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Trees are not as 'sound asleep' as you may think

High-precision three-dimensional surveying of 21 different species of trees has revealed a yet unknown cycle of subtle canopy movement during the night. The 'sleep cycles' differed from one species to another. Detection of anomalies in overnight movement could become a future diagnostic tool to reveal stress or disease in crops.


Using the right plants can reduce indoor pollution and save energy

People in industrialized countries spend more than 80% of their lives indoors, increasingly in air-tight buildings. These structures require less energy for heating, ventilating, and air conditioning, but can be hazardous to human health if particulate matter and potentially toxic gases, including carbon monoxide, ozone, and volatile organic compounds, from sources such as furniture, paints, carpets, and office equipment accumulate. Plants absorb toxins and can improve indoor air quality, but surprisingly little is known about what plants are best for the job and how we can make plants perform better indoor.


Wood formation model to fuel progress in bioenergy, paper, new applications

A new systems biology model that mimics the process of wood formation allows scientists to predict the effects of switching on and off 21 pathway genes involved in producing lignin, a primary component of wood. The model, built on more than three decades of research led by Vincent Chiang of the Forest Biotechnology Group at North Carolina State University, will speed the process of engineering trees for specific needs in timber, biofuel, pulp, paper and green chemistry applications.


'Rip Van Winkle' plants hide underground for up to 20 years

Scores of plant species are capable of living dormant under the soil for up to 20 years, enabling them to survive through difficult times, a new study has found.


Green digitization: Botanical collections data answer real-world questions

Even as botany has moved firmly into the era of "big data," some of the most valuable botanical information remains inaccessible for computational analysis, locked in physical form in the orderly stacks of herbaria and museums. Herbarium specimens are plant samples collected from the field that are dried and stored with labels describing species, date and location of collection, along with various other information including habitat descriptions. The detailed historical record these specimens keep of species occurrence, morphology, and even DNA provides an unparalleled data source to address a variety of morphological, ecological, phenological, and taxonomic questions. Now efforts are underway to digitize these data, and make them easily accessible for analysis.


Innovations for investigating the plant tree of life

Advances in genome sequencing have resulted in vast amounts of genetic information being produced for ever-increasing numbers of species, but we are still just scratching the surface. The cutting-edge practices used to generate new types of data for exploring the plant family tree are highlighted in "Methods for Exploring the Plant Tree of Life," a special issue of Applications in Plant Sciences (APPS).


Root exudates affect soil stability, water repellency

As the growing season progresses, you might not notice much about what's happening to plants under the soil. Most of us pay attention to new shoots, stems, leaves, and eventually the flowers and crop we intend to grow. We might think of roots as necessary, but uninteresting, parts of the crop production process.


Trends in carbon storage and sequestration across Chinese ecosystems

Climate change is a one of the biggest challenges facing humanity. The Paris Agreement, adopted in December 2015, became the second legally binding climate agreement after the Kyoto Protocol, and coordinates global efforts to combat climate change.


Seaweed Makes Its Own Living Opal Nanotechnology

Scientists have discovered a completely new type of opal formed by a common seaweed which harnesses natural technology by self-assembling a nanostructure of oil droplets to control how light reflects from its cells to display a shimmering array of colours that until now, has only been seen in the gem stone.


How does plant DNA avoid the ravages of UV radiation?

If the ultraviolet radiation from the sun damages human DNA to cause health problems, does UV radiation also damage plant DNA? The answer is yes, but because plants can't come in from the sun or slather on sunblock, they have a super robust DNA repair kit. Today, the UNC School of Medicine lab of 2015 Nobel laureate Aziz Sancar, MD, PhD, has published an exquisite study of this powerful DNA repair system in plants, which closely resembles a repair system found in humans and other animals.


Warming climate could speed forest regrowth in eastern US

Climate change could speed the natural regrowth of forests on undeveloped or abandoned land in the eastern U.S., according to a new study.


The microbiome of a native plant is much more resilient than expected

Without microorganisms humans would not be able to survive. Especially our gut flora is an extremely densely populated ecosystem that houses billions of bacteria which help us to digest or detoxify food, supply us with vitamins, or modulate our immune system. Similarly, plants have also a so-called microbiome. In contrast to animals and humans, microorganisms associated with plants are primarily soil microbiota. Scientists consider the soil microbiome as a kind or external plant immune system. However, due to the enormous complexity of these microbiomes it is very difficult for scientists to group bacteria as beneficial or deleterious, and some bacterial taxa are even able to morph from Dr. Jekyll into Mr. Hyde upon environmental stresses.


Giving roots and shoots their space: The Advanced Plant Habitat

The Advanced Plant Habitat (APH), a recent addition to the International Space Station, is the largest growth chamber aboard the orbiting laboratory. Roughly the size of a mini-fridge, the habitat is designed to test which growth conditions plants prefer in space and provides specimens a larger root and shoot area. This space in turn will allow a wider variety of crops to grow aboard the station. Thus far, the habitat has been used to grow and study Arabidopsis, small flowering plants related to cabbage and mustard, and Dwarf Wheat.


Moss capable of removing arsenic from drinking water discovered

A moss capable of removing arsenic from contaminated water has been discovered by researchers from Stockholm University. And it happens quickly -- in just one hour, the arsenic level is so low that the water is no longer harmful for people to drink. The study has been published in the journal Environmental Pollution.


Predicting which trees are at greatest risk of beetle invasion

Pitch pine forests are at greater risk of attack from the southern pine beetle than forests with a mix of tree species, according to research from Dartmouth College. The study shows that the composition of forests is more important than other factors when predicting where the destructive pest will strike next.


Plants play greater role than megaherbivore extinctions in changes to ecosystem structure

Plants may have exerted greater influence on our terrestrial ecosystems than the megaherbivores that used to roam our landscapes, according to new research.


Sweet potato history casts doubt on early contact between Polynesia and the Americas

Evidence reported in the journal Current Biology shows that sweet potatoes arose before there were any humans around to eat them. The findings also suggest that the sweet potato crossed the ocean from America to Polynesia without any help from people. The discovery raises doubts about the existence of pre-Columbian contacts between Polynesia and the American continent.


Tree rings provide vital information for improved climate predictions

Due to their worldwide distribution, trees have an extraordinary role in removing excessive amounts of CO2 released by our highly industrialized and mobile modern societies from the atmosphere. So far however, no tool exists which would enable scientists to precisely calculate the carbon dioxide uptake of trees over their whole lifetime. Using a decade-long sequence of annual growth rings from pine trees, scientists at the NMR Centre at UmeƄ University's Chemical Biological Centre, (KBC) have introduced a highly advanced technique for tracking the carbon metabolism of plants and its environmental controls. This technique lays the foundation for much improved parameterizations of climate change and global vegetation models, which will tell what the future holds in store.


How spiders can harm and help flowering plants

Interactions between organisms such as plants and animals can be found everywhere in nature. Anina Knauer and Florian Schiestl, a professor at the Department of Systematic and Evolutionary Botany of the University of Zurich, have taken a closer look at one such instance: the interaction between crab spiders and the buckler-mustard, a yellow flowering plant common in Europe.


Droughts mean fewer flowers for bees

Bees could be at risk from climate change because more frequent droughts could cause plants to produce fewer flowers, new research shows.


Plants 'hedge their bets' in germination: The route to better crop yields

Researchers at the University of Birmingham have revealed how plants 'hedge their bets' by getting their seeds to germinate at different times. Their work identifies routes to reduce variability in agriculture and produce more consistent outcomes for farmers and food production, according to research published in the Journal of The Royal Society Interface.


Removing the brakes on plant oil production

Scientists studying plant biochemistry at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory have discovered new details about biomolecules that put the brakes on oil production. The findings suggest that disabling these biomolecular brakes could push oil production into high gear -- a possible pathway toward generating abundant biofuels and plant-derived bioproducts. The study appears in in the journal Plant Physiology.


Discovery of compounds that keep plants fresh

A team of scientists at Nagoya University has discovered new compounds that can control stomatal movements in plants. Some of the compounds have shown to prevent leaves from drying up and suppress withering when sprayed onto rose and oat leaves. Further investigation could lead to the development of new compounds that can be used to extend the freshness of cut flowers and flower bouquets, reduce transportation costs for plants and be applied as drought resistance agents for crops.


Wheat research discovery yields genetic secrets that could shape future crops

A new study has isolated a gene controlling shape and size of spikelets in wheat in a breakthrough which could help breeders deliver yield increases in one of the world's most important crops.


Cells that trigger flowering

How do plants "know" it is time to flower? A new study uncovers exactly where a key protein forms before it triggers the flowering process in plants.


Climate change is wreaking havoc on delicate relationship between orchids and bees

The first definitive demonstration of climate change upsetting the vital interdependent relationships between species has been revealed, thanks to a study led by the University of Sussex.


A vaccine for edible plants? A new plant protection method on the horizon

Novel technologies are being sought to replace the traditional pesticides used to protect plants, particularly edible plants such as cereals. A new collaborative project between the University of Helsinki and the French National Centre for Scientific Research (CNRS) is shedding light on the efficacy of environmentally friendly RNA-based vaccines that protect plants from diseases and pests.


Newly discovered hormone helps keep plants from dehydrating

Researchers at the RIKEN Center for Sustainable Resource Science (CSRS) in Japan have discovered a small hormone that helps plants retain water when none is available in the soil. Published in the journal Nature, the study shows how the peptide CLE25 moves from the roots to the leaves when water is scarce and helps prevent water loss by closing pores in the leaf surface.


Increase of plant species on mountain tops is accelerating with global warming

Over the past 10 years, the number of plant species on European mountain tops has increased by five-times more than during the period 1957-66. Data on 302 European peaks covering 145 years shows that the acceleration in the number of mountain-top species is unequivocally linked to global warming.


The plant hormone auxin coordinates wood formation

An international research team investigated the genetic regulation of stem cell division in plant stems. During their investigations, they revealed that the key gene coordinating stem cells, WOX4, is controlled by the vital plant hormone auxin via auxin response proteins. The results are valuable for both fundamental biology and ecology. Since the studied mechanism allows controlling wood formation it could help to solve economic and environmental problems. The research has been published in the journal Nature Communications.