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Sweet bribes for ants are key to crops bearing fruit, study shows

Flowering crops such as beans and cotton offer their sweetest nectar to recruit colonizing ants in a strategy that balances their need for defense and to reproduce, research suggests.


Australian origin likely for iconic New Zealand tree

Ancestors of the iconic New Zealand Christmas Tree, Pōhutukawa, may have originated in Australia, new fossil research from the University of Adelaide suggests.


Plants sacrifice “daughters” to survive chilly weather

Plants adopt different strategies to survive the changing temperatures of their natural environments. This is most evident in temperate regions where forest trees shed their leaves to conserve energy during the cold season. In a new study, a team of plant biologists from the National University of Singapore (NUS) found that some plants may selectively kill part of their roots to survive under cold weather conditions.


New perspective: Vegetation phenology variability based on tibetan plateau tree-ring data

How vegetation phenology on the Tibetan Plateau (TP), the earth's largest surface area above 4000 m ASL, responds to climate change, in particular to rising temperatures, has attracted much attention in recent years. An increase in growth activity of high-elevation vegetation on the TP may have a considerable impact on the regional carbon budget.


Algae: The final frontier

Algae dominate the oceans that cover nearly three-quarters of our planet, and produce half of the oxygen that we breathe. And yet fewer than 10 percent of the algae have been formally described in the scientific literature, as noted in a new review co-authored by Carnegie's Arthur Grossman in Trends in Plant Science.


Mathematical biology tackles destructive plant virus

Plant diseases pose a serious threat to global food security, especially in developing countries, where millions of people depend on consuming what they harvest.


Unusual soybean coloration sheds a light on gene silencing

Today's soybeans are typically golden yellow, with a tiny blackish mark where they attach to the pod. In a field of millions of beans, nearly all of them will have this look. Occasionally, however, a bean will turn up half-black, with a saddle pattern similar to a black-eyed pea.


Antibiotics promote resistance on experimental croplands

Canadian researchers have generated both novel and existing antibiotic resistance mechanisms on experimental farmland, by exposing the soil to specific antibiotics. The research is published in Applied and Environmental Microbiology, a journal of the American Society for Microbiology.


Mixed conifer and beech forests can grow more as they complement each other in the use of resources, unless rainfall is low

Complementarity between Scots pine and broad-leafed species in the use of the available resources, such as water, may increase the growth of mixed forests comprising both species compared with pure forests, those comprising only one. However, the lack of rainwater would reduce this advantage in those species that, like the Scots pine, do not tolerate shade, because the increased competition for water would not allow them to take advantage of the lesser rivalry for light.


Spatial database of the world's rice production to address research and policy questions on food security

Rice is an important food source for a majority of the world population. Worldwide, on average around 60 kilograms of rice is consumed per year per person. Researchers from all over the world, including from the ITC Faculty of the University of Twente, have developed the RiceAtlas: a spatial database that answers key questions like where, when and how much rice is grown globally. The database has just been made publicly available.


New approach to unlock the genetic potential of plant cell wall

Researchers from the University of York and the Quadram Institute have unlocked the genetic secrets of plant cell walls, which could help improve the quality of plant-based foods.


Promising peas' potential in big sky country

Farmers in Montana, and other parts of the Northern Great Plains, are shifting from cereal mono-cropping to a cereal-dry pea cropping system. This transition is not without its share of unknowns, however.


Earning a living in a changing climate: The plant perspective

There are many ways to make a living in a suitable climate but far fewer in a less suitable one. That may seem obvious for people living under various socio-economic stresses, but new research shows it also applies to the world's plants -- many of which are resorting to dramatic 'last-stand' strategies to survive in deteriorating environmental conditions.


Lianas stifle tree fruit and seed production in tropical forests

Woody vines, known as lianas, compete intensely with trees and their numbers are on the rise in many tropical forests around the world. A new study at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama shows that lianas prevent canopy trees from producing fruit, with potentially far-reaching consequences for other plants and animals.


Researchers team with Land Institute to boost perennial permaculture with native fungi

Consider the humble soil just below our feet. It's actually an intricate matrix of minerals, water, air, living organisms and decomposing organic material that supports every living thing on Earth. One vital part of this mix is microscopic fungi that have sustained plant life ever since there have been plants on the land.


150-year records gap on Sulawesi ends with 5 new species in the world's largest tree genus

It seemed rather unusual that the largest tree genus, Syzygium, containing over 1500 species, was only represented by about a dozen of records on the biodiversity-rich island of Sulawesi, the latest new species description dating back to the mid-19th century.


Is Palmer amaranth developing traits that make it harder to control?

Palmer amaranth is widely considered to be one of the most damaging and difficult to control agricultural weeds in North America. A lot of time and attention has been devoted to herbicide-resistant Palmer amaranth and the significant yield losses it can produce. Research featured in the journal Weed Science, though, shows other "life history" traits may be contributing to crop losses by making Palmer amaranth more aggressive and difficult to control.


Detailed new genome for maize shows the plant has deep resources for continued adaptation

A new, much more detailed reference genome for maize, or corn, as it is called in the U.S., will be published in Nature. In its accounting of the sequence of DNA letters in the plant's 10 chromosomes, the new version helps us understand as never before why maize, and not some other plant, is today the most productive and widely grown crop in the world.


Fractal planting patterns yield optimal harvests, without central control

Bali's famous rice terraces, when seen from above, look like colorful mosaics because some farmers plant synchronously, while others plant at different times. The resulting fractal patterns are rare for human-made systems and lead to optimal harvests without global planning.


Scientists find way to surgically strike out weeds that impede crop growth

By using a combination of fumigants, University of Florida scientists believe they can surgically strike out some weeds that otherwise get in the way of vegetable growth.


Protein target to halt citrus tree disease

University of Florida researchers may have come a step closer to finding a treatment for a disease called Huanglongbing, or citrus greening, that has been decimating citrus trees in the state. In work published in mSphere, an open access journal from the American Society for Microbiology, the investigators describe identifying a small protein from one bacterium living in Asian citrus psyllids — the flying insects that spread the disease as they feed on the trees — that can “cross-talk,” moving to another bacterium within the insects to silence so-called “prophage genes” containing viral material in the second bacterium, helping prevent an insect immune reaction that would likely be detrimental to both bacteria.


Forensic chemical analysis of wood could stop illegal logging

Tackling the problem of illegal logging is particularly challenging as it is often nearly impossible to tell where a piece of wood came from. Now, researchers in Oregon, USA, have developed a technique that uses the chemical fingerprint of a wood sample to pinpoint its origin to a smaller area than ever before.


Organic conditions boost flavonoids and antioxidant activity in onions

Five years ago, a highly publicized meta-analysis of more than 200 studies concluded that organic food was no more nutritious than conventionally grown food. Since then, however, additional work has suggested the organic foods contain more health-benefiting phytochemicals. Now, researchers have found that flavonoid levels and antioxidant activity in organic onions are higher than in conventional onions. Their investigation, in ACS' Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, is the longest-running study to address the issue.


Highly safe biocontainment strategy hopes to encourage greater use of GMOs

Use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) - microorganisms not found in the natural world but developed in labs for their beneficial characteristics - is a contentious issue.


Gluten-free beer from Witkop teff grains

For celiac patients and others on gluten-free diets, it seems like gluten is everywhere -- cakes, cookies and breads. It's even in most beers. But now, one team reports in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry that beers made with Witkop teff grains may be a good alternative to traditionally brewed barley beers.


First CRISPR crop could debut in 2020

The gene-editing technique known as CRISPR/Cas9 made a huge splash in the news when it was initially announced. But the first commercial product, expected around 2020, could make it to the market without much fanfare: It's a waxy corn destined to contribute to paper glue and food thickeners. The cover story of Chemical & Engineering News (C&EN), the weekly newsmagazine of the American Chemical Society, explores what else is in the works.


Small group of cells within a plant embryo operate in similar way to the human brain

A plant's decision about when to germinate is one of the most important it will make during its life. Too soon, and the plant may be damaged by harsh winter conditions; too late, and it may be outcompeted by other, more precocious plants.


First few millimeters of the leaf margin identify palm species in a new key to Syagrus

An incredible amount of information is contained in the very first few millimeters of the leaflet margin of species in the Neotropical palm genus Syagrus.


Newly identified gene helps time spring flowering in vital grass crops

Winter is no time to flower, which is why so many plants have evolved the ability to wait for the snow to melt before investing precious resources in blooms.


Safe technologies for thrip control

The International Centre of Insect Physiology and Ecology (icipe), Keele University and Harper Adams University (both in the United Kingdom), have received funding from UK Aid through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) project, to develop novel technologies for the control of bean ower thrips in cowpea and other legumes, as an alternative to insecticides.