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World War I-era maps help track history of kelp forests in Pacific Northwest

In the early 1900s, the U.S. Department of Agriculture recognized a problem. The United States relied heavily on fertilizer to grow crops and support its burgeoning economy, yet a crucial ingredient for fertilizer -- potash, a mixture of potassium and salts -- was mined almost exclusively in Germany. German mines supplied nearly the entire world's supply of potash, and at the time the U.S. used about a fifth of its output, half of the amount exported from Germany.


Plant defense following the iron-maiden principle

Calcium phosphate is a typical component of teeth and bones. It has recently been shown that plants of the rock nettle family also use this very hard mineral in their "teeth" to defend themselves against their animal enemies. Botanists of Bonn University have now demonstrated that calcium phosphate is a lot more widespread in plants than previously suspected. Even thale cress (Arabidopsis thaliana) uses trichomes hardened with an incrustation of this biomineral to defend itself against enemies such as aphids. The results have now been published online first in the scientific journal Planta.


How Plants Form Their Seeds

Vegetable, fruit, or grain – the majority of our food results from plant reproduction. Researchers at the University of Zurich (UZH) have now discovered the key to how plants regulate pollen growth and seed formation. In addition to seed formation, knowledge about these signaling pathways can be used to influence plant growth or their defense against pests.


Life on the edge prepares plants for climate change

In the first study to predict whether different populations of the same plant species can adapt to climate change, scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology find that central European ones die first.


Novel signaling pathway for chilling tolerance in rice revealed

The ability of plants to tolerate chilling stress is fundamental in determining the growing season and geographical distribution of plants. Local temperature anomalies caused by global climate change directly threaten crop production.


A functional genomics database for plant microbiome studies

As the global population rises, estimated to hit nearly 10 billion by 2050, so does the need to boost crop yields and produce enough plant material for both food and sustainable alternative fuels. To help improve crop breeding strategies and overcome challenges such as making plants more tolerant of marginal lands, and stresses such as drought and low nutrient availability, researchers are focusing on understanding and promoting beneficial plant-microbe relationships.


Breakthrough study reveals new insight into “immortal” plant cells

A new study has revealed an undiscovered reprogramming mechanism that allows plants to maintain fitness down the generations.


How fungi helped create life as we know it

Today our world is visually dominated by animals and plants, but this world would not have been possible without fungi, say University of Leeds scientists.


Researchers trace the potato's origins, learn about its untapped potential

The comfort food we know and love today as the potato was domesticated between 8,000 and 10,000 years ago from a wild species native to the Andes Mountains in southern Peru. During the 16th century, Spanish conquistadors are believed to have transported the rugged root-like vegetable across the Atlantic.


In Journal of Experimental Botany: Plants, pathogens, poisoned vesicles

The commonplace is the pathogen killing the plant. The opposite would be the ultimate defence, and research reported in Journal of Experimental Botany shows the plant may be packing extracellular vesicles with a toxic mix to do just that. Mariana Regente and colleagues (2017) worked with sunflower and pathogen Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, demonstrating how the vesicles can kill fungal cells. A separate Insight article examines the phenomenon of extracellular vesicles in plant–pathogen interactions more widely, also noting the potential for novel developments in crop protection.


Scientists advance knowledge of plant reproduction

Two groups of plant molecular biologists, at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and Peking University, China, have long studied how pollen tubes and pistils, the male and female parts of flowers, communicate to achieve fertilization in plants. Today they report in a Science early release paper that they have identified a pair of receptors essential to these communications as well as molecules that modulate the receptors' activity.


Conserving the forests with sustainability certificates

Forests cover 31 percent of Earth's land mass -- for now, anyway.


Potato blight’s chemical attack mechanism explained

A team of international researchers headed by scientists from the University of Tübingen has deciphered the workings of a cytolytic toxin, which is produced by some of the world’s most devastating crop diseases. The Cytolysin is manufactured by pathogens such as bacteria and fungi and can wipe out entire harvests if chemical protection is not used. The study - by researchers from Tübingen and their partner institutions in Berkeley, Bordeaux, Ljubljana, Liége, and Wako in Japan, as well as Göttingen in Germany - may lead to ways of better protecting crops from such pathogens in the future. The study has been published in the latest edition of Science.


Tracing a plant's steps: Following seed dispersal using chloroplast DNA

Plants spread their seeds across the landscape to colonize new areas, but it's difficult and expensive for biologists to trace their movements. Now, researchers at Portland State University have developed a new technique to sequence chloroplast DNA from hundreds of plants at once, to learn more about how plant populations move.


Researchers shine a spotlight on illegal wild orchid trade

Large-scale commercial trade of wild orchids is a pressing, but little-recognised conservation problem, according to researchers.


Bringing 'Avatar'-like glowing plants to the real world

The 2009 film "Avatar" created a lush imaginary world, illuminated by magical, glowing plants. Now researchers are starting to bring this spellbinding vision to life to help reduce our dependence on artificial lighting. They report in the journal Nano Letters a way to infuse plants with the luminescence of fireflies.


Study examines medicinal compound in plant roots

Xanthones are specialized metabolites with antimicrobial properties that are found in the roots of medicinal plants called Hypericum perforatum, also known as St. John's wort. A New Phytologist study sheds light on the sites of synthesis and accumulation of xanthones in roots.


Does eclipse equal night in plant life?

On August 21, 2017, about 215 million American adults watched one of nature's most dramatic events: a total solar eclipse. However, most of the country could only see a partial eclipse. The path of the total eclipse was a strip just 70 miles wide, arcing across the country from Oregon to South Carolina.


Rising temperatures put Africa’s rice production at risk

A new modeling study published today warns that the dry-season irrigated rice in West Africa’s Sahel region has reached the critical threshold of 37 degrees Celcius – the tipping point. Further temperature rise could devastate rice yields in this region due to decreasing photosynthesis at high temperatures.


Forest resilience declines in face of wildfires, climate change

The forests you see today are not what you will see in the future. That's the overarching finding from a new study on the resilience of Rocky Mountain forests, led by Colorado State University.


New study identifies genetic basis for western corn rootworm resistance in maize

Farmers are stuck. Western corn rootworm can destroy cornfields – and profits – but populations of the “billion-dollar bug” have stopped responding to insecticides and the genetically modified corn hybrids designed to resist insect attacks. But there may be hope. In a new study, University of Illinois researchers uncover the genetic basis of resistance to western corn rootworm, paving the way for development of non-GM corn hybrids that can withstand the worm.


African deforestation not as great as feared

The loss of forests in Africa in the past century is substantially less than previously estimated, an analysis of historical records and paleontology evidence by Yale University researchers shows.


Anesthetics have the same effects on plants as they have on animals and humans

A new study published in Annals of Botany shows that plants react to anesthetics similarly to the way animals and humans do, suggesting plants are ideal objects for testing anesthetics actions in future.


Reductions in individual plant growth sometimes boost community resilience

In sports, sometimes a player has to take one for the team. The same appears to be true in the plant world, where reduced individual growth can benefit the broader community.


Innovative system images photosynthesis to provide picture of plant health

Researchers have developed a new imaging system that is designed to monitor the health of crops in the field or greenhouse. The new technology could one day save farmers significant money and time by enabling intelligent agricultural equipment that automatically provides plants with water or nutrients at the first signs of distress. With further development, the system has the potential to be used aboard unmanned aerial vehicles to remotely monitor crops.


Head start through human intervention: Study on the spread of European plant species on other continents

More and more plant species are introduced to new areas through humans. Often, however, it is not clear which factors decide whether plants can permanently settle in their new environment. An international research team including Mark van Kleunen, ecology professor at the University of Konstanz, shows for the first time how ties to different habitats control the human-induced spread of European plant species on other continents. The research results have been published in the scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.


Study finds ways to avoid hidden dangers of accumulated stresses on seagrass

A new Queensland University of Technology (QUT)-led study has found ways to detect hidden dangers of repeated stresses on seagrass using statistical modelling.


Forests are the key to fresh water

Freshwater resources are critical to both human civilization and natural ecosystems, but University of British Columbia researchers have discovered that changes to ground vegetation can have as much of an impact on global water resources as climate change.


Dust plays significant role fertilizing mountain plants

Trees growing atop the Bald Mountain Granite in the southern Sierra Nevada rely on nutrients from windblown atmospheric dust -- more than 50 percent -- compared to nutrients provided from underlying bedrock.


Researchers model optimal amount of rainfall for plants

Researchers have determined what could be considered a "Goldilocks" climate for rainfall use by plants: not too wet and not too dry.