’re used – along with supporting data and studies in the following key areas:
  • Crop production
  • Sustainability
  • Health & safety
Please help spread the word by crosslinking to the page from your own websites and sharing it with interested partners and stakeholders.
For years, scientists have warned that monarch butterflies are dying off in droves because of diminishing winter colonies. But new research from the University of Georgia shows that the summer population of monarchs has remained relatively stable over the past 25 years.
Published in Global Change Biology, the study suggests that population growth during the summer compensates for butterfly losses due to migration, winter weather and changing environmental factors.
Gene hunting leads researchers to solve mystery of inhibition of awn elongation in sorghum
Journal: Plant and Cell Physiology
Needle-like structures known as awns formed at the tip of cereal grains. The figure shows awn formation in (A) Barley, (B) Wheat, (C) Sorghum. (D) Awned (left) and awnless (right) florets of sorghum cultivar used in this study. - Credit: Wataru Sakamoto from Okayama University
Over the years, the domestication of grasses like wheat, rice, barley, and sorghum for consumption has resulted in certain modifications to their morphology. One such modification is the partial or complete elimination of the ‘awns’, which are the bristle- or needle-like appendages extending from the tip of the lemma in grass spikelets. The awn protects the grains from animals, promotes seed dispersal, and helps in photosynthesis in grasses like barley and wheat. However, its presence also hinders manual harvesting and reduces its value as livestock feed, explaining its elimination during domestication.
In the past, genetic studies have revealed the mechanism underlying awn development in crops such as rice and wheat. These indicate the possibility of the existence of complex and distinct genetic networks controlling awn formation in a species-specific manner. In fact, the existence of an awn-inhibiting gene in sorghum was identified in 1921, but remained uncharacterized thereafter. Now, a group of researchers—led by Prof. Wataru Sakamoto of Okayama University and including Prof. Hideki Takanashi of the Graduate School of Agriculture and Life Science, Tokyo University—has finally shed light on this subject. Their research was published in Plant & Cell Physiology on 30 May 2022.
Justifying the rationale behind studying awn inhibition in sorghum, Prof. Sakamoto says, “Sorghum is an important C4 crop for high biomass and bioenergy. It has a high tolerance to drought, besides being the fifth largest cultivated cereal crop. Also, it is a morphologically diverse crop with a relatively small genome size, making it suitable for genetic studies in various agronomical traits.”
For the purpose of this study, a recombinant inbred population derived from a cross between “awnless” (BTx623) and “awned” (Takakibi NOG) sorghum varieties was created. “The prospect of gene hunting in sorghum using the population we generated for the last ten years was motivating”, comments Prof. Sakamoto. Using next-generation sequencing, the researchers established a high-density genetic map of this recombinant cultivar. Next, they performed quantitative trait loci analysis of the sorghum germplasm to identify the gene controlling awn development. They also conducted genome-wide association studies to identify the origins of the awn-inhibiting gene. Lastly, they introduced the awn-inhibiting gene in an awned rice cultivar to check its functionality in other grass species.
The researchers observed that approximately half of the recombinant cultivar population studied did not develop awns, just like their awnless parent. Moreover, they found a single locus on the cultivar chromosome to be responsible for regulating the absence as well as shortening of awns in the cultivars studied. They identified the gene corresponding to this locus as DOMINANT AWN INHIBITOR, or DAI.
The researchers found that DAI encodes a protein in the ALOG family, which negatively regulates awn formation as a transcription factor. Interestingly, when DAI was introduced into the awned rice cultivar, it suppressed awn formation. In the words of Prof. Sakamoto, “It was surprising that DAI also inhibits awn elongation in rice grains, because no such genes have been reported in rice. Thus, eliminating awns in cereal grains have occurred differently among cereal crops, but the mechanism can be shared between them.” 
In short, this study has established the importance of DAI for the development of modern awnless cultivars. Also, it points to the existence of a common mechanism of awn inhibition, despite the existence of species-specific inhibitors. Going ahead, further analysis is needed to understand the transcriptional regulation of DAI besides clarifying the association of DAI with sorghum domestication. As Prof. Sakamoto points out, “In the long term, the understanding of genetic traits affecting cereals can help us in making new varieties.”
Altered gene helps plants absorb more carbon dioxide, produce more useful compounds
University of Wisconsin release
Every day, plants around the world perform an invisible miracle. They take carbon dioxide from the air and, with the help of sunlight, turn it into countless chemicals essential to both plants and humans.
Some of these chemicals, known as aromatic compounds, are the starting material for a wealth of useful medications, such as aspirin and morphine. Yet, many of these chemicals come from fossil fuels because it’s hard to get plants to make enough of them to harvest economically. Others are essential human nutrients and can only be obtained through our food since our bodies are unable to make them.
In new work, scientists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison identified a way to release the brakes on plants’ production of aromatic amino acids by changing, or mutating, one set of genes. The genetic change also caused the plants to absorb 30% more carbon dioxide than normal, without any ill effect on the plants.
If scientists could add a trait like this to crops or drug-producing plants, it could help them produce more chemicals naturally while reducing greenhouse gases in the atmosphere.
“We’ve long been interested in this aromatic amino acid pathway because it’s one of the major plant pathways that transform carbon fixed by photosynthesis into medicines, food, fuels, and materials,” says Hiroshi Maeda, a UW–Madison professor of botany who led the new research. “Now for the first time, we’ve discovered how to regulate the key control knob plants use to turn up production of this pathway.”
Maeda and his team, led by postdoctoral researchers Ryo Yokoyama and Marcos Vinicius Viana de Oliveira, published their findings June 8 in Science Advances.
Normally, plants tightly control the production of aromatic amino acids by building in natural brakes to the process. When plants have produced enough amino acids, the whole system grinds to a halt.
The mutated plants Maeda’s team discovered using the model plant Arabidopsis have much less sensitive brakes thanks to mutations in a gene called DHS, which starts the production of aromatic amino acids. The upshot is the plant doesn’t know when to stop and keeps churning out these compounds.
The scientists were surprised to discover that the plants put photosynthesis into overdrive, taking in significantly more carbon dioxide into the plant to fuel this new production boom.
“We think that the increased photosynthesis does two things. One is to provide additional energy to operate this energetically expensive pathway. The second is to supply more carbon building blocks to make energetically dense aromatic chemicals,” says Maeda.
Some of these energy dense compounds, like lignin, find their way into the cell wall, where they make useful biofuel fodder.
Arabidopsis is simply a tiny mustard plant. While a useful model in the lab, it produces nothing of value. Co-author de Oliveira has his sights set on testing similar mutations in crops — which take in huge amounts of carbon dioxide every year — or in plants that produce valuable aromatic chemicals.
“These brakes we identified look very similar among different plants. So, expanding this discovery to crops opens up many possibilities, such as enriching our food with essential nutrients or improving bioenergy production, while capturing more carbon dioxide from atmosphere to slow down the global warming,” says de Oliveira.
This work was supported in part by the National Science Foundation grant MCB-1818040. 
Viewpoint: ‘Arrogance of affluence and ignorance of ideologues’: EU’s failing agroecology Farm-to-Fork strategy — and what can be done to ensure sustainable farming and food
David Zaruk in The Genetic Literacy Project
he world is teetering on the brink of multiple food security crises which will lead to famines, political and social unrest and economic collapse across a wide range of regions. A perfect storm of war in the Ukraine (leading to lost food exports and reduced planting this spring), high energy costs, export restrictions on a large number of fertilisers, food commodity price speculation, logistic bottlenecks, financial and economic vulnerabilities following two years of a global pandemic and persistent droughts in many key agricultural regions means that food stresses are baked into world markets before the first crop failure of 2022.
Against this backdrop, the European Commission produced a document last month: “Safeguarding food security and reinforcing the resilience of food systems“. This EU strategy on how to mitigate the coming food security crisis, famines and increased malnutrition is to promote more organic food production, agroecology, reduced fertiliser use, subsistence farming, social justice theories, Farm2Fork and increased food-related aid (to countries ready to adopt some food cult ideology shared by a minority of activists in Brussels). The EU is serving up a recipe for famine, civil strife and economic collapse across large sections of the developing world… and their Communication celebrates this.
This official EU report is written by people with full bellies, ideological dreams of food purity and no idea of how challenging it can be to secure a harvest. Painful to read but more painful to ignore, I have provided my commentary on selected passages. I keep pinching myself when I say that this is the state of thinking of our European leadership. It would be funny if so many were not at risk of dying or malnutrition, to a large part, due to their ignorant food cult ideology.
Editor's Note: This is a lengthy article and is cast as "opinion" though it cites multiple scientific and factual references. We believe it is accurate and contains important information that we, as seed professionals, should know about. Seed is so very fundamental and is, of course, the basis for transfer of genetically based crop improvements. We should all be informed of the global attitudes towards technologies that are transferred exclusively by our industry.
We also believe the attitudes towards production agriculture expressed by public policy makers matters - particularly when it involves seed-based technology. For reasons outside the realms of science or public best interest the current U.S. administration is copying many of the same policies as the EU, New Zealand, and other science deniers by way of incentivizing (and subsidizing with your tax dollars) agro-ecological farming methods such as organic production with zero tolerance for GMO and gene-edited crop seed. Anyone who believes organic production can feed the world is delusional or simply does not care if people they don't know go hungry or starve.
Understanding there may be compelling market reasons to delay or negate the introduction of modern breeding techniques in certain crops we feel banning these techniques categorically demonstrates disregard for human needs, comfort, and security. And the U.S. government is actively engaged in copying yet another failed European experiment by subsidizing and encouraging techniques that categorically ban modern plant breeding advancements. This is why we need to understand what the EU has done, is doing, and the consequences of these uncaring and anti-social policies. Because they are being embraced by too many U.S. public policy makers.
Source: American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) news release
Alexandria, VA- The American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) has launched a newly-redesigned, updated guide that allows farmers, land owners and others to easily locate and contact professional seed suppliers for quality environmental, conservation, and cover crop seed. The interactive Conservation, Environmental, and Cover Crop Seed Resource Guide allows buyers to find lists of specific seed types by geographic location to support production and sustainability goals.
"It's important to always buy seed from a professional seed dealer," said ASTA President & CEO Andy LaVigne. "Professionally produced and processed seed is designed to help farmers achieve success through managing the use of the right seed, at the right place, at the right time. It has been selected, harvested, cleaned, analyzed, processed and packaged for performance; and it has been tested for purity and germination. All of this helps ensure you get the best quality seed to meet your production and sustainability goals, while minimizing the presence of invasive and other weeds."
Texas Seed Trade Association |