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Miscanthus species are bioenergy crops because they require lower nutrient concentrations to achieve more growthMiscanthus species are bioenergy crops because they require lower nutrient concentrations to achieve more growth
Dec 21

TSTA Weekly Update, 12/21/2023

Weekly Update from the Texas Seed Trade Association

We wish one and all a Merry Christmas, a Blessed and prosperous New Year!

Member News


Growout Update Growouts were planted two weeks ago in Costa Rica and last week in Puerto Rico. The Texas Seed Trade Association has remitted one half of the land rent and management fees to Gan Eden Farm in Costa Rica in accordance with our facility rental contract.


Invoices will be sent shortly to the companies participating in the growouts. We sincerely appreciate your prompt attention. The TSTA Board of Directors made a policy decision last spring that no growout information would be forwarded to participants until payment for the growouts was received from the respective participant.

The Texas Seed Trade Association Annual Membership & Policy Meeting Scheduled for February 11-13, 2024. Registration and Hotel Reservations are Live.


We'll do our best to build on a very successful format and timely topics from last year. We are investigating methods to assist your efforts protecting intellectual property from illegal brown bag seed sales. Other topics 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?


Registration is open and can be completed using this link.


Hotel reservations can also me made via the link.


The TSTA Board of Directors will meet on Tuesday February 13, in the morning.

National Corn Growers Association (NCGA) news release


St. Louis -- The National Corn Growers Association is increasing pressure on U.S. officials to reopen the recently closed Eagle Pass and El Paso rail crossings into Mexico.


"These closures will have an immediate and prolonged impact on corn exports to Mexico, one of our closest and largest trading partners, during a period of high demand," NCGA President Harold Wolle said today. "We urge our federal officials to resolve this issue quickly so the flow of goods between the two countries can resume as soon as possible and minimize the damage that has already been done by these abrupt closures."


The two rail crossings along the Texas border towns were closed on December 18 by the U.S. Customs and Border Protection as part of an effort to prevent migrants from entering the country illegally. Twenty-five percent of U.S. corn exports into Mexico go through El Paso and Eagle Pass.


On Thursday, the National Corn Growers Association joined other national ag groups in sending a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas calling for him to quickly reopen the rail crossings.


"Each day the crossings are closed we estimate almost 1 million bushels of grain exports are potentially lost along with export potential for many other agricultural products," the letter noted.


The letter also argued that the closures could have long-term impacts on U.S. exports.


"We are aware of grain trains sitting at origin in at least six states that are unable to move, and we expect this number to grow," the letter said. "We have also heard of customers in Mexico telling U.S. suppliers they will begin to look to other countries if the U.S. cannot provide a resilient and reliable supply chain."


Mexico was the U.S.'s second largest trading partner in 2022. Mexico relies heavily on America's grains to feed livestock that is now threatened by the rail closures. Corn grower leaders plan to continue to sound the alarms until the issue is resolved.


To read the letter click here.


Editor's Note: It seems there are a boundless number of consequences to this brief, but historic, disregard of national border security.

News Bits


Hoosier Ag Today radio network


If you're buying your holiday ham for your Christmas dinner table and you're confused over the date on the front of the package, you're not alone.


The use of food-date labels such as "use-by" and "best if used by" are causing consumer confusion that results in many Americans discarding food that is safe to eat or donate, according to the latest Consumer Food Insights Report from Purdue University's Center for Food Demand Analysis and Sustainability


The survey-based report assesses food spending, consumer satisfaction and values, support of agricultural and food policies and trust in information sources. Purdue experts conducted and evaluated the survey, which included 1,200 consumers across the U.S.


The Congressional Research Service recently reported that 7% of all U.S. food waste is because of date labeling confusion. "The goal of this month's CFI survey was to gather consumer perceptions about what these food date labels mean," said the report's lead author, Joseph Balagtas, professor of agricultural economics at Purdue and director of CFDAS.


The USDA Food Safety and Inspection Service defines "use-by" and "best if used by" as references to peak food quality rather than the date after which the food is no longer safe to eat. However, there is no official standard for food date labeling in the U.S., which leads to an unsurprising mix of responses as to what they mean.


"Over half of consumers connect "best if used by" and "use-by" dates with food safety, while over 30% believe these labels are related to food quality," Balagtas said. "This information problem is a kind of market failure and leads to waste.


"One potential fix to misinformation is for the government to set standards for food date labels to help inform consumers what is and is not safe to eat to help reduce food waste in the U.S. The recently proposed Food Date Labeling Act is an attempt to achieve that goal."


To read the entire report click here.


USDA news release


Farmers, ranchers, and forest landowners who experienced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs prior to January 2021 may be eligible for the Discrimination Financial Assistance Program. This program is an important step in delivering on USDA's commitment of providing financial assistance to those who have faced discrimination in USDA farm lending programs.


USDA continues to accept applications for the program. The deadline to apply is Jan.13, 2024. Borrowers can apply for assistance online via or through a paper-based form. The application process is not on a first come, first served, basis. All applications received or postmarked before the Jan.13, 2024, deadline will be considered.


Filing an application is FREE and does not require a lawyer.


On applicants can information on how to obtain technical assistance in-person or virtually, and additional resources and details about the program. Applicants can also call the free call center at 1-800-721-0970 or visit one of several dozen brick-and-mortar offices the program has set up around the country. Locations are provided on the program website and vendors will update the local events schedule with more information as it becomes available.


If there are concerns about working with USDA based on past experiences, USDA has partnered with community-based organizations to conduct outreach to underserved groups. To support producers throughout the application process, USDA is ensuring that organizations with extensive experience conducting outreach to farm organizations are able to support individuals who may be eligible for the program. These groups include AgrAbility, the Farmer Veteran Coalition, Farmers' Legal Action Group, Federation of Southern Cooperatives, Intertribal Agriculture Council, Land Loss Prevention Program, National Young Farmers Coalition, and Rural Coalition.


For more information, visit

Genetics of host plants determine what microorganisms they attract

University of Illinois release

By: Ananya Sen

Photos By: L. Brian Stauffer


Plants often develop communities with microorganisms in their roots, which influences plant health and development. Although the recruitment of these microbes is dictated by several factors, it is unclear whether the genetic variation in the host plants plays a role. In a new study, researchers from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign explored this question and their work can help improve agriculture productivity.

Miscanthus species are bioenergy crops because they require lower nutrient concentrations to achieve more growth.


“Previously, researchers have only looked at what kind of microbes are present in association with plants, but not what might be driving the formation of these communities and how we might be able to control these drivers through plant breeding,” said Angela Kent (CABBI), a professor of natural resources and environmental sciences.


Microbes form complex communities called microbiomes in and around the roots of plants. The host plants can dictate which microbes are invited into their roots—known as endophytes—using chemical signals. They can also alter the soil properties around the roots to influence which microbes can grow around the root surface, or rhizosphere. However, in order to breed plants based on what microbes they associate with, researchers first need to understand the extent to which plant genomes can influence the rhizosphere microbiome.


To answer this question, the researchers studied two native silver grass species—Miscanthus sinensis and Miscanthus floridulus. These plants are considered potential bioenergy crops because they require lower nutrient concentrations to achieve more growth compared to traditional crops.


The study was conducted in 16 sites across Taiwan and included a range of environmental conditions, such as hot springs, mountain peaks, and valleys, to represent all possible environmental extremes. The researchers collected 236 rhizosphere soil samples from randomly selected Miscanthus plants and also isolated the microbiome inside the roots.


“Although the scale of this study was unprecedented, we were mindful of the plant protection and quarantine regulations. We processed the samples in Taiwan to extract the endophytic microbial community and collect the rhizosphere microbiome,” Kent said.


The researchers used two types of DNA sequencing techniques in their study. The microbiomes in and around the roots were identified using the DNA sequence of bacterial and fungal rRNA genes, focusing on the part of the genome that is unique to each species. The variation in the plant genome was measured using microsatellites, which are small pieces of repeating DNA that can distinguish even closely related plant populations.


“The samples were collected 15 years ago, when the project was too large for the sequencing capabilities at the time. As the cost of sequencing came down, it allowed us to revisit the data and take a closer look at the microbiome. During sample processing, we also inadvertently extracted plant DNA and we were able to use that as a resource for genotyping our Miscanthus populations,” Kent said.


“We screened the host genome sequences for insights into how they can affect the microbiome,” said Niuniu Ji, a postdoctoral researcher in the Kent lab. “I discovered that the plants affect the core microbiome, which was exciting.”


Although plant microbiomes are very diverse, the core microbiome is a collection of microbes that are found in most samples of a particular set of plants. These microbes are considered to play an important role in organizing which other microbes are associated with the plant and helping with host growth.


The core microbiome that the researchers found in Miscanthus included nitrogen-fixing bacteria that have been found in rice and barley in other studies. All these microbes play a role in helping the plants acquire nitrogen, which is a vital nutrient for plant growth. Recruiting nitrogen-fixing microbes may help the plants adapt to different environments, but importantly, this capability contributes to the sustainability of this grass as a potential bioenergy crop.


On the other hand, the influence of the genetic variation among the plants had a lower effect on the rhizosphere microbiome, which was more strongly affected by the soil environment. Even so, the plants placed a greater emphasis on recruiting fungi compared to other microbes.


The researchers are interested in parsing out which genes play a role in influencing the microbiome. “The microsatellites do not have a biological function and are not representative of the whole genome. It would be nice if we could sequence the whole Miscanthus genome and figure out how the genes affect nitrogen fixation,” Ji said.


“Crop breeding is based on yield. However, we need to take a wider look and consider how microbes can contribute to crop sustainability,” Kent said. “The appeal of working with wild plants is that there is vast genetic variation to look at. We can identify which variants are good at recruiting nitrogen-fixing microbes because we can use fewer fertilizers on these crops. It’s an exciting possibility as we embark on adapting these plants for bioenergy purposes.”


The study “Host genetic variation drives the differentiation in the ecological role of the native Miscanthus root-associated microbiome" was published in Microbiome and can be found at The work was supported by the Energy Biosciences Institute at the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and the DOE Center for Advanced Bioenergy and Bioproducts Innovation.



National Sorghum Producers


National Sorghum Producers is pleased to announce the winners of the 2023 National Sorghum Yield Contest. " The winners of the 2023 sorghum yield contest are extended warm congratulations by National Sorghum Producers," NSP Board of Directors Chairman Craig Meeker said. "Despite a demanding season with weather highs and lows, remarkable top=tier yields are evident nationwide. We applaud the winners and eagerly anticipate honoring them at the 2024 Commodity Classic in Houston."


First place honors go to:


•Bibb and Nighswonger Partnership from Comanche, Kansas, in the Irrigated West division, achieving a yield of 218.64 bushels per acre - Dekalb DKS44-07;


•Howard DeShong from Lancaster, Pennsylvania, in the Irrigated East division, achieving a yield of 168.34 bushels per acre - Pioneer 84G62;


•David Knoll from Charles Mix, South Dakota, in the Dryland Tillage West division, achieving a yield of 183.32 bushels per acre - Pioneer 89Y79;


•Santino Santini from Warren, New Jersey, in the Dryland Tillage East division, achieving a yield of 221.06 bushels per acre - Pioneer 85P58;


•Mark Bloss from Pawnee, Nebraska, in the Dryland No-Till West division, achieving a yield of 181.00 bushels per acre - Pioneer 84P72;


•Chris Santini from Warren, New Jersey, in the Dryland No-Till East division, achieving a yield of 221.75 bushels per acre - Pioneer 85P58, and


• JnL Farms from Appanoose, Iowa, securing victory in the Food Grade division with a yield of 139.56 bushels per acre - Richardson G37


To view the full list of winners click hereEdito'

American Farm Bureau Federation news release


WASHINGTON, - American Farm Bureau Federation President Zippy Duvall commented today on the House of Representatives' passage of the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023.


"AFBF applauds the House for passing the Whole Milk for Healthy Kids Act of 2023 to ensure schools can offer additional nutritious milk options to students. In a letter to Congress, AFBF shared that milk is an important building block for America's children, but approximately 9 out of 10 children aren't consuming enough dairy to meet their nutrition needs. Unfortunately, whole and 2% milk aren't allowed in school lunch programs, limiting access to protein, calcium and vitamins at important times in children's development.


"We encourage the Senate to quickly follow the House's lead to promote healthy school meal options for America's students."


Editor's Note: Our son was in middle school when the Obama administration dictated skim milk only in schools. A quick check months after the rule was mandated indicated our local school district was throwing out thousands of cartons of skim milk every month that the kids simply wouldn't put on their tray. We sympathize with every dairy producer that doesn't understand what's wrong with 96.5% or 98% fat free milk. Hopefully kids will, again, take advantage of one of nature's perfect foods.



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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.