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Giving seagrass its due

Seagrass meadows play a pivotal role in protecting coasts against rising sea levels.


'Demographic compensation' may not save plants facing changing climate

An in-depth look at how plants respond to climate change shows mixed results for the phenomenon of "demographic compensation" as a way for plants to avoid severe population declines.


Designing microbial communities to help plants battle nutritional stress

Plants and microbes engage in a diverse array of symbiotic relationships, but identifying the specific microbes or groups of microbes that contribute to plant health is extremely difficult. In work published in the open access journal PLOS Biology, researchers devised a general experimental scheme to identify and predict which small groups of bacterial species can help plants respond to phosphate starvation, a form of nutritional stress.


Plants colonized Earth 100 million years earlier than previously thought

For the first four billion years of Earth's history, our planet's continents would have been devoid of all life except microbes.


Computer models allow farmers to diversify pest management methods

In order to help farmers in the fight against pests with resistance to both insecticides and transgenic plants genetically engineered to express proteins with insecticidal action, a group of Brazilian scientists have come up with computational tools that can give clues on the pests' habits, thus enabling decision-makers to choose from a wider range of new and more efficient strategies of pest control.


Farming crops with rocks to reduce CO2 and improve global food security

Farming crops with crushed rocks could help to improve global food security and reduce the amount of CO2 entering the atmosphere, a new study has found.


Study sheds light on how plants get their nitrogen fix

Legumes are a widely consumed family of plants that serve as a significant source of dietary protein, fiber, and other essential nutrients. They obtain nitrogen through a specialized process known as nodulation, a symbiotic partnership in which soil bacteria infect the root of a plant, form bulb-like nodules, and convert nitrogen into a plant-friendly form. Understanding how nodulation is regulated may aid environmental efforts to improve legume crop efficiency and reduce the need for chemical fertilizers.


Hunting is changing forests, but not as expected

When it comes to spreading their seeds, many trees in the rainforest rely on animals, clinging to their fur or hitching a ride within their digestive tract. As the seeds are spread around, the plants' prospects for survival and germination are increased.


New JXBot special issue: When and how to die

Every year, autumn or fall brings plant senescence to us in spectacular fashion: changing leaf colour, then leaves shed and bare branches. Where seasonal change is more subtle, nevertheless the demise of leaves is always around even as new growth emerges. Beneath this, underlying metabolic change in dying leaves and redistribution of nutrients is fundamental to survival. But we still don’t know how plants ‘know’ when and how to die. This open question is at the heart of the latest special issue from Journal of Experimental Botany, introduced by editors Hye Ryun Woo, Céline Masclaux-Daubresse and Pyung Ok Lim.


Plant survival under high salinity: Plant cell wall sensing mechanism

An international collaboration of plant researchers this week reports yet another newly discovered role for the versatile receptor kinase, FERONIA, in the model plant Arabidopsis. The researchers say it acts as a sensor in the plant cell wall to help maintain its integrity and protect the plant from environmental assaults.


Problems with herbicide-resistant weeds become crystal clear

Herbicide-resistant weeds are threatening food security, but University of Queensland researchers are one step closer to a solution after a new discovery.


Deforestation in the tropics

Tropical forests around the world play a key role in the global carbon cycle and harbour more than half of the species worldwide. However, increases in land use during the past decades caused unprecedented losses of tropical forest. Scientists at the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ) have adapted a method from physics to mathematically describe the fragmentation of tropical forests. In the scientific journal Nature, they explain how this allows to model and understand the fragmentation of forests on a global scale. They found that forest fragmentation in all three continents is close to a critical point beyond which fragment number will strongly increase. This will have severe consequences for biodiversity and carbon storage.


Light determines the genes that function in plant growth

A new study from the laboratory of Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) Professor Taku Demura shows how light modulates the expression of three genes crucial for xylem formation in cotyledons (plant embryonic leaves). The xylem is the structure through which water transverses the entire plant body and the best-known type is wood. The findings, which can be read in Plant Physiology, give insights into how gene expression can be controlled to artificially enhance or retard plant growth.


Target of rapamycin: Linking cytosolic and chloroplast ribosome biogenesis in plants

Scientists at Tokyo Institute of Technology (Tokyo Tech) have found that eukaryotic and bacterial growth regulation systems of independent origins are connected to the control of chloroplast rRNA transcription in a primitive red alga.


Cover crops in nitrogen's circle of life

A circle of life-and nitrogen-is playing out in farms across the United States. And researchers are trying to get the timing right.


Building a DNA barcode library for the Canadian flora using herbarium collections

The dry, mothball-scented stacks of a herbarium might seem to be far away from the cutting edge of plant science. However, the curated plant specimens stored there contain irreplaceable genetic, morphological, ecological, and chemical information just waiting to be analyzed with modern techniques. In a new study in a recent issue of Applications in Plant Sciences, Dr. Maria Kuzmina at the University of Guelph and colleagues tapped this trove of information, showing that herbarium specimens can yield viable DNA barcode libraries.


Genetic limits threaten chickpeas, a globally critical food

Perhaps you missed the news that the price of hummus has spiked in Great Britain. The cause, as the New York Times reported on February 8: drought in India, resulting in a poor harvest of chickpeas. Far beyond making dips for pita bread, chickpeas are a legume of life-and-death importance -- especially in India, Pakistan, and Ethiopia where 1 in 5 of the world's people depend on them as their primary source of protein.


Weeds out of control

Herbicides can no longer control the weeds that threaten crop productivity and food security in the UK because the plants have evolved resistance, and future control must depend on management strategies that reduce reliance on chemicals.


Plants feel the heat

It's not just humans and animals that suffer when the mercury rises, plants feel the heat too. Heat stress is a major issue in agriculture and can significantly reduce crop yield. Even small increases in temperature can affect plant growth and development. While plants cannot move to a shady spot to escape the heat, they have developed strategies to protect themselves from heat stress when the sun comes out; however, how plants sense and respond to heat stress is not fully understood.


Scientists identify factors which drive the evolution of herbicide resistance

Scientists from the University of Sheffield have identified factors which are driving the evolution of herbicide resistance in crops - something which could also have an impact on medicine as well as agriculture.


Another blow to fungal infection: resistance gene to Septoria discovered in wheat

What is so encouraging about the first successful unpicking of a wheat gene that confers resistance to a devastating fungal disease is the promise it holds for deciphering other resistance genes, en route to a natural barrier to infection, at a time when the fungus has already developed tolerance to most types of fungicides.


Global warming could cause key culinary crops to release seeds prematurely

Climate change is threatening crop yields worldwide, yet little is known about how global warming will confuse normal plant physiology. Researchers in the UK now show that higher temperatures accelerate seed dispersal in crop species belonging to the cabbage and mustard plant family, limiting reproductive success, and this effect is mediated by a gene called INDEHISCENT. The findings appear in the journal Molecular Plant.


Mutation in single rice gene cancels interspecific hybrid sterility

Scientists successfully employed mutagenesis to identify the gene that causes hybrid sterility in rice, which is a major reproductive barrier between species.


Researchers raise a 170-million-year question over mysterious moss gene

Researchers have identified a fused gene in moss that provides insight into how cells build their external walls. The same discovery raises questions about the one-of-a-kind gene that features two distinct proteins that participate in two distinct functions.


First report in decades of a forgotten crop pathogen calls for critical close monitoring

Scientists, breeders, farmers and conservation groups must continue to work in close collaboration to prepare for the potential re-emergence of a forgotten crop pathogen, a new study advises today.


Sweet route to greater yields

Three years ago, biotechnologists demonstrated in field trials that they could increase the productivity of maize by introducing a rice gene into the plant that regulated the accumulation of sucrose in kernels and led to more kernels per maize plant.


Snacking snakes act as 'ecosystem engineers' in seed dispersal

Despite the bad rap snakes often get, they are more central to ecology than most people realize. New research reveals that snakes might even play a key role in dispersing plant seeds.


Could an 8-million-year-old gene help the citrus industry? Researchers think so

After 100 years of assertions about the roots of citrus, a global group of scientists -- including a University of Florida professor -- has traced the evolutionary history of Florida's signature crop up to 8 million years ago in the Himalayas of Southeast Asia.


A genetic trigger adds branches to plants, could boost crop yields

When it comes to agriculture from branched plants, such as apple trees, the more branches that bear fruit, the better. But in the real world, there's a limit to the number of branches that plants make -- a gene tends to put the brakes on this splitting process called shoot branching. In ACS Central Science, researchers reveal a chemical that can reverse this limitation, possibly leading to improved crop production.


Increased UV from ozone depletion sterilizes trees

Pine trees become temporarily sterile when exposed to ultraviolet radiation as intense as some scientists believe the Earth experienced 252 million years ago during the planet's largest mass extinction, lending support to the theory that ozone depletion contributed to the crisis.