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Genome editing successfully used to induce chicory plants to accumulate important medical compoundGenome editing successfully used to induce chicory plants to accumulate important medical compound
Sep 22

TSTA Weekly Update, 09/22/2022

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association
Member News

Attention Sorghum and Millet Seed Producers


It's Growout time again. We've reached out to our friends and cooperators in Puerto Rico.  Carmen Santiago reports the Gan Eden Farm is a shambles and they lost nearly everything.  She reports they are resilient however and they intend to persevere and are  preparing for the Texas winter growouts.  Apparently not their first rodeo.  


First planting dates are scheduled for Costa Rica and are tentative for November 15.  


Please download the growout planning & intention form found here for more information and to submit your estimates. Thank you and we'll forward more info as it is available.  

Longtime TSTA Member, most recently with Remington Seeds, Darrel Blakeslee, is retiring this week.   We wish Darrel well in all his future endeavors.  

Western Seed Association will convene their annual meeting on Monday October 31 at the Westin Crown Center Hotel in Kansas City, MO.  The meeting begins with a reception Monday evening at 6:00PM and transitions into the ASTA Farm and Lawn Seed Conference on Wednesday November 2.  


Please visit for more information and to register for the event.  

ASTA’s largest event of the year, the CSS & Seed Expo 2022, will be opening soon for attendee registration, along with the new menu of sponsorship opportunities at all events for the coming fiscal year (July to June).

After 76 years, the CSS & Seed Expo returns to Chicago, IL for one last time this December 5-8, before the conference moves in 2023 to the Hyatt Regency Orlando for the foreseeable future.

With a theme of “Farewell Chicago,” the event’s website offers tools to submit your favorite conference memories for the many attendees who have been coming to Chicago each December year after year, many for over 30 years and counting.

Already featuring over 70 exhibitors, this year is anticipated to represent a return in full force after smaller numbers in 2021 due to the pandemic.

Visit ASTA Events at for more information.


Editor's Note: The Bears are going to Arlington Park and ASTA is headed to Florida. Please join us at the last Chicago CSS meeting!

Save the dates for the 34th Annual Texas Plant Protection Conference. December 6 & 7, 2022 at the Brazos Center in Bryan. Conference and Exhibitor/Sponsors registration is available on the TPPA website:


Don’t miss these outstanding presenters in the conference General Sessions:


“Global Markets Outlook & Impact on Texas Agriculture” - Dr. Mark

   Welch, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service

The Pesticide Forecast—Innovation, Opportunity & Challenge” –              

Chris Novak, President & CEO, CropLife America

“Fertilizer - Supply & Pricing Outlook” - Toby Hlavinka, President &    

  CEO, American Plant Food Corporation

“ Weather Patterns Impact on Texas Agriculture” Eric Snodgrass,                         

    Nutrien Ag Solutions, Science Fellow and Principal Atmospheric Scientist

“Gossypol-free Cottonseed Could Help Solve World Hunger”, Dr.

   Keerti Rathore, Texas A & M University

“Stink Bug Control In Sorghum” Dalton Ludwick, Texas A&M AgriLife

   Extension Entomology Specialist  

“Carbon Credit Contracts” – Tiffany Lashmet, J.D., Texas A&M 

  AgriLife Extension Law Specialist 

“Federal Pesticide Policy Updates” – Rod Snyder, Senior Advisor for

  Agriculture to the EPA Administrator, Washington, DC

The Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service is offering an industrial hemp field plot meeting for West Texas industrial hemp growers on Sept. 28.


The event will be from 3-4:30 p.m. at the Texas A&M AgriLife Research and Extension Center in Lubbock, 1102 East Drew St., formerly Farm-to-Market Road 1294. There is no charge for the program.


The event will include discussions of agronomics, irrigation requirements, variety adaptations and seed quality. Attendees will view hemp fiber and grain variety trial plots at the center.


For further information, contact Trostle at 806-746-6101 or .

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!


9/22/22 - 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!

News Bits


The USDA's national condition ratings for corn and soybeans dipped slightly last week. That's typical for this time of year as harvest starts to pick up steam.


As of Sunday, 52% of U.S. corn is rated good to excellent, down 1% on the week, with 87% dented, 40% mature, and 7% harvested, all behind their respective normal paces.


55% of soybeans are called good to excellent, 1% lower, with 42% dropping leaves and 3% harvested, both slower than normal.


21% of U.S. winter wheat is planted, compared to 17% on average, and 2% has emerged, matching the usual rate.


94% of spring wheat is harvested, in-line with the five-year average.


33% of cotton is in good to excellent shape, unchanged, with 59% of bolls opening, compared to 51% typically in mid-September, and 11% harvested, in-line with five-year average.


45% of rice is harvested, compared to 51% on average, and 72% of the crop is in good to excellent condition, unchanged.


28% of U.S. pastures and rangelands are rated good to excellent, 1% below a week ago.


the National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) raised questions on President Biden's Executive Order on Advancing Biotechnology and Biomanufacturing Innovation for a Sustainable, Safe, and Secure American Bioeconomy, following its release last week.


"We encourage the administration to support the biotechnology innovations already occurring in the cattle industry. Technology like gene editing is critical to improving cattle health and wellbeing, while also helping the U.S. cattle industry demonstrate climate neutrality by 2040. These tools are necessary to build on our legacy as sustainable providers of beef to consumers in the U.S. and around the world," said NCBA President Don Schiefelbein.


"Unfortunately, we are extremely disappointed that this Executive Order also addresses fake meat production under the guise of food security. Supporting cell-cultured, fake meat products is the wrong approach and the administration should remain focused on supporting America's farmers and ranchers."


Cattle producers play an important role in ensuring food security and NCBA has long fought for policies that help producers remain in business while raising the highest quality beef in the world. 


Precision Farming Dealer magazine reports:


Precision dealers looking to add a sales agronomist to their staff should expect to pay an annual salary of around $60,000, according to the Scoop's 2022 Salary Survey.


The average base salary for an entry-level sales agronomist is $60,448, up nearly $12,000 from 2021, according to survey data.


Of the employers surveyed, 95% agreed that more experience equates to a higher salary for entry level sales agronomists and 65% said more education leads to higher salary expectations as well. The top salary for a sales agronomist was $95,623, among those surveyed.


The survey received 125 responses, with the majority coming from companies in Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, Nebraska and Indiana.


"For sales agronomists, the top two ways to increase overall salary were meeting bonus goals and increasing duties or responsibilities," The Scoop's survey analyst says. "Over the past 3 years, the benefits offered to employees have increased or been flat in all categories."

Seed trade crucial to curb global food insecurity

Nyon, Switzerland, International Seed Federation


With tensions in the Black Sea and the COVID-19 pandemic having disrupted food and fertilizer trade – exacerbating hunger in many parts of the world – seed trade is now on the spotlight as the next crucial element to ease global food insecurity.



The International Seed Federation (ISF) gave its support to the World Trade Organization (WTO)’s calls for securing seed trade and highlighted its role in protecting the food supply chain in the long-term through:


  • Increased access by growers to seed as the essential first input in farming
  • Higher yield and greater food diversification via improved crop varieties adapted to local conditions
  • Mitigating climate change impacts through the development of climate resilient and resource-efficient crops

Representatives of the private seed sector will join the WTO Trade Dialogue on Food on Thursday, 22 September, led by UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) chief economist Maximo Torero.


This dialogue comes on the heels of the WTO’s 12th Ministerial Conference where commitments were made to facilitate trade and improve the functioning and resilience of global markets.



“We know the devastating impacts of trade disruptions to agriculture and food supply,” said Michael Keller, ISF Secretary General. “ISF, which represents the private seed sector at the international level and whose members account for 96% of global seed trade, calls for a concerted emergency response to the unfolding global food crisis. We seek urgent and critical discussions with our partners in the food supply chain to achieve Zero Hunger targets outlined in the 2030 Agenda.”



Food prices have been escalating worldwide, with some 25 countries reacting to higher food prices by adopting export restrictions affecting over 8 percent of global food trade*. Complicating the food supply response is the doubling of fertilizer prices** over the last 12 months due to record-high costs of inputs like natural gas. The World Food Programme reports*** that the number of acute food insecure people has increased to 345 million in 82 countries. Beyond the short term, climate change is structurally affecting agriculture productivity and threatening food supply.



On a global level, approximately 7 million metric tons of seed are imported every year. ISF notes that the price of seed has remained rather stable compared to other agricultural inputs. Innovation within the sector is a consistent priority: seed companies invest as much as 30% of profits in R&D to develop resource-efficient and low-input new varieties that require less water, tolerate drought and extreme weather, improve soil health by boosting natural nutrients, capture carbon through enhanced root systems, and others. These crop varieties provide significant yield increases for farmers, helping improve farm productivity and food supply without increasing land use and other inputs.



In July, the WTO, FAO, WFP, International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank Group released a joint statement calling for urgent action to address the global food crisis. ISF outlines its contributions in the areas of sustainable food production, efficient trade, seed choice for farmers, and plant breeding innovation to set the path in the short and medium term in the four key areas outlined by the signatories of the joint statement. This response is based on the Seed Sector Declaration signed in 2021 by more than 200 private seed companies and national seed  associations to demonstrate the industry’s commitments and contributions to the UN SDGs. 


*  Based on the WTO, Global Trade Alert and World Bank monitoring of trade policy changes since February 2022

** Source:

*** June 2022

Genome editing successfully used to induce chicory plants to accumulate important medical compound

Wageningen, The Netherlands


An international research team from KeyGene and Wageningen University & Research, both in the Netherlands, and Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry in Germany, have developed chicory plants that accumulate costunolide, a plant metabolite known for its anti-cancer activity. The scientists used the genome editing technique CRISPR Cas9 to block further processing of costunolide into other plant metabolites, resulting in the accumulation of the medical compound. The team published their results in a paper in Frontiers in Plant Science.


Costunolide was first extracted from Saussurea costus, a wild plant growing in the Himalayas, which is now cultivated in India, having a low yield.

Chicory also produces costunolide but it does not accumulate because the metabolite is, serving as an intermediate, in the taproots rapidly converted to bitter-tasting metabolites belonging to the sesquiterpene lactones. For the production of these metabolites, the step from costunolide to kauniolide is crucial. This step is established by the enzyme kauniolide synthase. The research team identified three copies of the gene that codes for this enzyme.


All three of these copies are important: only after blocking the activity of all of the three, using CRISPR/Cas9, the production of kauniolide was blocked. This resulted in an accumulation of costunolide in the taproots of the chicory plants.


Read the full paper in Frontiers in Plant Science (open access).


This research is part of the EU-financed research project CHIC, which is coordinated by Wageningen University & Research. CHIC aims to support the establishment of a responsible innovation pathway for the development and application of New Plant Breeding Techniques (NPBTs) for chicory as a multipurpose crop for the production of high-value consumer products, in line with societal needs and concerns. The CHIC research consortium includes SMEs, an industrial partner, non-profit organizations, and research institutes from 11 European countries and one from New Zealand.

Texas A&M AgriLife to lead historic investment in Texas’ efforts to become ‘climate-smart’ - Texas A&M AgriLife Research receives largest competitive grant in its history

Texas A&M AgriLife release


Texas A&M AgriLife Research is anticipating the largest competitive grant in the organization’s history, up to $65 million, to execute a five-year multi-commodity project to work with Texas’ large agricultural sector on expanding climate-smart agriculture and forestry practices.


The grants are not just historic for The Texas A&M University System, but for the nation, as part of a federal investment in 70 partnerships recently announced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.


Texas A&M AgriLife also will serve as a major contributor to four other partnership projects totaling $185 million that focus on cotton, beef and bison production, and sorghum systems:


  • U.S. Climate-Smart Cotton Program, led by US Cotton Trust Protocol: This project, with potential funding up to $90 million, will build markets for climate-smart cotton and aid more than 1,000 cotton farmers, including historically underserved cotton producers, across the country.
  • Climate-Smart Cotton through a Sustainable & Innovative Supply Chain Approach, led by ECOM USA, LLC: This project, with potential funding of $30 million, will strive to implement methods to restore soil and ecosystem health in cotton production through regenerative farming and best practices based on specific regions and needs.
  • Climate-Smart Beef and Bison Commodities, led by South Dakota State University: This project, with potential funding up to $80 million, will create stronger market opportunities for beef and bison producers, educate producers on practices best suited for their operations and manage large-scale data.
  • National Sorghum Producers Partnerships for Climate-Smart Commodities Project, led by National Sorghum Producers Association: This project, with potential funding up to $65 million, plans to implement climate-smart production practices across hundreds of thousands of acres of sorghum working lands over a five-year period, with the goal to reduce hundreds of millions of pounds of carbon emissions and develop markets for sorghum as a climate-smart commodity.


For a comprehensive listing of projects and participating organizations included, visit:


University of Illinois release


A University of Illinois research team received a $1.85 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) to study photosynthesis efficiency in sorghum, an important crop for bioenergy feedstock. The grant is part of a $178 million DOE initiative to advance bioenergy technology.


Photosynthesis, the ability to capture sunlight and turn it into sugars, is necessary for plant health and productivity. It is the source, directly or indirectly, of all of our food, most of our fuel and all bioproducts. Most plants can adapt their photosynthesis machinery to increase efficiency in shaded environments. However, sorghum belongs to a group of plants that lose photosynthetic efficiency in the lower, shaded leaves within a canopy. This leads to a 10 to 20% loss of potential yield.


"Maximizing yield per acre is critical to the economic viability of bioenergy crops. The bioenergy sorghums are very productive, yet without this maladaptive response to shading, they could be even more productive," states project co-investigator Steve Long, Ikenberry Endowed Chair of Plant Biology and Crop Sciences and Director of Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) at U of I.


The grant project aims to study the causes of sorghum's photosynthetic inefficiency in shaded canopies, and to develop solutions to improve productivity and increase yield. The researchers plan to investigate transcriptional factors to determine which, if any, are involved in the maladaptive loss of photosynthetic efficiency.


"Molecular work in crops can be a huge challenge, because it takes years to develop transgenic lines and observe what the genes do. Our approach uses a transient system to deliver transcription factors directly to leaves, allowing us to determine their targets rapidly and in vivo," says Laurie Leonelli, assistant professor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering and principal investigator on the grant.


Transcription factors are proteins that affect the expression of multiple genes and control the development of many plant processes, Leonelli explains.


"We will look at changes in gene expression between the top of the canopy and the shaded part of the canopy and match these changes in expression to transcription factors that physically interact with their regulatory domain," she notes. "Once we know which transcription factors are involved in the loss of efficiency, we can start looking for ways to change their expression with the end goal of restoring photosynthetic efficiency in the shade."


This methodology will greatly speed up the process of determining transcription factor function, allowing the researchers to obtain results in months rather than years.


"We have two aims: One is to develop a system to study transcription factors in these plants much faster. The other is to use what we learn from our transcription factor studies to actually start attacking this problem of lost potential," Leonelli concludes.


Leonelli and Long will also collaborate on the project with Matthew Brooks, research scientist with the USDA-ARS Global Change and Photosynthesis Research Unit.


POLITICO reports:


If your host's inbox is any indicator, a lot of ag groups are very excited about the new $2.8 billion in climate-smart commodity funding doled out by the Agriculture Department.


But not everyone is thrilled, with some in the environmental community warning that the money is being directed to large conglomerates that they call repeat climate offenders and accusing USDA of greenwashing.


Chatter: "Most of the $2.8 billion in the Climate-Smart Commodities Program will line the pockets of the biggest climate polluters in agriculture," said Jennifer Molidor, senior food campaigner at the Center for Biological Diversity. "Rather than addressing Biden's call to mitigate greenhouse gases and break up the monopolies dominating corporate agriculture, the USDA is ignoring climate science by boosting the most harmful sectors in this industry."


Another climate group, Friends of the Earth, also lambasted the program. Jason Davidson, the group's senior food and agriculture campaigner, said it will "funnel tens of millions of taxpayer dollars to some of the most egregious climate offenders -Big Ag corporations like JBS, Cargill, and ADM."


Davidson keyed in on one payment, $60 million directed towards Tyson Foods to create climate smart beef, and compared it to giving oil-giant Exxon Mobil to create "green" gasoline. He said the "grants fly in the face of President Biden's executive order calling for USDA to combat consolidation in agriculture."


Still, a lot of folks are happy: The Organic Trade Association had a number of their members receive grants and congratulated them on being part of a "critical initiative."

The American Forest Foundation also received $35 million to expand climate-smart forest products markets for family forest owners, which the organization called "instrumental." The Nature Conservancy also got a $60 million payment for agroforestry, and lauded it. 


Editor's Note: Please reference last week's Weekly Update for the lowdown on where this money is being spent.  The article about A&M AgriLife, above, details some of it.  

Government Roundups 

TSTA staff and other sources


Rep. Glenn "GT" Thompson, Republican Leader of the House Committee on Agriculture, joined several of his colleagues in a letter to Michael Regan, Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and Michael Connor, Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, raising concerns about regulatory actions taken by the EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers which would expand the breadth of their regulatory authority under the Clean Water Act to regulate "waters of the United States" (WOTUS).


In the letter, the Members write, "One of the most serious instances where a presidential administration has sought to usurp the authority granted to it by Congress is in the attempts to revise the definition of WOTUS under the Clean Water Act. For decades, rural communities, farmers, businesses, and industries who rely on clean water have dealt with legal and regulatory uncertainty, compounded with confusing and overreaching Federal regulations over what is considered a WOTUS and subject to Federal regulations and permitting.


"West Virginia v. EPA suggests that there is 'reason to hesitate' with regard to this claim of authority given the two criteria outlined by Chief Justice Roberts: the history and breadth of the authority asserted and the economic and political significance of that assertion."


The Members continue, "As Ranking Members of several House Committees, including those overseeing your Agencies, we intend to exercise our robust investigative and legislative authority to not only forcefully reassert our Article I responsibilities, but to ensure the Biden Administration does not continue to exceed Congressional authorizations."


Editor's Note: WOTUS was a idea that was all about federal control over your lands with little practical effect on point source pollutants. It soared under the Obama administration, was cut to ribbons in the Trump era, and has been resurrected and pumped full of live-giving nutrients by Joe Biden. There is very little the federal government cannot do with regard to controlling what you do with your land via the current language of WOTUS.  


And more about regulations formulated outside normal procedures.


According to a new "update" from the US EPA chemical manufacturers will now need to consider ALL POTENTIAL exposures of new market introductions. This will be enforced regardless of the risks being judged to be sufficiently low as to be insignificant. This "updated" policy replaces a 1990s era rule hat allowed companies to ignore potential exposures below certain, very low, thresholds.  


The EPA claims advances in computational modeling will allow calculations for ALL potential exposures. In the press release the EPA said the new measures will better protect "overburdened and vulnerable communities." The EPA further opined that the new regulations will have "only minimal" impact on the time it takes to complete new chemical reviews. 


Chemical manufacturers disagree. With the virtually impossible task of modelling ALL potential exposures there is concern the state of computer modelling is not yet up to the task. Missing one, single, minor exposure potential, regardless of extremely low risk, may result not only in expensive regulatory compliance/remediation but exposure to massive lawsuits.  


The US EPA did not provide scientific justification for the change nor any peer-reviewed evidence the new procedures are accurate, affordable, or possible.  


US EPA Seeks Community and Worker Protection - Industry Claims Overreach


The EPA is, again, proposing changes to its 30 year old Risk Management Program (RMP) for chemical handling facilities. The additional regulations are necessary, according to the EPA, to protect "vulnerable" communities. A similar regulatory package was sped through the Obama administration following the West,TX fertilizer facility fire.  


New provisions mandate employee and community participation in oversight actions including incident investigations and compliance audits. The American Chemical Council estimates it will cost abut $80M annually to implement. The costs of compliance will be passed along to consumers.  


The American Chemical Council also expressed concerns that the current system is working well and the new regulations represent a departure from the collaborative and data-driven process already in place. Accidents, such as the one in West, TX, have declined by over 75% since the current regulations have been in place and industrial chemists see little chance of lowering that number pursuant to the new rules.  


Editor's Note: Regulations are, normally, the result of rule-making by an agency tasked with enforcement of a new law. Law's are difficult enough to influence and rule-making has always been considered even more difficult to influence as it is frequently done behind closed doors by agency bureaucrats. An "ingenious" method to exert more control over an industry, like chemicals, or seeds, is to "revisit" existing rules with an eye towards tweaking them. Sometimes this is necessary as technology progresses, new risks become apparent, or new information become known. Sometimes it is done simply to gain more control over a given industry and to make their business more costly and less profitable.  

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