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‘Exotic’ genes may improve cotton yield and quality

Cotton breeders face a “Catch-22.” Yield from cotton crops is inversely related to fiber quality. In general, as yield improves, fiber quality decreases, and vice-versa. “This is one of the most significant challenges for cotton breeders,” says Peng Chee, a researcher at the University of Georgia.


Excessive rainfall as damaging to corn yield as extreme heat, drought

Recent flooding in the Midwest has brought attention to the complex agricultural problems associated with too much rain. Data from the past three decades suggest that excessive rainfall can affect crop yield as much as excessive heat and drought. In a new study, an interdisciplinary team from the University of Illinois linked crop insurance, climate, soil and corn yield data from 1981 through 2016.


Scientists Reveal the Relationship Between Root Microbiome and Nitrogen Use Efficiency in Rice

A collaborative team led by Prof. BAI Yang and Prof. CHU Chengcai from the Institute of Genetics and Developmental Biology, Chinese Academy of Sciences (CAS), recently examined the variation in root microbiota within 68 indica and 27 japonica rice varieties grown in field conditions. They revealed that the indica and japonica varieties recruited distinct root microbiota.


New avenues for improving modern wheat

Since the Agricultural Revolution about 12,000 years ago, humans have been selectively breeding plants with desirable traits such as high grain yield and disease resistance. Over time, Triticum aestivum, otherwise known as bread wheat, has emerged as one of the world's most important crops. Together with the growing human population and the changing climate, the demand for wheat with a higher yield and additional resilience is increasing.


Close relatives can coexist: two flower species show us how

Scientists have discovered how two closely-related species of Asiatic dayflower can coexist in the wild despite their competitive relationship. Through a combination of field surveys and artificial pollination experiments, the new study shows that while reproductive interference exists between the two species, Commelina communis and Commelina communis forma ciliata, both can counter the negative effects of this interference through self-fertilization.


New discovery could alleviate salty soil symptoms in food crops

New research published in Nature Scientific Reports has found that a hormone produced by plants under stress can be applied to crops to alleviate the damage caused by salty soils. The team of researchers from Western Sydney University and the University of Queensland identified a naturally-occurring chemical in plants that reduces the symptoms of salt stress in plants when applied to soil, enabling the test plants to increase their growth by up to 32 times compared with untreated plants.


Early spring: Predicting budburst with genetics

Although climate skeptics might find it hard to believe with this year’s endless snow and freezing temperatures, climate change is making warm, sunny early springs increasingly common. And that affects when trees start to leaf out. But how much? In a study published in Methods in Ecology and Evolution, Simon Joly, biology professor at Université de Montréal and Elizabeth Wolkovich, an ecology professor at University of British Columbia, showed that a plant's genetics can be used to produce more accurate predictions of when its leaves will burst bud in spring.


Can sweet potatoes save the world?

Some foods are known as seasonal wonders, making an appearance only once or twice a year when families gather for holiday feasts. Cranberry sauce, pecan pie, eggnog. Sweet potatoes, typically with tiny marshmallows roasted on top, were once on that list. But sweet potatoes are on the rise. They have become increasingly recognized as a superfood packed with essential vitamins and nutrients, and are now enjoyed throughout the year — in upscale restaurants, as a healthier alternative to French fries, and in products as varied as vodka, sausage and muffins.


Banana disease boosted by climate change

Climate change has raised the risk of a fungal disease that ravages banana crops, new research shows.


Wax Helps Plants to Survive in the Desert

The leaves of date palms can heat up to temperatures around 50 degrees Celsius. They survive thanks to a unique wax mixture that is essential for the existence in the desert.


Tomato, Tomat-oh! Understanding evolution to reduce pesticide use

Although pesticides are a standard part of crop production, Michigan State University researchers believe pesticide use could be reduced by taking cues from wild plants.


Risk and unnaturalness cannot justify EU’s strict policy on GMO

The EU’s policy on GMO is extremely strict and prevents new GMO crops from being authorized. The policy is based on arguments about the risk and unnaturalness of GMO plants – but these arguments cannot justify the restrictive regulation, three researchers conclude in a new study in the journal Transgenic Research. They also conclude that the use of GMO plants is consistent with the principles of organic farming.


Research sheds light on genomic features that make plants good candidates for domestication

New research published identifies the genomic features that might have made domestication possible for corn and soybeans, two of the world’s most critical crop species.


With Flower Preferences, Bees Have a Big Gap Between the Sexes

For scores of wild bee species, females and males visit very different flowers for food – a discovery that could be important for conservation efforts, according to Rutgers-led research.


Plant signals trigger remarkable bacterial transformation

Cycad plant roots release signals into the soil that triggers the transformation of bacteria into its motile form, helping them move to the plant roots and establish a symbiotic partnership.


Targeting how fungi ‘taste’ wheat could be key to developing control

Exploring how a hazardous fungal pathogen ‘tastes’ its surroundings within a wheat plant to coordinate virulence could be the key to developing new control strategies, scientists believe.


Could computer games help farmers adapt to climate change?

Web-based gaming, such as simulation games, can promote innovative communication strategies that engage farmers with scientific research and help them adapt to climate change.


Gene-editing technology may produce resistant virus in cassava plant

The use of gene-editing technology to create virus-resistant cassava plants could have serious negative ramifications, according to new research by plant biologists at the University of Alberta, the University of Liege in Belgium, and the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology. Their results show that attempts to genetically engineer the plants to fight off viruses, in fact resulted in the propagation of mutated viruses in controlled laboratory conditions.


Wet and dry tropical forests show opposite pathways in forest recovery

The composition of regrowing wet and dry tropical forests follow opposite pathways while these forests are growing older. This has large consequences for forest restoration initiatives. The findings of a new study published in Nature Ecology and Evolution provide insights to select the best tree species for a forest area, thus enhancing and accelerating tropical forest restoration success.


Scientists discover sustainable way to increase seed oil yield in crops

Nanyang Technological University, Singapore (NTU Singapore) scientists have developed a sustainable way to demonstrate a new genetic modification that can increase the yield of natural oil in seeds by up to 15 per cent in laboratory conditions.


Plants grow less in hotter temperatures

Plants have developed a robust system that stops their cell cycle in hostile environments such as abnormally hot temperatures. In response, they direct their energy to survival rather than growth. A new study led by scientists at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology (NAIST) reports in eLife that two transcription factors, ANAC044 and ANAC085, are critical for this response in the flowering plant Arabidopsis. The findings give clues on ways to modulate the growth of crops and other agriculture products.


Global team cracks genetic code to develop high-yielding, climate resilient chickpea

Scientists from 21 research institutes globally, have successfully completed sequencing of 429 chickpea lines from 45 countries to identify genes for tolerance to drought and heat.


Insect-deterring sorghum compounds may be eco-friendly pesticide

Compounds produced by sorghum plants to defend against insect feeding could be isolated, synthesized and used as a targeted, nontoxic insect deterrent, according to researchers who studied plant-insect interactions that included field, greenhouse and laboratory components.


New Pathways for Sustainable Agriculture

Hedges, flowering strips and other seminatural habitats provide food and nesting places for insects and birds in agricultural landscapes. This also has advantages for agriculture: bees, flies, beetles and other animal groups pollinate crops and control pest insects in adjacent fields.


Knowing how cells grow and divide can lead to more robust and productive plants

A large portion of a plant is hidden below the ground. This buried root system is essential for the plant: it provides stability, water, and food. In contrast to mammals, where the body plan is final at birth, the formation of new root branches ensures that the root system keeps growing throughout a plant’s life. The labs of Prof. Ive De Smet and Prof. Tom Beeckman (VIB-UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology), together with researchers from the University of Nottingham (UK), Heidelberg University (Germany) and the University of Copenhagen (Denmark) identified a novel component that controls the development of root branches supporting plants. Their findings will be published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America.


Local plant-microbe alliances shape global biomes

Dense rainforests, maple-blanketed mountains and sweeping coniferous forests demonstrate the growth and proliferation of trees adapted to specific conditions. The regional dominance of tree species we see on the surface now, however, might actually have been determined underground long ago.


Pre-Crop Values from Satellite Images to Support Diversification of Agriculture

Pre-crop values for a high number of previous and following crop combinations originating from farmers’ fields are, for the first time, available to support diversification of currently monotonous crop sequencing patterns in agriculture. The groundbreaking method utilizing satellite images was developed by Natural Resources Institute Finland (Luke) in collaboration with Finnish Geospatial Research Institute (FGI).


Editing of RNA may play a role in chloroplast-to-nucleus communication

What will a three-degree-warmer world look like? How will plants fare in more extreme weather conditions? When experiencing stress or damage from various sources, plants use chloroplast-to-nucleus communication to regulate gene expression and help them cope.


Interplay of Pollinators and Pests Influences Plant Evolution

Brassica rapa plants pollinated by bumblebees evolve more attractive flowers. But this evolution is compromised if caterpillars attack the plant at the same time. With the bees pollinating them less effectively, the plants increasingly self-pollinate. In a greenhouse evolution experiment, scientists at the University of Zurich have shown just how much the effects of pollinators and pests influence each other.


To protect stem cells, plants have diverse genetic backup plans

Despite evolution driving a wide variety of differences, many plants function the same way. Now a new study has revealed the different genetic strategies various flowering plant species use to achieve the same status quo.