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New approach to conserving tree species

Globally, forest trees are increasingly at risk from habitat destruction, pests and disease, and a changing climate. But the guidelines for effective preservation of a tree species' genetic diversity and adaptive potential have been limited to simple mathematical equations for crop collections from the 1970s, or best guesses based on intuitions.


Multidisciplinary team tackles agricultural threat to global food security

CLEMSON, South Carolina – Weak corn and sorghum stalks cause the loss of about 20 percent of the crops in the U.S. annually, and Rajan Sekhon and Christopher McMahan of Clemson University's College of Science are part of a multi-university consortium trying to find out why.


Jumping genes drive sex chromosome changes in strawberries

The transfer of gene cassettes across generations of strawberry plants has been shown to drive changes in sex chromosomes, according to a team led by a researcher from the University of Pittsburgh Department of Biological Sciences.


Computer models provide new insights for sustainable control of potato late blight

Wageningen University & Research uses computer models to develop sustainable management strategies in the control of potato late blight, caused by Phytophthora infestans. Francine Pacilly has recently receive her PhD on this socially relevant topic. Her research provides important insights for farmers, breeders, potato traders, retailers and governments. Resistant varieties can play an important role in sustainable disease control, but cooperation between stakeholders in the whole potato sector is required.


How will climate change affect plants, soil microbes?

Scientists know plant growth is affected by microbes in the soil. How that will change as the climate warms and rainfall patterns shift raises questions about future plant diversity and the potential risk to native plants, wildlife and even agriculture.


Alpine ecosystems struggle to recover from nitrogen deposition

What happens to high mountain ecosystems when you take away air pollution? Not much, not very quickly. A new CU research study finds that degraded alpine ecosystems showed limited recovery years after long-term inputs of human-caused nitrogen air pollution, with soil acidification and effects on biodiversity lingering even after a decade of much lower nitrogen input levels.


Study uses Herbarium samples to understand link between climate change and insect herbivory

When she set out to understand whether climate changes over the past century might be affecting how much insects were eating various plants, Emily Meineke decided to go straight to the source - the plants themselves.


Researchers Model Tree Species Distributions in Amazonia

Researchers from the Amazon Research Team of the University of Turku have succeeded in producing distribution maps for a selection of important tropical tree species in Peruvian lowland Amazonia. This was achieved by using machine learning methods that combine satellite imagery and field data. The study shows that it is possible to model tree species distributions at a spatial resolution that is fine enough to facilitate the practical management of forest resources.


Coastal strip in Brazil sheds new light on early farming

Humans may have been cultivating plants on a narrow coastal strip in Brazil as far back as 4,800 years ago, according to a new study.


Nitrogen fixation engineering in cereal crops moves a step closer

A new way of engineering nitrogen fixation has been discovered by a UK-China research team, bringing us one step closer to realising the goal of engineering a range of crops to fix their own nitrogen.One of the major factors that limit crop growth is the availability of nitrogen, but only bacteria and other single-celled microbes called archaea can take nitrogen from the air and fix it into a form that can be used by plants. The process carried out by these microbes is known as biological nitrogen fixation. Legumes obtain nitrogen from symbiotic nitrogen-fixing bacteria, but cereal crops including wheat and maize, rely on the availability of fixed nitrogen in the soil. In many cases the addition of chemical fertilisers is the only way to provide crops with enough nitrogen to ensure a good harvest.


Elucidating the Chara genome: Implications for emergence of land plants in Paleozoic era

Land plants dominate terrestrial flora, and our foodstuff heavily depends on them. How land plants evolved from aquatic algae has been a problem attracting much scientific attention. In 2011, Dr. Nishiyama, one of the present authors published an article in collaboration with other researchers comparing Chlamydomonas reinhardtii, the moss Physcomitrella patens, a spikemoss species (Selaginella moellendorffii) and the thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana). The comparison revealed that, after the separation of the ancestor of land plants from Chlamydomonas, a number of genes were acquired before the diversification of land plants. However, Chlamydomonas and land plants are distantly related with a divergence time of a billion years, so the genome sequences of green algae, closer to land plants, was of clear interest. In 2014, Dr. Hori and others lead by Prof. Ohta at Tokyo Institute of Technology published the genome sequence of Klebsormidium nitens, a filamentous green alga closer to land plants than Chlamydomonas; they showed that Klebsormidium nitens has genes important for living on land equivalent to those of land plants.


Blue-green algae promises to help boost food crop yields

Scientists at The Australian National University (ANU) have engineered tiny carbon-capturing engines from blue-green algae into plants, in a breakthrough that promises to help boost the yields of important food crops such as wheat, cowpeas and cassava.


Scientists clone virus to help stop overwhelming grape disease

A new discovery by Washington State University scientists could help grape growers roll back a devastating virus that withers vines and shrivels harvests.


Most land-based ecosystems worldwide risk 'major transformation' due to climate change

Without dramatic reductions in greenhouse-gas emissions, most of the planet's land-based ecosystems -- from its forests and grasslands to the deserts and tundra -- are at high risk of "major transformation" due to climate change, according to a new study from an international research team.


Global warming: More insects, eating more crops

Crop losses for critical food grains will increase substantially as the climate warms, as rising temperatures increase the metabolic rate and population growth of insect pests, according to new research.


Scientists decode opium poppy genome

Scientists have determined the DNA code of the opium poppy genome, uncovering key steps in how the plant evolved to produce the pharmaceutical compounds used to make vital medicines.


Drought increases CO2 concentration in the air

Land ecosystems absorb on average 30% of anthropogenic CO2 emissions, thereby tempering the increase of CO2 concentration in the atmosphere. But plants need water to grow. When a drought occurs and soils dry out, plants reduce photosynthesis and breathe less in order to save water and preserve their tissues. As a consequence, they are no longer able to capture carbon dioxide from the surrounding air and more CO2 remains in the air. While this effect can be easily observed in the lab, measuring its impact on the whole planet has proved quite difficult.


An ocean apart, carnivorous pitcher plants create similar communities

After a six-hour ride over increasingly treacherous roads, it took a full day's hike up almost 3,000 feet for Leonora Bittleston to reach Nepenthes Camp in the Maliau Basin, an elevated conservation area in Malaysian Borneo with a rich, isolated rainforest ecosystem.


New phase proposed in the relationship between figs and wasps

In an article published in the journal Acta Oecologica, Brazilian biologist Luciano Palmieri Rocha has proposed a new phase of the development cycle of fig trees (Ficus carica) and their specific pollinators, fig wasps from the species Blastophaga psenes - one of the most studied cases when analyzing the evolution of mutualism.


Multiple facets of biodiversity reduce variability of grassland biomass production

A new study shows that, in addition to species richness, plant evolutionary history plays a critical role in regulating year-to-year variation of biomass production in grasslands. In the face of climate change, understanding the causes of variability in key ecosystem services such as biomass production is essential. A team of researchers led by the German Centre for Integrative Biodiversity Research (iDiv), University of Göttingen, and Senckenberg Biodiversity and Climate Research Centre (SBiK-F) has published the results in Nature Ecology and Evolution. They show that multiple factors, including biodiversity and climate, jointly reduce annual variation in grassland productivity.


Leaf molecules as markers for mycorrhizal associations

In nature, most plants establish mutual relationships with root fungi, so-called mycorrhiza. Mycorrhizal fungi facilitate the plants' nutrient uptake and help them thrive under extreme conditions. Researchers at the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, discovered that certain leaf metabolites can be used as markers for mycorrhizal associations. The discovery of foliar markers provides scientists with an easy-to-conduct tool to screen large amounts of plants for mycorrhizal associations without having to destroy them. This new tool could contribute to breeding more efficient and stress-tolerant crop varieties for sustainable agriculture.


How the forest copes with the summer heat

Between April and August this year, Switzerland and central Europe have experienced the driest summer season since 1864. Especially the forest seems to suffer from this dry spell: As early as August, trees began to turn brown this year. A study by the University of Basel indicates now that native forest trees can cope much better with the drought than previously expected. It is, however, too early to give the all-clear as a consistently warmer and dryer climate might still put our native forests at risk.


As CO2 levels climb, millions at risk of nutritional deficiencies

Rising levels of carbon dioxide (CO2) from human activity are making staple crops such as rice and wheat less nutritious and could result in 175 million people becoming zinc deficient and 122 million people becoming protein deficient by 2050, according to new research led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. The study also found that more than 1 billion women and children could lose a large amount of their dietary iron intake, putting them at increased risk of anemia and other diseases.


Scientists solve 30-year wheat rust genetics puzzle

Researchers from the University of Sydney, CSIRO, the United Kingdom's John Innes Centre, Limagrain UK and the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) have isolated the first major resistance genes against the detrimental stripe rust disease that is devastating wheat crops worldwide.


Rare discovery of new fatty acids

Decades after scientists discovered hundreds of different fatty acids in vegetable oils, two that had managed to elude detection have finally revealed themselves to a team led by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and Huazhong Agricultural University in China.


Environmentally friendly farming practices used by nearly one third of world's farms

Nearly one-third of the world's farms have adopted more environmentally friendly practices while continuing to be productive, according to a global assessment by 17 scientists in five countries.


Tree species richness in Amazonian wetlands is three times greater than expected

Throughout the alluvial plains of Amazonia, there are immense forests that are flooded for almost half the year. These Amazonian wetlands encompass a wide array of types of vegetation in or near stream gullies, including blackwater (igapó) and whitewater (várzea) inundation forest, swamp (pântano), white sand savanna (campina), and mangrove (mangue) types.


Secrets of plant development unlocked

University of British Columbia researchers have discovered an internal messaging system that plants use to manage the growth and division of their cells. These growth-management processes are critical for all organisms, because without them, cells can proliferate out of control -- as they do in cancers and bacterial infections.


Getting to the root of plant evolution

Despite plants and vegetation being key to the Earth's ecosystem, little is known about the origin of their roots. However in new research, published in Nature, Oxford University scientists describe a transitional root fossils from the earliest land ecosystem that sheds light on how roots have evolved.


Kelp forests function differently in warming ocean

Kelp forests in the UK and the wider North-East Atlantic will experience a marked change in ecosystem functioning in response to continued ocean warming and the increase of warm-water kelp species, according to a new study led by a team from the Marine Biological Association and the University of Plymouth.