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Scientists examine impact of high-severity fires on conifer forests

The ability of some Western conifer forests to recover after severe fire may become increasingly limited as the climate continues to warm, scientists from the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute (SCBI) and Harvard Forest found in a new study published in Global Change Biology. Although most of these cone-bearing evergreen trees are well adapted to fire, the study examines whether two likely facets of climate change -- hotter, drier conditions and larger, more frequent and severe wildfires -- could potentially transform landscapes from forested to shrub-dominated systems.


How plants form their sugar transport routes

In experiments on transport tissues in plants, researchers from Heidelberg University were able to identify factors of crucial importance for the formation of the plant tissue known as phloem. According to Prof. Dr Thomas Greb of the Centre for Organismal Studies (COS), these factors differ from all previously known factors that trigger the specification of cells. The findings of the Heidelberg researchers substantially expand our understanding of the metabolic processes in plants. Their results were published in the journal Current Biology.


From Elsevier: 200 Years of Flora - free access to all articles

2018 will mark the 200th anniversary of the journal Flora. To kickstart the celebrations, all journals in the Elsevier archives have been scanned and have been added to ScienceDirect. Articles published before 1905 are available via the Biodiversity Library, and all articles from 1905 onwards are freely available via ScienceDirect until March 2020 and can be accessed through this page: https://www.journals.elsevier.com/flora/news/200-years-of-flora-free-access-to-all-articles.


Barley genome sequenced

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Ice plant to help fight global warming effects on bioenergy crops

The unassuming ice plant could become an ingenious weapon in the fight against a warming climate that threatens to limit regions suitable for growing biofuel crops. Biochemist and molecular biologist John Cushman at the University of Nevada, Reno (USA) will create a gene atlas for the common ice plant that will help find ways to allow bioenergy feedstocks to better tolerate salinity and drought.


Application of statistical method shows promise mitigating climate change effects on pine

Confronting evidence that the global climate is changing rapidly relative to historical trends, researchers at North Carolina State University (NC State; USA) have developed a new statistical model that, when applied to the loblolly pine tree populations in the southeastern United States, will benefit forest landowners and the forest industry in future decades. The research, titled "Optimal Seed Deployment Under Climate Change Using Spatial Models: Application to Loblolly Pine in the Southeastern US" appears in the Journal of The American Statistical Association.


Genetic target for growing hardier plants under stress

The function of a plant's roots go well beyond simply serving as an anchor in the ground. The roots act as the plant's mouth, absorbing, storing and channeling water and nutrients essential for survival.


No biochar benefit for temperate zone crops, says new report

Scientists believe that biochar, the partially burned remains of plants, has been used as fertilizer for at least 2,000 years in the Amazon Basin. Since initial studies published several years ago promoted biochar, farmers around the world have been using it as a soil additive to increase fertility and crop yields. But a new study casts doubt on biochar's efficacy, finding that using it only improves crop growth in the tropics, with no yield benefit at all in the temperate zone.


Nature plants a seed of engineering inspiration

Researchers in South Korea have quantitatively deconstructed what they describe as the "ingenious mobility strategies" of seeds that self-burrow rotationally into soil. This is an example of the many ways nature uses biological geometry to provide plants with muscle-like capabilities.


Photosynthesis in the dark? Unraveling the mystery of algae evolution

Scientists have long studied which of the three primary photosynthetic eukaryotes (red algae, green algae, and glaucophytes) has come into existence first to unravel the biological mystery of algae evolution by analyzing their genetic information.


Open-source mungbean genetic information website enables better varieties

Scientists and mungbean growers around the world now have access to an open-source website containing the latest genetic information on the qualities of 560 accessions of mungbean.


In Journal of Experimental Botany: Ammonium nitrogen input increases the synthesis of anticarcinogenic compounds in broccoli

Plants need nitrogen to grow, and intensive agriculture requires the input of nitrogen compounds. However, classical, nitrate-based fertilization is responsible for considerable environmental problems, such as the contamination of surface and underground water due to nitrate leaching, and the emission of greenhouse gases, owing to the effect of the micro-organisms in the soil that use the nitrate and produce nitrous oxide, a significant greenhouse gas.


How Venus flytrap triggers digestion

Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) is a carnivorous plant. Catching its prey, mainly insects, with a trapping structure formed by its leaves, the plants' glands secrete an enzyme to decompose the prey and take up the nutrients released.


A better way to predict the environmental impacts of agricultural production

Consumer goods companies often rely on life-cycle assessments (LCA) to figure out the potential consequences of how they design products and source ingredients. This kind of assessment, while sophisticated, often lacks detail about how the products affect natural resources such as land, water and biodiversity.


Bergamotene in tobacco plants: Alluring and lethal for Manduca sexta moths

The tobacco hawkmoth Manduca sexta is an important pollinator of the wild tobacco species Nicotiana attenuata; yet hungry larvae hatch from the eggs these moths lay on the leaves. An interdisciplinary team of scientists at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, has described a gene in Nicotiana attenuata which enables the plant to solve the dilemma that arises when a pollinator is also a dangerous herbivore. The gene NaTPS38 regulates the production of the volatile compound (E)-α-bergamotene. At night, the tobacco flowers produce this odor which is attractive to adult tobacco hawkmoths, while during the day, the tobacco leaves emit the compound to lure predatory bugs to feed on Manduca sexta larvae and eggs.


Birds vs. bees: Study helps explain how flowers evolved to get pollinators to specialize

Ecologists who study flowering plants have long believed that flowers evolved with particular sets of characteristics -- unique combinations of colors, shapes, and orientations, for example -- as a means of attracting specific pollinators. But a recent paper in the journal Ecology suggests that flowers that are visited almost exclusively by hummingbirds are actually designed not to lure birds, but to deter bumblebees and their wasteful visits.


Sat nav for bread wheat uncovers hidden genes

Scientists have created the most accurate navigation system for the bread wheat genome to date -- allowing academics and breeders to analyse its genes more easily than ever before.


Scientists discover gene that influences grain yield

Researchers at the Enterprise Rent-A-Car Institute for Renewable Fuels at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have discovered a gene that influences grain yield in grasses related to food crops. Four mutations were identified that could impact candidate crops for producing renewable and sustainable fuels.


Cover crops may be used to mitigate and adapt to climate change

Cover crops long have been touted for their ability to reduce erosion, fix atmospheric nitrogen, reduce nitrogen leaching and improve soil health, but they also may play an important role in mitigating the effects of climate change on agriculture, according to a Penn State researcher.


Electronics to control plant growth

A drug delivery ion pump constructed from organic electronic components also works in plants. Researchers from the Laboratory of Organic Electronics at Linköping University and from the Umeå Plant Science Centre have used such an ion pump to control the root growth of a small flowering plant, the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana).


New method for tapping vast plant pharmacopeia to make more effective drugs

Cocaine, nicotine, capsaicin. These are just three familiar examples of the hundreds of thousands of small molecules (also called specialized or secondary metabolites) that plants use as chemical ammunition to protect themselves from predation.


Nearly two billion people depend on imported food

Earth's capacity to feed its growing population is limited -- and unevenly distributed. An increase in cultivated land and the use of more efficient production technology are partly buffering the problem, but in many areas it is instead solved by increasing food imports. For the first time, researchers at Aalto University have been able to show a broad connection between resource scarcity, population pressure, and food imports, in a study published in Earth's Future.


Geography and culture may have shaped Latin American and Caribbean maize

Variations in Latin American and Caribbean maize populations may be linked to anthropological events such as migration and agriculture, according to a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Claudia Bedoya from the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) and colleagues.


Deciphering plant immunity against parasites

Nematodes are a huge threat to agriculture since they parasitize important crops such as wheat, soybean, and banana; but plants can defend themselves. Researchers at Bonn University, together with collaborators from the Sainsbury Laboratory in Norwich, identified a protein that allows plants to recognize a chemical signal from the worm and initiate immune responses against the invaders. This discovery will help to develop crop plants that feature enhanced protection against this type of parasites. The work is published in the current issue of PLOS Pathogens.


New lettuce genome assembly offers clues to success of huge plant family

University of California, Davis researchers announced in Nature Communications that they have unlocked a treasure-trove of genetic information about lettuce and related plants, releasing the first comprehensive genome assembly for lettuce and the huge Compositae plant family.


Flammable floodplains are weak spot of Amazon forest

Peripheral parts of the Amazon forest were long thought to be most vulnerable to climate-induced collapse. Now, a study by an international team of scientists reveals in the scientific journal PNAS that seasonally inundated areas in the heart of the forest may be an unexpected Achilles' heel. Those floodplains turn out to be particularly prone to fire which may subsequently spread into the surrounding forest.


In search of the wild fava bean

Like all food crops, the faba, or fava, bean -- a nutritious part of many the diet of many cultures diets -- had a wild ancestor. Wild faba is presumed to be extinct, but Weizmann Institute of Science researchers have now identified 14,000-year-old remains of seeds that offer important clues as to the time and place that this plant grew naturally. Understanding the ecology of the wild plants' environment and the evolution they underwent in the course of domestication is crucial to improving the biodiversity of the modern crop. The findings were reported in Scientific Reports.


How can plants be grown beyond Earth?

Following a new NASA bill, passed in March by the US Congress and which authorizes $19.5 billion spending for space exploration in 2017, manned missions to Mars are closer to reality than ever before.


Key mechanism in the plant defense against fungal infections

Each year, fungal infections destroy at least 125 million tons of the world's five most important crops -rice, wheat, maize, soybeans and potatoes- a quantity that could feed 600 million people. Fungi are not only a problem in the field, but also produce large losses in the post-harvest stage: during product storage, transport or in the consumer hands. Also, it should be noted that some fungi produce mycotoxins, substances capable of causing disease and death in both humans and animals. Farmers use fungicides to treat fungal infections, but these are not always 100% effective and, moreover, consumer demands pesticide-free products.


New tool can help estimate genetically modified pollen spread

A recent study directed by the University of British Columbia evaluated the spread of genetically modified (GM) organisms to non-modified crops, with implications from farm to family.