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Win-win strategies for climate and food security

Climate policies that target agriculture and forests could lead to increased food prices, but reducing deforestation and increasing soil carbon sequestration in agriculture could significantly reduce greenhouse gas emissions while avoiding risk to food security, according to new research published in the journal Environmental Research Letters.


Bioreactors on a chip renew promises for algal biofuels

For over a decade, companies have promised a future of renewable fuel from algae. Investors interested in moving the world away from fossil fuel have contributed hundreds of millions of dollars to the effort, and with good reason. Algae replicate quickly, requiring little more than water and sunlight to accumulate to massive amounts, which then convert atmospheric CO2 into lipids (oils) that can be harvested and readily processed into biodiesel.


Arbuscular mycorrhizal fungal communities exposed with new DNA sequencing approach

The roots of most land plants are colonized by arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi, which help their plant partners to grow while also influencing the wider environment. Their hidden nature has meant these fungi are poorly understood, but researchers from the Chicago Botanic Garden and Northwestern University have developed a new approach to detect and identify the many species involved in these ecologically vital communities.


Exploring an ancient event in pumpkin, gourd and melon evolution

The next time you bite into that perfect, sweet and succulent watermelon, you may want to appreciate that it's a product of millions of years of evolution in the making.


Continental controls needed to maintain fightback against tree diseases

Tighter controls on timber and plant movements into Europe are necessary to prevent further disastrous effects of plant diseases, a new study of the ash-dieback pathogen advises.


Illegal trade of orchids uncovered by genetic detective work

Salep is a popular drink in the Eastern Mediterranean and the Middle East based on ground dried orchid roots. Although harvesting wild orchids is prohibited in many countries, it is still practised with little discrimination on what species are actually picked. Combined with a renewed interest in organic food and thereby increased demand for orchids, unsuspecting consumers risk getting threatened species in their drinks. Researchers are now able to accurately determine what species are used in commercial products using molecular identification or so- called DNA barcoding, an important new tool for plant conservation.


Earliest evidence for a native African cultigen discovered in Eastern Sudan

Archaeologists examining plant impressions within broken pottery have discovered the earliest evidence for domesticated sorghum in Africa. The evidence comes from an archaeological site (known as KG23) in eastern Sudan, dating from 3500 to 3000 BC, and is associated with an ancient archaeological culture known as the Butana Group.


Auxin drives leaf flattening

Leaves are fundamental light-capturing organs of plants. The vast majority of higher plants utilize leaves as their solar panels to harvest solar energy. A common feature of leaves is their flat blades.


World's botanic gardens contain a third of all known plant species, and help protect the most threatened

The world's botanic gardens contain at least 30% of all known plant species, including 41% of all those classed as 'threatened', according to the most comprehensive analysis to date of diversity in 'ex-situ' collections: those plants conserved outside natural habitats.


Study identifies likely scenarios for global spread of devastating crop disease

Stem rust, named for the blackening pustules that infect plant stems, caused devastating crop epidemics and famine for centuries before being tamed by fungicides and resistance genes.


With extra sugar, leaves get fat too

Eat too much without exercising and you'll probably put on a few pounds. As it turns out, plant leaves do something similar. In a new study at the U.S. Department of Energy's Brookhaven National Laboratory, scientists show that retaining sugars in plant leaves can make them get fat too.


Study finds no-tillage not sufficient alone to prevent water pollution from nitrate

A new IUPUI study funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture answers a long-debated agricultural question: whether no-tillage alone is sufficient to prevent water pollution from nitrate. The answer is no.


Crowning the 'King of the Crops': Sequencing the white Guinea yam genome

An international collaboration involving the Earlham Institute, Norwich, UK, and the Iwate Biotechnology Research Centre, Japan, has for the first time provided a genome sequence for the white Guinea yam, a staple crop with huge economic and cultural significance on the African continent and a lifeline for millions of people.


Lightning-fast trappers

Bladderworts (Utricularia, Lentibulariaceae) are plants with many superlatives: They belong to the most recently evolved and also the largest genus of carnivorous flowering plants, encompassing more than 240 species. They have one of the smallest genomes known in flowering plants, have the fastest traps, are completely rootless, are distributed almost worldwide, and possess a great variety of different life forms. A team in the Plant Biomechanics Group at the Botanical Garden of the University of Freiburg led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck and Dr. Simon Poppinga is conducting comparative morphological and biomechanical analyses on these ultra-fast traps, which capture prey by means of underpressure-induced suction. The journal Scientific Reports has now published two new articles with results from the group.


Green algae could hold clues for engineering faster-growing crops

Two new studies of green algae -- the scourge of swimming pool owners and freshwater ponds -- have revealed new insights into how these organisms siphon carbon dioxide from the air for use in photosynthesis, a key factor in their ability to grow so quickly. Understanding this process may someday help researchers improve the growth rate of crops such as wheat and rice.


In New Phytologist: Scientists propose “universal laws” on the size and biology of plant seeds

Researchers at the University of Granada (UGR) have discovered that different types of seeds allow plants to adapt to environmental cycles as they evolve.


Changing of the guard -- research sheds light on how plants breathe

New research is set to change the textbook understanding of how plants breathe.


When residents take charge of their rainforests, fewer trees die

When the government gives citizens a personal stake in forested land, trees don't disappear as quickly and environmental harm slows down.


Plants combine color and fragrance to procure pollinators

Who knew that it's possible to predict the fragrance of a flower by looking at its color?


Rolling dice for cell size specification in plant leaf epidermis

One of the central questions in biology is how a cell specifies its size. Because size distribution often shows a characteristically skewed pattern in a tissue, there may be some stochastic option for determining cell size. However, the underlying mechanism by which the target distribution is established by organizing a cellular coin-toss remains elusive. Associate Professor Kensuke Kawade at Okazaki Institute for Integrative Bioscience and National Institute for Basic Biology, in collaboration with Professor Hirokazu Tsukaya at the Graduate School of Science, the University of Tokyo, discovered that endoreduplication, which promotes cellular enlargement in the epidermal tissue of Arabidopsis thaliana, occurs randomly as a Poisson process throughout cellular maturation.


Breaking legume's crop wild relative barrier

Domesticating plants to grow as crops can turn out to be a double-edged scythe.


More mouths can be fed by boosting number of plant pores

Scientists at Institute of Transformative Bio-Molecules (ITbM), Nagoya University have synthesized a new bioactive small molecule that has the ability to increase stomata numbers on flowering plants without stunting their growth. The team’s new discovery could help elucidate the stomatal development mechanism in plants.


Plant physiology: Adjusting to fluctuating temperatures

Later leaf emergence, earlier leaf loss: A new study of Ludwig-Maximilians-Universitaet (LMU) in Munich shows that the average vegetation periods of trees and shrubs in North America are intrinsically three weeks shorter than those of comparable species in Europe and Asia.


Harvard forest report: Forests, funding, and conservation in decline across New England

New England has been losing forestland to development at a rate of 65 acres per day, according to a new report released by the Harvard Forest, a research institute of Harvard University, and a team of authors from across the region. Public funding for land protection has also been steadily declining in all six New England states and is now half what it was at its 2008 peak; with land conservation trends following suit.


In New Phytologist: American oaks share a common northern ancestor

If you had been in northern Canada 45 million years ago, you might have encountered the distant ancestor of all of the oaks in the Americas. That single species gave rise to 220 more and two distinct lineages -- red oaks and white oaks -- that moved south through the boreal zone to populate large swaths of the continent all the way into Mexico. These two findings--simultaneous evolutionary diversification in the red and white oaks, each following the same geographic routes; and two relatively recent origins of the Mexican oaks--are a surprise conclusion to a scientific mystery that went unresolved until now. Research published in the journal New Phytologist tells this story of the evolutionary history of American oaks for the first time.


Deep roots in plants driven by soil hydrology

Searching for water, some tree roots probe hundreds of feet deep and many trees send roots through cracks in rocks, according to a new study led by a Rutgers University-New Brunswick professor.


How a cereal survives heat and drought

Pearl millet (Cenchrus americanus 72 (L.) Morrone, synonymous for Pennisetum glaucum) is a staple food plant in arid and semi-arid regions of Africa, India and Asia. This so-called C4 plant shows high resistance against drought stress but molecular mechanisms behind this are rather unknown. "The first steps to elucidate molecular mechanisms in any organism from plants to animals to microbes is to sequence and analyze their genome, proteome and metabolome", says the systems biologist Wolfram Weckwerth, head of the Department of Ecogenomics and Systems Biology and Chair of the Vienna Metabolomics Center of the University of Vienna. An international consortium with participation of the University of Vienna sequenced now the genome of pearl millet and additionally 994 further breeding lines and wildtypes to reveal molecular properties hinting to drought resistance mechanisms on a genome basis. "Furthermore this study provides the basis for marker-selected breeding studies", says the coordinator of the genome project Rajeev Varshney.


Connecting plants and society: The Shenzhen Declaration, a new roadmap for plant sciences

Environmental degradation, unsustainable resource use, and biodiversity loss are just a few points in the long list of pertinent issues that call for collaborative solutions from science and society together.


RNA discovery could help boost plant heat and drought tolerance

Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientists have discovered a ribonucleic acid, or RNA, that can increase the thale cress plant's resistance to stress from drought and salt.


Earth's oldest trees in climate-induced race up the tree line

Bristlecone pine and limber pine trees in the Great Basin region are like two very gnarled, old men in a slow-motion race up the mountaintop, and climate change is the starting gun, according to a study from the University of California, Davis.