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Play-Doh helps plant research

When plants are in distress or being fed on by insects, they have been known to send out sensory volatile cues that alert organisms in the area -- such as birds -- that they are in need of help. While research has shown that this occurs in ecosystems such as forests, until now, this phenomenon has never been demonstrated in an agricultural setting.


Origins and spread of Eurasian fruits traced to the ancient Silk Road

Studies of ancient preserved plant remains from a medieval archaeological site in the Pamir Mountains of Uzbekistan have shown that fruits, such as apples, peaches, apricots, and melons, were cultivated in the foothills of Inner Asia. The archaeobotanical study, conducted by Robert Spengler of the Max Planck Institute for the Science of Human History, is among the first systematic analyses of medieval agricultural crops in the heart of the ancient Silk Road. Spengler identified a rich assemblage of fruit and nut crops, showing that many of the crops we are all familiar with today were cultivated along the ancient trade routes.


The wheat code is finally cracked

The International Wheat Genome Sequencing Consortium (IWGSC) published in the international journal Science a detailed description of the genome of bread wheat, the world's most widely cultivated crop. This work will pave the way for the production of wheat varieties better adapted to climate challenges, with higher yields, enhanced nutritional quality and improved sustainability.


Model way to protect trees

Oak processionary moth and ash dieback are among the most notorious tree pests and diseases intro-duced into the UK. And many exotic pests and diseases are suspected of having been introduced, or are known to have been introduced, through the import of commercial tree planting material.


Dating the ancient Minoan eruption of Thera using tree rings

New analyses that use tree rings could settle the long-standing debate about when the volcano Thera erupted by resolving discrepancies between archeological and radiocarbon methods of dating the eruption, according to new University of Arizona-led research.


How do plants rest photosynthetic activity at night?

Photosynthesis, the process by which plants generate food, is a powerful piece of molecular machinery that needs sunlight to run. The proteins involved in photosynthesis need to be 'on' when they have the sunlight they need to function, but need to idle, like the engine of a car at a traffic light, in the dark, when photosynthesis is not possible. They do this by a process called 'redox regulation'--the activation and deactivation of proteins via changes in their redox (reduction/oxidation) states. What happens in light is well understood: the ferredoxin-thioredoxin reductase (FTR)/thioredoxin (Trx) pathway is responsible for the reduction process, which activates the photosynthetic pathway. However, scientists have long been in the dark about what happens when light is not available, and how plants reset photosynthetic proteins to be ready to function when light is resumed.


Trees and climate change: Faster growth, lighter wood

Trees are growing more rapidly due to climate change. This sounds like good news. After all, this means that trees are storing more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere in their wood and hence taking away the key ingredient in global warming. But is it that simple? A team from the Technical University of Munich (TUM) analyzed wood samples from the oldest existing experimental areas spanning a period of 150 years - and reached a surprising conclusion.


VOX pops cereal challenge

A plant virus with a simple genome promises to help crop scientists understand traits and diseases in wheat and maize more quickly and easily than existing techniques and, as its full potential is tapped, to work across a range of different plant species.


A conversation between plants' daily and aging clocks

Every day you get a day older. So do plants. While the biological daily clock ticks, time passes also for the aging clock. Scientists at the Center for Plant Aging Research, within the Institute for Basic Science (IBS), have found out how the two clocks talk to each other genetically. Plants' circadian clock - the 24-hour cyclic rhythm - plays a critical role in regulating aging, in particular in timing the yellowing of the leaves. As aging plants recycle nutrients for the new leaves and seeds, uncovering these timekeeping mechanisms is important to understand plant productivity.


Research Brief: No defense for some plants in the eat-or-be-eaten world of grasslands

If you're a gardener, you may not be too thrilled when insects, rabbits, fungi and other plant-eaters nibble their way through your world. But in two recent papers published in the journals Ecology and Ecology Letters, University of Minnesota researchers are showing the important role such plant-eating consumers play in an ecosystem's ability carry out key jobs like storing carbon -- and, in turn, the role plants play in supporting these organisms and the others that depend on them. The research was carried out at the U's Cedar Creek Ecosystem Science Reserve, a field research station just north of the Twin Cities.


Fresh insight into invasive plant that blights UK rivers

New research into the behaviour of an invasive plant seen on riverbanks across the UK could help improve the management of the problem, experts have found.


Hotter temperatures extend growing season for peatland plants

A futuristic experiment simulating warmer environmental conditions has shown that peatland vegetation responds to higher temperatures with an earlier and longer growth period. A study published in Nature revealed that turning up the heat accelerates spring greening in mature trees, shrubs and mosses and delays fall color change.


Blocking sunlight to cool Earth won't reduce crop damage from global warming

Injecting particles into the atmosphere to cool the planet and counter the warming effects of climate change would do nothing to offset the crop damage from rising global temperatures, according to a new analysis by University of California, Berkeley, researchers.


The value of seagrass in securing a sustainable planet

Researchers believe that improving knowledge of how seagrasses are important for biodiversity, fisheries and our global carbon cycle in turn needs to be reflected with greater protection for these sensitive habitats.


Matchmaking for sweet potato? It's complicated

Some relationships can be complicated. Take the one between sweet potato crops and soil nitrogen, for example.


Hijacking hormones for plant growth

Hormones designed in the lab through a technique combining chemistry, biology, and engineering might be used to manipulate plant growth in numerous ways, according to a New Phytologist study.


Corn variety gets nutrients from bacteria, potentially reducing need for fertilizer

Is it possible to grow cereal crops without having to rely on energy-requiring commercial fertilizers? In a new study published in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, researchers describe a newly identified corn variety which acquires nitrogen -- an essential nutrient for plants -- by feeding its sugars to beneficial bacteria, which can in turn take up nitrogen from the air and pass it back to the plant in a usable form. The variety of corn was initially observed in the 1980s by Howard-Yana Shapiro, now Chief Agricultural Officer at Mars, Incorporated, in a nitrogen-poor field near Oaxaca, Mexico. With the emergence of metagenomics in the mid-2000s, Mars, Incorporated and the University of California, Davis, partnered with the local indigenous community to investigate the corn. The research team was led by Alan Bennett and Allen van Deynze at UC Davis.


Forests crucial for limiting climate change to 1.5 degrees

Trying to tackle climate change by replacing forests with crops for bioenergy power stations that capture carbon dioxide (CO2) could instead increase the amount of CO2 in the atmosphere, scientists say.


Seeing the light: Scientists unlock seed germination process

Scientists have identified a key gene that helps seeds decide whether to germinate.


Top-performing soil microbes could be key to sustainable agriculture

Beautiful things can happen when plants surround themselves with the right microbes. A study on Acmispon strigosus, a plant in the pea family, showed a 13-fold growth increase in plants that partnered with a highly effective strain of the nitrogen-fixing bacteria Bradyrhizobium.


Each tropical tree species specializes in getting the nutrients it needs

Trees communicate via a "wood wide web" of roots and microbes in ways that enhance their growth and can reduce carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, mitigating climate change. But no one knows why so many tropical trees team up with bacteria to capture nitrogen from the air when they already grow in nitrogen-rich soils. A super-sized experiment at the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) to address this paradox showed that each species has its own unique nutrient-capture strategies, underscoring the importance of biodiversity for successful reforestation projects.


Combining on and off switches, one protein can control flowering in plants

As plants stretch toward the summer sun, they are marching toward one of the most important decisions of their lives -- when to flower. Too early, and they might miss out on key pollinators. Too late, and an early frost could damage their developing seeds.


Tropical forest seeds use three strategies to survive

The oldest living seeds found on Earth germinated after resting more than 30,000 years in Arctic soils. But in the humid tropics, seeds do not last. "A long-lived seed in the tropics is probably only a few decades old. This may not seem like much time, but it is critical to reestablish trees after deforestation and ensure species' survival," said Camilo Zalamea, post-doctoral fellow and lead author of a new paper in Ecology from the Smithsonian Tropical Research Institute (STRI) in Panama.


Groundbreaking poplar study shows trees can be genetically engineered not to spread

The largest field-based study of genetically modified forest trees ever conducted has demonstrated that genetic engineering can prevent new seedlings from establishing.


In the Journal of Experimental Botany: Key gene to accelerate sugarcane growth identified

Despite international breeding efforts, advanced agronomy and effective management of pests and diseases, sugarcane yields have been static for decades owing to constraints on culm development. The culm's sugar storage capacity is physically limited, restricting the volume of sucrose and biomass that can be obtained from the crop for sugar and second-generation (2G) ethanol production, according to experts in the area.


When the seed becomes a plant, it has 48 hours to survive

During germination, the embryo within the seed must develop into a young seedling capable of photosynthesis in less than 48 hours. During this time, it relies solely on its internal reserves, which are quickly consumed. It must therefore rapidly create functional chloroplasts, cellular organelles that will enable it to produce sugars to ensure its survival. Researchers from the University of Geneva (UNIGE) and the University of Neuch√Ętel (UniNE), Switzerland, have revealed in the journal Current Biology the key elements that control the formation of chloroplasts from proplastids, hitherto poorly studied organelles. Such a mechanism ensures a rapid transition to autonomous growth, as soon as the seed decides to germinate.


Natural habitat can help farmers control pests, but not always a win-win

Songbirds and coffee farms in Central America. Ladybugs and soybean fields in the Midwest. These are well-known, win-win stories of how conserving natural habitat can benefit farmers.


Plants can tell the time using sugars

A new study by an international team of scientists, including the University of Bristol, has discovered that plants adjust their daily circadian rhythm to the cycle of day and night by measuring the amount of sugars in their cells.


Animals and fungi enhance the performance of forests

A new study shows that, in addition to the diversity of tree species, the variety of animal and fungus species also has a decisive influence on the performance of forests. Forest performance comprises many facets besides timber production, such as carbon storage and climate regulation. The study is based on ten years of research in species-rich subtropical forests. A team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv) and the Martin-Luther-University Halle-Wittenberg has published the results in the new issue of Nature Communications. They illustrate that biodiversity must be viewed as a whole in order to maintain the performance of forests.


Can seagrass help fight ocean acidification?

Seagrass meadows could play a limited, localized role in alleviating ocean acidification in coastal ecosystems, according to new work led by Carnegie's David Koweek and including Carnegie's Ken Caldeira and published in Ecological Applications.