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AI tools for plant analysisTexas A&M Agrilife researchers integrating new AI tools for plant analysis
Sep 07

TSTA Weekly Update, 09/07/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Join your TSTA compatriots next Friday in Amarillo! Friday September 15, dinner at 6:30PM to 7:30PM. Your Sod Poodles take on the Frisco Roughriders at 7:05PM. The Sod Poodles are HOT right now and look like they are going to stay hot so plan on attending with your fellow seed professionals.


We were, originally, scheduled for a club box when our game was rained out last month. Unfortunately all the boxes are booked the reminder of the year so we've moved to the picnic area. This area is "outside" but is shaded and should be very comfortable. The good news is we went from being able to accommodate 25 people to 35 people. This is first reserved - first dibs - so please let the TSTA staff know your intentions. Plan to bring some of your own people and meet with your friendly competitors at this fun event!


TSTA staff will be unable to join you but we scarcely think that will dampen anything and we're hopeful Mother Nature won't dampen anything this time either. Food is included and the first 35 get free admission to the game. We're working on getting your first couple of drinks covered by the association at the game. Looks like we're going to be able to do that!


Reserve your spot(s) today! It's pretty easy; reply to this email or call 512-944-5052. There is still space available!


Join the American Seed Trade Association (ASTA) this December 5 - 8, 2023 at our NEW venue, the Hyatt Regency Orlando, for the Field Crop Seed Convention, an unparalleled seed business networking and educational opportunity. Gathering over 2,000 attendees from 36 countries, the Field Crop Seed Convention (formerly known as the CSS & Seed Expo) is THE place to see and be seen amongst the global community of companies working in all field crops, from corn and soybean, to wheat, rice, cotton, sorghum and so much more. Now in Orlando, after 77 years in Chicago, our new venue offers any and all seed industry stakeholders a wealth of new opportunities, in a central hub of exhibits, sessions and private meeting rooms all in one combined meeting space area. 


You don't want to miss this year. Make plans now to join us in Orlando and bring the family along too, for their own special options!

Visit the conference home page to learn more


The 35th Annual Texas Plant Protection Conference will be December 5 & 6 at the Brazos Center in Bryan, Texas. Click here for more info and to register


The Western Seed Association annual meeting is now accepting registrations. Click here to register.

A new wheat variety available for licensing.


TX17D2337 comes from the cross between LA04041D-63 (AGS2060/GA951079A25) and NC09-22206 (NC00-16203 // P26R24 / NC96-13965). TX17D2337 is a medium maturity, awned, white-glumed soft red winter wheat (SRWW) and is a below average height line with semi-erect early growth. It has a green color and semi-erect heads at maturity. The seed are red and soft-textured. TX17D2337 is medium maturing SRWW (106 d) in the 2021-2022 Texas A&M Soft Wheat Variety Trial similar to ‘Dyna-Gro 9811’ and ‘AGS 2055’ but was later than ‘GW 6000’ and earlier then ‘WB 2606’. TX17D2337 is a semi-dwarf wheat with below average height at 28.6 inches tall. AGS 2055 is taller while WB 2606 is shorter.


Please click here for more information and a request for proposals from Texas A&M AgriLife Foundation Seed.

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!


9/7/2023 - 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!

Access an interesting article in Communications Biology entitled "Improved pearl millet genomes representing the global heterotic pool offer a framework for molecular breeding applications" by clicking here


A very timely and interesting article in Prime Future on agricultural technology and venture capital - worth a look and it's not a lengthy article. Click here.

News Bits



by Keith Good, University of Illinois' Farmdoc project


Reuters News reported today that, "Chicago soybean futures rose on Wednesday, recouping the last session's losses, after a weekly U.S. report showed that crop conditions had deteriorated more than expected due to high temperatures."


2023 Crop Progress and Conditions. Charts and Maps. USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (September 5, 2023).

The Reuters article stated that, "The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), in a weekly crop progress report, rated 53% of the U.S. soybean crop as good to excellent, down 5% from a week ago and below the 55% expected on average by 11 analysts surveyed by Reuters.


2023 Crop Progress and Conditions. Charts and Maps. USDA- National Agricultural Statistics Service (September 5, 2023).

"The USDA rated 53% of the U.S. corn crop as good to excellent, down 3% from last week and beneath analysts' expectations of 54%.


"The good-to-excellent ratings for both crops are the lowest for this time of year since 2012, a historic drought year. They have renewed concerns about yields, particularly for soybeans, which are at a critical phase of development."


Corn and soybean conditions declined modestly ahead of widespread harvest in the U.S. Corn Belt with both rated 53% good to excellent.


USDA says soybean conditions had the greatest decline in the last week, previously rated 58% good to excellent. As of Sunday, 16% of the soybeans have started dropping their leaves, ahead of average, led by the Delta states.


Corn conditions are a decline of 3 percentage points from the previous week and slightly behind the year ago pace. 18% of the U.S. corn crop is mature, slightly ahead of average.


Spring wheat harvest continues at 74% complete, slightly behind average for this time of the year. Winter wheat planting has just begun with 1% of the crop planted, behind last year and the average.


USDA says U.S. cotton conditions are rated 31% good to excellent, a slight decline from the previous week and below last year. 32% of cotton bolls are opening across the country.


Rice conditions are rated 70% good to excellent, a slight decline from the previous week and year. Rice harvest is 34% complete, ahead of last year and the average.


Sorghum conditions are rated 44% good to excellent, a slight decline from the previous week. Harvest is advancing in Texas and just beginning in Kansas, with 19% of the crop harvested.


Pasture and rangeland conditions are rated 36% good to excellent, an improvement from the previous week and this time last year.


The USDA's weekly crop progress and condition reports run through the end of November.


Iowa State University reports:


While the registration of 2,4-D and dicamba products for over-the-top use in resistant-varieties has improved waterhemp control for many farmers, weed scientists warned that these herbicides would eventually select for resistant waterhemp populations. Bayer recently reported the discovery of two likely dicamba-resistant waterhemp populations in Iowa, which warrants a discussion on best management practices to slow the evolution of resistant waterhemp populations.


On Friday, September 1, Bayer released an external communication reporting that suspected dicamba-resistant waterhemp populations were sampled in Scott County in 2021 and Marshall County in 2022. After extensive screening the company states they are likely resistant to dicamba but will continue testing to positively confirm the resistance. This is the first case of plant growth regulator (HG 4) resistant waterhemp in Iowa, though other states have already documented HG 4 resistance in their own waterhemp populations. HG 4-resistant waterhemp were documented by university researchers in Nebraska in 2009, Illinois in 2016, and Missouri in 2018.


Associated Press reports:


Russian President Vladimir Putin said Monday that the grain deal that allowed Ukraine to export grain safely through the Black Sea won't be restored until the West meets its obligations to facilitate Russian agricultural exports.


Putin made the statement after talks with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, who along with the U.N. brokered the deal seen as vital for global food supplies, especially in Africa, the Middle East and Asia. Ukraine and Russia are major suppliers of wheat, barley, sunflower oil and other goods that developing nations rely on.


But Russia refused to extend the deal in July, complaining that an agreement promising to remove obstacles to Russian exports of food and fertilizer hadn't been honored. It said restrictions on shipping and insurance hampered its agricultural trade even though it has shipped record amounts of wheat since last year.


To read the entire report click here.


Editor's Note: Can't say we're shocked by Putin's reluctance to redo the deal.

New long-term experiments at Rothamsted will shed light on potential impacts of regenerative agriculture - Early results show interactions are complex with many possible outcomes

United Kingdom


Initial results from a new set of long-term experiments at Rothamsted suggest that more regenerative approaches to agriculture, such as no-till and diversified cropping, are not a short-term fix for more sustainable food production systems but will require a long-term commitment.   

An experimental setup of 24 cropping systems that combine a variety of regenerative agriculture practices was established at sites in Hertfordshire and Suffolk in 2017/18. It has so far shown that, in the short-term, reduced tillage has resulted in lower wheat yields but the effect varied with crop rotation, previous-crop and site. 


Plots with added organic matter significantly increased spring barley yield by 8% on average, though the effect again varied with site. The ploughed crop plots tended to produce higher caloric yield overall than systems under reduced tillage. 


“The initial results suggest that it takes time for regenerative approaches to restore the health of soils and the ecosystem. In addition, there may be a decrease in yields as the system transitions to a more sustainable state,” said study team leader Professor Jon Storkey. “With so many variables in play, only a long-term, integrated approach will be able to tell us “what really works” in regenerative farming.” 


The original long-term Broadbalk experiment at Rothamsted was set up in 1843 and was focussed on how varying inputs of fertilizer might affect crop yield. This was hugely influential and helped establish many modern farming practices that have consistently delivered bountiful harvests and widespread food security.


Today, as agriculture faces multiple pressures to reduce its environmental impacts, the new long-term experiments will look at how varying approaches to crop rotation, tillage, nutrition and crop protection can reduce inputs of pesticides and fertilizers, emissions of greenhouse gases and support biodiversity. The aim is to collect extensive data on multiple indicators from each of the experiments. 


Rather than just focussing on crop yield, these new Large Scale Rotation Experiments (LSREs) are being monitored to study the synergies and trade-offs of each approach. The experiment has been established as a long-term resource for inter-disciplinary research. 


“We have explained the experimental setup in detail in this new paper so that other similar experiments can be set up worldwide. Only by taking such a broad perspective can we hope to successfully inform the transition to more sustainable cropping systems across the planet,” said Storkey. “Inevitably trade-offs will need to be made between maximising crop yield and protecting the environment, but these experiments will help us better understand the system behaviour, and ultimately identify the optimal balance for multiple systems and approaches.” 


As the experiment matures, the LSRE will use novel computing and statistical analysis to evaluate the importance of long-term data. This will provide the evidence base for alternative pathways to sustainable agriculture. It will also serve as demonstration site for encouraging the transition to more sustainable farming systems. 

“We need to better understand cropping as a complex system. That way we can create models for predicting the system response to the multiple factors that will affect farming as our climate and food demands change. This will be of use to farmers and policymakers in guiding decisions on how to modify existing systems to reconcile multiple objectives,” said Storkey.




A new Rothamsted long-term field experiment for the twenty-first century: principles and practice


Editor's Note: Rothamsted agricultural experiment station is the world's oldest, longest continuous operational agricultural experiment station. Needless to say they have a stellar reputation and it's interesting to have their (early) take on regenerative agriculture.

Texas A&M Agrilife researchers integrating new AI tools for plant analysis

Texas A&M AgriLife release

Dr. Seth Murray, Dr. Joshua Peeples, Yash Zambre and Akshatha Mohan in the Texas A&M Plant Growth and Phenotyping Facility. The facility utilizes advanced sensors, robotics, big data and controlled environment technology in a revolutionary new imaging system to precisely study agricultural crops.


Plant phenotyping is the process of measuring and analyzing observable plant characteristics. In addition to ensuring a healthier crop yield, this process is essential for various current societal challenges, such as energy demands (i.e. biofuels) and food security.


Dr. Joshua Peeples, ACES assistant professor in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Texas A&M University, is joining forces with Texas A&M AgriLife Research faculty to develop an automated data analysis system that uses artificial intelligence (AI) approaches to autonomously analyze plant images collected from the new state-of-the-art Texas A&M Plant Growth and Phenotyping Facility.


The project includes four major components — data collection, preprocessing, discovery and analysis. Dr. Seth Murray, professor and Eugene Butler Endowed Chair in the Texas A&M Department of Soil and Crop Sciences, and his team are among several users of the facility collecting the data to make further discoveries.


Peeples and his students focus on novel automated approaches to data preprocessing and analysis. This work includes tasks such as reducing the amount of background information to identify plants in a region(s) of interest more easily, extracting plant measurements and features, and delivering the concluding analysis. Such advancement is critical for agricultural researchers to turn plant images into scientific knowledge.


During the first phase of the project, the prototype of the data processing and analysis pipeline was created. As the team moves into year two, they will work to customize the pipeline for individual researcher use to answer specific questions and analyze different crops.


The integration of AI will reduce human errors and wholistically increase the efficiency of the process. Peeples and his team are leveraging computer vision and machine learning-based techniques to improve the robustness of the process to ensure the pipeline will work across many different plants and traits. They will perform validation and evaluation of their methods under various conditions, developing and applying algorithms to compute plant features that are useful for classification (simple traits) and the quantification of complex plant characteristics (numerical measures).


The end goal is for the comprehensive platform to automate plant phenotyping for researchers by streamlining the workflow to collect and understand the data, and then efficiently export the information to make informed future decisions. Peeples also plans to develop a graphical user interface that would allow user feedback and present the information in an accessible way.


“We’ve noticed the shortcomings of current approaches,” Peeples said. “In terms of AI and plant science, there’s a lot of room for research impact.” Despite many such phenotyping facilities being built globally, few are investing in novel AI methods to extract knowledge and wisdom from these centers.


The Texas A&M Plant Growth and Phenotyping Facility, led by the Texas A&M College of Agriculture and Life Sciences and Texas A&M AgriLife Research, houses the Borlaug Center for Southern Crop Improvement and the Automated Precision Phenotyping Greenhouse. The facility utilizes advanced sensors, robotics, big data and controlled environment technology in a revolutionary new imaging system to precisely study agricultural crops. The mission of the facility is to conduct data collection and analysis and to engage in advanced genomics that accelerate plant growth and breeding techniques.


In addition to working at the Texas A&M Plant Growth and Phenotyping Facility, Peeples and his students conduct much of this research at the Peeples Lab.




by James Mintert and Michael Langemeier, Purdue Center for Commercial Agriculture


U.S. farmers' sentiment weakened in August compared to July as the Purdue University-CME Group Ag Economy Barometer dipped 8 points to a reading of 115.


This month's decline was fueled by producers' weaker perception of current conditions both on their farms and in U.S. agriculture as the Current Conditions Index fell 13 points to a reading of 108. The Future Expectations Index also declined in August to a reading of 119, 5 points below a month earlier.


This month's Ag Economy Barometer survey was conducted from August 14-18, 2023.


Although producer sentiment weakened in August, producers' rating of farm financial conditions changed little this month, as the Farm Financial Performance Index declined just one point to a reading of 86. However, producers' perspectives on farm financial conditions were noticeably weaker than a year earlier when the index stood at 99. Weaker producer sentiment this month did translate into a decline in the Farm Capital Investment Index.


The investment index fell to 37, eight points lower than in July and two points lower than a year earlier. Among producers with a negative view of the investment climate, the increase in prices for farm machinery and new construction along with rising interest rates were the two most commonly cited reasons for their negative view.


In a related question, over half (60%) of producers in this month's survey said they expect interest rates to rise in the upcoming year.


To read the entire report click here.

Agri-Pulse reports:


Economists with the Food and Agricultural Policy Research Institute at the University of Missouri have lowered their projections for corn and soybean prices over the next few years. However, the price of soybeans in particular is expected to remain well above the prices that would trigger payments under the Price Loss Coverage program.


FAPRI estimates soybean prices will drop from $12.88 a bushel for this year's crop to $10.94 for 2024 and $10.55 for 2025 before rebounding somewhat due to growing biofuel demand.


The average price of corn is expected to drop from last year's $6.80 a bushel to $4.94 for this year's crop and then down to $4.24 for the 2026 harvest. That 2026 price estimate would be just below the projected effective PLC reference price for corn, potentially triggering payments to farmers.


Take note: FAPRI expects the use of biomass-based diesel to increase by more than a billion gallons from 2022 through 2028, while domestic use of ethanol remains flat.


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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.