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Insignum AgTech develops plant genetic traits that enable plants to ‘talk’ and signal to farmers when specific plant stresses beginInsignum AgTech develops plant genetic traits that enable plants to ‘talk’ and signal to farmers when specific plant stresses begin
Dec 14

TSTA Weekly Update, 12/14/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

Member News


Growout Update Growouts were planted last week in Costa Rica and are being planted this week in Puerto Rico. Jeb reports the process went very smoothly in Costa Rica and they began irrigating this week.

Call for your input on discussion topics at the Texas Seed Trade Association Annual Meeting in February 2024.


Last year's meeting was very successful and received high marks from participants for topics as well as format. The meeting was largely comprised of brief presentations followed by panel discussions with an open Q&A format. We look to maintain the overall format this coming year but desire your input regarding subject matter for discussion.


The choices include:


  • Plant Variety Protection advances over the last year
  • Relative merits of PVP versus plant patents
  • Trends in seed segments; where's the market headed for members?
  • Seed treatment and advancing regulation of treated seed
  • Cover crop market development linked with government programs
  • How can we help limit brown bag seed distribution in Texas?


Please let us know your preferences via a return email by hitting "reply" to this issue of the Weekly Update. Please list your preferences in your return email. If you want to talk about something not on "the list" please let us know and make a suggestion.


We will have registration portals available shortly but please reserve February 11 & 12 and we'll see you at Horseshoe Bay!

By Ludwig Burger and Patricia Weiss, Reuters


FRANKFURT - BASF (BASFn.DE) plans to turn its agriculture, battery materials and coatings businesses into autonomous units to try to boost earnings, a major revamp for the German chemicals giant that has traditionally been highly integrated.


The company, with sales of 87 billion euros ($94 billion) last year, will create legally separate entities for the three units, trade union IGBCE said in a statement on Thursday, which was confirmed by a company spokesperson.


However, "there is no intention to sell these businesses," CEO Martin Brudermueller said during an investor conference. He earlier said external investment partners could be taken on board to share the cost of expanding the battery business.


BASF has already made its catalytic converter business, which relies on combustion-engine powered cars, a standalone subsidiary, which it said in October there were no current plans to sell.


BASF's shares rose as much as 2% before paring gains to close 1.4% higher at 45 euros each.


Other industrial groups in Germany, including ThyssenKrupp (TKAG.DE), have pursued separation moves, which are typically welcomed by investors who often prefer to buy shares in pure-play companies.


Bayer (BAYGn.DE), a rival maker of seeds and crop chemicals, last month said it was considering breaking up its business to improve a battered share price, while chemicals distributor Brenntag (BNRGn.DE) will reorganise into two independent divisions as it faces pressure from activist investors.


"When something is separated, people draw their own conclusions and expect a sale," the head of BASF's works council, Sinischa Horvat, told Reuters, although he said management had assured him this was not the case.


The revamp comes as Brudermueller gets ready to retire from BASF in April 2024 to become non-executive chairman of Mercedes Benz (MBGn.DE). Markus Kamieth, in charge of BASF's Asian operations and chief technology officer Melanie Maas-Brunner are vying to succeed him, a person familiar with the matter has told Reuters.


To read the entire report click here.


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

European Union - Broad support for plant breeding innovation at Council and European Parliament


In view of the discussions of 11 December in both, the Agri-Fish Council and the Committee on Agriculture and Rural Development (COMAGRI) of the European Parliament, Euroseeds welcomes the broad support for seed innovation expressed by co-legislators for the Commission’s legislative proposal on New Genomic Techniques (NGTs). These advanced breeding methods hold an immense potential for driving EU’s leadership towards sustainable and resilient European agriculture and food production as well as Europe’s competitiveness and growth. Unlocking this potential by a suitable and enabling authorisation system is a precondition for Europe’s public and private research to make the respective investments in Europe and for Europe.


On the developments within the Council of the European Union and the European Parliament, Euroseeds Secretary General, Garlich von Essen remarked: “Euroseeds very much welcomes the positive recognition of the need for innovation and modernized rules supporting it as expressed by a clear majority of Members States. While some work still needs to be done and some difficult subjects remain, we are confident that the Council can arrive at a broadly supported common view in the coming weeks.”


This interpretation is also supported by the respective vote of the European Parliament’s COMAGRI of the same day which confirmed the broad support of MEPs across political groups and delegations for an enabling legislation on NGTs in Europe, as von Essen points out: “This COMAGRI vote sends a strong message to the entire European Parliament and to Ministers in the Council. This is a key file for the future of Europe’s breeders, farmers and a sustainable agri-food chain. Let’s keep working hard and let us reach a general approach as soon as possible.”


In both, Council and EP, questions about the scope and potential effect of intellectual property protection around NGTs play a major role. Euroseeds fully recognizes the importance of this aspect and therefore strongly supports the announced respective study by the Commission. “Any legislative or other initiative in this area must bring legal certainty to all stakeholders and therefore should follow due process and be based on the proper dedicated legal framework rather than be part of these marketing authorization rules. We therefore consider such a study as the most suitable starting point for a thorough and informed discussion how to best achieve the desired balance in supporting innovators, safeguarding access to innovation, and broad societal benefit”, von Essen concluded.


Read Euroseeds' statement

USDA/APHIS determines that Insignum AgTech's corn plants can be sold and grown without restriction

Insignum AgTech develops plant genetic traits that enable plants to ‘talk’ and signal to farmers when specific plant stresses begin


WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — A ruling by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service allows farmers and growers to run trials on corn plants developed by Insignum AgTech. These plants use naturally occurring pigment to signal when specific plant stresses begin.


Insignum AgTech CEO Kyle Mohler said the plant turns purple to indicate that a fungal infection has started but is not yet apparent.


Mohler, who earned his bachelor’s degree in biochemistry from Purdue University’s College of Agriculture, founded Insignum AgTech in 2019.


The USDA APHIS decision and its impact


Nov. 14 news release from the USDA stated, “The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) recently reviewed 12 plants modified using genetic engineering to determine whether they posed an increased plant pest risk as relative to non-modified comparators.


“APHIS found these modified plants were unlikely to pose an increased plant pest risk compared to other cultivated plants. As a result, they are not subject to regulation under 7 CFR part 340. From a plant pest risk perspective, these modified plants may be safely grown and bred in the United States.”


Mohler said the announcement represents a milestone for Insignum AgTech and its customers. Mohler said the company will develop additional plant traits that utilize other natural pigments, like red or blue, to give an early indication of yield-limiting factors such as insect pests or fertility loss.

News Bits


By Todd Janzen, Janzen Ag Law Blog


I was fortunate to be asked to testify before the U.S. Senate Agricultural Committee recently about the impact of artificial intelligence (AI) on agriculture. Although AI and its simpler cousin machine learning (ML) have operated behind the scenes for years already, 2023 is the first time that AI and ML really entered the public discourse. It is clear to me that agriculture, like other industries, needs time to digest what AI means for the future. This post explores how to apply AI's often discussed legal issues to agriculture.


Bias. AI "bias" refers to the implicit biases in the values that determine which datasets are used to train applications. There are many ways bias might negatively impact ag tools, from selection of seed varieties, to breeding genetics, to fertilizer and pesticide application. A danger here is that diversity of choice is lost as AI tools favor certain products over others based upon biases that are unknown to the users.


License of Training Data. AI and ML require vast amounts of training data to make decisions that valuable and "correct". Some data is publicly available, but most will need to come from farmers. For technology providers, the important AI consideration is to make sure that training data is properly licensed from farmers. Otherwise, the AI predictions may be based upon unlicensed data and thing brings a host of problems surrounding ownership of the AI models.


Privacy of Data. We know farmers are concerned the privacy of their ag data. Most user agreements establish privacy protections for farmers for this purpose. AI tools should not be able to blow through these privacy walls. In other words, if a person working for a technology company cannot lawfully access a farmer's data, the AI tool at the same company should not have greater access (unless such access is licensed).


Ownership of Intellectual Property Works. AI has upset the traditional legal understanding of what it means to own a creative work, such as a movie, book, or article, which are protected from plagiarism by copyright laws. Can a computer generate a new, creative work? Or is any computer generated work simply derivative of existing works? The same issues might arise from AI tools used in agriculture--is the AI recommendation a protected company secret if generated by open source AI tools?


Antitrust and Anticompetitive Behaviors. Ag tech startups in the last ten years have largely reversed agriculture's consolidation trend from previous 100 years. But we should not assume this will always be the case. For the decades prior to the 2010s, there were fewer and fewer choices for farmers as one merger after another consolidated equipment OEMs, cooperatives, and ag retailers. With great size comes great power. Let's hope that AI does not just benefit the big players, lead to more consolidation and fewer choices, but instead allows smaller ag tech start-ups to compete.


2023 was the year of AI. I'm sure that 2024 will see even more AI tools arrive on the farm. What issues do you think congress should consider as this discussion advances?


To read my testimony before the Senate Ag Committee, click here: Innovation in American Agriculture: Leveraging Technology and Artificial Intelligence


National Association of Farm Broadcasting (NAFB) reports:


Senators Chuck Grassley, Joni Ernst and Tammy Baldwin are leading a bipartisan push to shed light on market factors driving the cost of fertilizer. Iowa Republicans Grassley and Ernst, along with Wisconsin Democrat Baldwin, have introduced the Fertilizer Research Act.


The legislation would require the Department of Agriculture to study competition and trends in the fertilizer market to determine their subsequent impacts on price.


Grassley says, "With fertilizer being one of the ag industry's highest input costs, it's problematic farmers have such a limited window into market fluctuations."


Within one year of the bill's passage, the Secretary of Agriculture, in consultation with the Economic Research Council, would be required to issue a report on USDA's website regarding the U.S. fertilizer industry. The report would include a description of impacts on the fertilizer market that influence price, market trends in the past 25 years, and impacts of anti-dumping and countervailing duties, among other research items.

New research offers insights into the biochemistry that makes grasses flower

University of Wisconsin release:

Pictured here are two Brachypodium plants. Researchers at UW–Madison have identified a gene known as ID1 that triggers a biological cascade of gene expression, leading to normal flowering. The plant on the left is flowering normally, thanks to the presence of ID1. In the plant on the right, a mutated ID1 gene has led to improper expression of downstream FT1 and FTL genes, resulting in a plant that continues to produce leaves instead of flowers.


Floral timing has major implications for agricultural crops because flowering is a key stage in their reproductive process. Biochemical pathways that lead to flowering have been extensively studied in the model organism Arabidopsis a plant in the mustard family. But little research exists on how these pathways differ in grasses – a distinct, agriculturally important family of plants. Now, new research by biochemists at the University of Wisconsin–Madison reveals a key component in the cascade of genes that regulate a key protein involved in grass’ flowering, offering insights into the onset of flowering in crops such as wheat, rye and barley.


What you need to know


Because they can’t uproot themselves and hunt for food, plants are exceptionally responsive to their environment, acquiring what they need to survive from their immediate surroundings. From sun, soil and rain, for example, plants access nutrients and water. Similarly, plants evolve mechanisms to make the most of their reproductive efforts by taking cues from their environment — flower too early and they risk frost damage; flower too late and the plant may miss the optimal growing season.


In many plants, the biochemical pathways that lead to flowering are triggered by specific daylengths (photoperiods) or exposure to the prolonged cold of winter (vernalization), ensuring that the onset of flowering coincides with appropriate environmental conditions. Some aspects of these pathways are similar across many families of plants. For example, all flowering plants require sufficient levels of a protein known as florigen to transition from the growth stage to the reproductive stage of their life cycle.


Regulation of the florigen family of genes involves a cascade of upstream genes turning on or off, creating a carefully orchestrated pathway that relies on environmental and biochemical cues. Arabidopsis thaliana, a member of the mustard family, has long been the standard model organism for studying plants, including flowering pathways.


But the genes responsible for regulating the onset of flowering differ across plant families. It is only since the early 2000s that plant researchers have worked with a model organism representative of temperate grasses: Brachypodium distachyon. As a result, little is known about the intricacies of florigen regulation in this plant family.


Why it matters


The timing of flowering can be essential to agricultural practices. Yields of important agricultural grasses such as wheat, rye and barley depend heavily on environmental factors such as pollinators, day length and temperature. Efficient harvesting relies on synchronistic timing of flower production across a field.


For these reasons, floral timing is a key trait that scientists consider when breeding crops to optimize yield. Discoveries about the genes that control the timing of flowering can offer key clues to plant breeders aiming to develop crops that are well adapted to a given climate, which, in turn, can benefit farmers’ crop yields.


How our scientists made progress


Researchers in the Amasino Lab in the Department of Biochemistry have identified a gene responsible for regulating florigen genes in temperate grasses. Their findings, recently published in PNAS, reveal new insights into the biochemical pathway responsible for flower production.


A suite of florigen genes known as Flowering Locus T (FT) and FT-like (FTL) genes are common to many temperate grasses. The researchers used Brachypodium to investigate how an upstream gene specific to temperate grasses, Indeterminate1 (ID1), impacts expression of FT and FTL genes.


The presence of ID1 was required for several FT and FTL genes to be expressed, indicating that ID1 is involved in regulating these florigen-producing genes. Among other findings, the researchers demonstrated that mutations to the ID1 gene suppressed FTL gene expression, which would result in delayed flowering even when the plant is exposed to optimal environmental conditions.


These results identify the ID1 gene as a critical piece of the flower production pathway in temperate grasses. The research is a crucial step towards understanding how the genes responsible for flowering in grasses such as Brachypodium differ from the pathways scientists have discovered in Arabidopsis.


Check out more in the Department of Biochemistry’s series Research in Brief: The What, Why, and How of new research exploring the world around us — and inside us.


National Corn Growers Association news release


The National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) is excited to announce the winners of the 2023 National Corn Yield Contest. This group of farmers put up some impressive yields and proved, once again, the ingenuity and resiliency of the U.S. farmer.


In its 59th year, the National Corn Yield Contest saw nearly 7,000 entries from farmers in 46 states. Entrants across the 10 production categories, including the pilot category for nitrogen management, Class J, had verified yields averaging 269 bushels per acre, compared to the projected national average of 173 bushels per acre. This includes a new national record yield of 623.8439 bushels per acre from David Hula in Charles City, VA, besting the previous record of 616.1953 bushels per acre.


"Year after year, the National Corn Yield Contest remains the most popular program for NCGA members," said Harold Wolle, president of the National Corn Growers Association. "It is an opportunity for farmers across the country to put their skills to the test and show the true craftmanship it takes to grow a successful corn crop, and the agronomic data generated by the contest each year helps provide valuable information for future success."


The 27 national, 526 state and 3 Class J winners will be honored by NCGA at Commodity Classic in Houston, TX, February 28 - March 2, 2024.


A complete list of the 2023 National and State winners can be found at


by Joseph Walker, Wall Street Journal


The gene-editing revolution is jumping from the lab to the marketplace.


The U.S. has approved the world's first medicine employing Crispr technology, a Nobel Prize-winning discovery that promised a powerful new tool for modifying genes to treat disease and improve crop production.


The new treatment, called Casgevy and developed by Vertex Pharmaceuticals and CRISPR Therapeutics, was cleared Friday for treatment of people with the painful sickle-cell disease.


The landmark decision by the Food and Drug Administration heralds a powerful new kind of medicine, one that turns off or replaces genes to tackle conditions that have long confounded doctors and researchers.


Several companies are developing Crispr-based therapies for diseases including heart disease, cancer and rare genetic disorders. Next-generation gene-editing techniques promise to make it easier to administer the therapies with fewer side effects.


How Casgevy works for sickle-cell patients

Sickle-cell disease is caused by an inherited genetic mutation that results in a dysfunctional form of the protein, called hemoglobin, that carries oxygen in the blood.


Casgevy goes after a different gene that, when switched off, allows for the production of a form of hemoglobin that is produced when babies are in the womb that provides a functional substitute for the malformed adult hemoglobin caused by sickle-cell disease.


The therapy's approval "shows the promise of genetic therapies that seek to treat disease at the source by making a targeted change in a person's DNA," said Jennifer Doudna, who shared a Nobel Prize in 2020 for her work helping discover Crispr. "It almost changes the way we define a medicine."


Casgevy is a first step in bringing Crispr-based treatments to patients. Unlike Crispr drugs in development, it gene-edits a patient's cells in a lab, rather than inside a patient's body.


To read the entire article click here.

World Agricultural Output and Productivity Growth Have Slowed

International Agricultural Productivity

by Keith FuglieStephen Morgan, and Jeremy Jelliffe


Agriculture draws on significant land and water resources as well as manufactured goods to produce food and industrial raw materials for textiles and biofuel to meet the needs of a growing world population. Increasing agricultural productivity helps meet these demands using existing resources. The USDA, Economic Research Service data product on International Agricultural Productivity tracks the total volume of global agricultural output (the amounts of crop, animal, and aquaculture commodities produced at constant prices) and the total amounts of land, labor, capital, and materials (inputs) used to produce this output for the world as a whole and for individual countries. Over the last six decades (1961 to 2021), world agricultural output increased at an average annual rate of 2.3 percent, faster than the 1.2-percent average growth rate for input use. This means world agricultural total factor productivity (TFP)— the ratio of total output to total input—grew 1.1 percent a year. In other words, improvement in total productivity was responsible for nearly half the growth in world agricultural production.


The accompanying chart shows the average rate of world agricultural growth by decade since the 1960s and breaks down the sources of that growth into the shares from four changes:


  • bringing more land into production (without changing yields),
  • extending irrigation to land,
  • raising yields by intensifying the use of capital, labor, and material inputs per unit of land, and
  • improving total factor productivity.

In the 1960s and 1970s, the additional use of resources such as fertilizers—known as input intensification—to increase yields was the main driver of world agricultural growth. Since the 1990s, growth in agricultural TFP has been the major source of output growth. Agricultural TFP increases when farmers adopt new technologies and practices that help them use their resources more efficiently. In addition, long-term investments in research and development (R&D) are key to determining how well agricultural TFP growth can be sustained.


From 2011 to 2021, world agricultural output grew at an average annual rate of 1.94 percent, far slower than the 2.74-percent growth of the previous decade (2001–2010). The slowdown primarily was tied to a slowing rate of growth in agricultural TFP, which declined to 1.14 percent a year in 2011–21 from 1.93 percent a year the previous decade. The effects of slower productivity have been widespread around the world.


Several factors may have contributed to the slowing growth rate for world agricultural productivity. Climate change is increasing the frequency of extreme weather events, which could lead to a reduction in average yields. Public and private investments in agricultural R&D may not be keeping pace with the need for new technologies, including technologies to address challenges from changing climate conditions, pests, and diseases. Lack of access to, or restrictions on, the use of some new technologies, barriers to trade, and global conflict and war also have had detrimental effects on agricultural production and productivity.


Source: USDA news release


As the world's population increases, the global agriculture system will be expected to provide more food. To better understand how the world agriculture system may grow in response by 2050, researchers at USDA, Economic Research Service (ERS) created a range of scenarios based on population growth.


Under medium population growth, production around the world would have to increase to 14,060 trillion crop calories to feed 9.75 billion people in 2050. This is a 47-percent increase in crop calories from a 2011 baseline. Crop calories, the total calories available from crops, are a measure of the size of global agriculture since crops can be either consumed directly as food or fed to animals to be consumed as meat, dairy products, and eggs.


In a high population growth scenario, 15,410 trillion crop calories would be needed to feed 10.8 billion people, a 61-percent increase in calories from the 2011 baseline. With both the medium and high population growth scenarios, researchers assumed that as per capita incomes rise, people would increase their overall consumption of calories as well as consume a higher proportion of animal products, such as meat and dairy.


ERS researchers compared these scenarios to a static diet scenario, in which per capita food consumption remained constant over time, providing a point of comparison to quantify the effect of income growth on food consumption.

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