This new service is a result of the state budget saga in Texas. This year we have seen the “tightening of the belt”. The Texas Department of Agriculture(TDA) is dealing with a 40% cut in their budget. On of the actions that had been taken by them is to close two of the three seed testing laboratories in this state. It was this closings that I was called to a meeting, back in June, with some TDA folks about the Texas Plant Disease Diagnostic Lab picking up the sorghum ergot testing. Apparently some countries still require for the sorghum seeds to be tested for ergot prior to being able to ship into their land. Furthermore, it was put to me as a service to help our Texas seed industry to check and ensure that our sorghum seeds are “clean”.
So the past couple of months has been used to study the documents that TDA used and to generate a submission form that would capture the necessary information as well as fit into our database system. Thankfully this is a rather simple procedure albeit tedious. With the transfer of some existing equipment from TDA, a laboratory has been set up in Petersen Building, home of the Department of Plant Pathology & Microbiology at Texas A&M University.
With the set up of new services, I have to consider cost of personnel time and supplies for lab maintenance and procedural execution. After much thought, a service charge of $10 is set for sorghum ergot testing of 1 sample or a batch of 5 small (<50g) sample. I hope that this service will be used and it WOULD help our Texas growers and seed companies.