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Strigolactones: new plant hormones in action

Strigolactones were only recently recognized as an important new class of plant hormone, and are now the subject of intensive research. This is leading to rapid growth in our understanding of their diverse roles, as well as novel agricultural applications. The reviews and research in the latest special issue from Journal of Experimental Botany cover a wide range of aspects, from biosynthesis and specificity to the cascade of events leading to perception and transduction, as well as the importance of strigolactone transport and activity in plant development and plant–microbe interactions. The role of the emerging class of non-canonical strigolactones is also covered.


Plants can use underground communication to find out when neighbors are stressed

Corn seedlings that grow close together give off underground signals that impact the growth of nearby plants, reports a study published in the open-access journal PLOS ONE by Velemir Ninkovic from the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Sweden, and colleagues.


Survival and restoration of China's native forests imperiled by proliferating tree plantations

China has implemented some of the world's most ambitious policies to protect and restore forests, yet these programs still miss the mark, according to a team of researchers led by Princeton University.


Plant breeders balance shared innovation and revenue

Have you thanked a crop breeder today?


Virus inhibits immune response of caterpillars and plants

It is well known that certain wasps suppress the immune systems of their caterpillar hosts so they can successfully raise their young within those hosts. Now researchers at Penn State show that, in addition to suppressing caterpillar immune systems, wasps also suppress the defense mechanisms of the plants on which the caterpillars feed, which ensures that the caterpillars will continue to provide a suitable environment for the wasps' offspring.


Researchers move toward understanding deadly citrus disease

Researchers at the University of California, Riverside have made an important step in understanding the molecular mechanism of huanglongbing (HLB), a destructive disease that is a serious threat to the citrus industry worldwide.


New details of molecular machinery that builds plant cell wall components

Plants are among the most effective energy convertors on Earth. They capture solar energy and convert it to carbon-based compounds that are used for energy and also to build up essential plant components, including the cell walls that surround every single plant cell. In a new biochemical genetics study at the U.S. Department of Energy's (DOE) Brookhaven National Laboratory, scientists reveal new details of the molecular machinery that helps channel carbon into a key cell-wall component.


Warming future means more fire and fewer trees in western biodiversity hotspot

Increasing fires and summer droughts caused by global warming are drastically changing a globally unique bio-region of northern California and southwestern Oregon, according to new research funded by the National Science Foundation and published in the journal Scientific Reports.


Why cereal is much more drought-tolerant than other plants

Whether barley, wheat, maize or rice: The grass family includes all the major cereals. They are vital for feeding the world's population. Farmers produce 80 percent of all plant-based foods from grass crops. This success is due in part to the plants' ability to adjust more quickly to dry conditions and sustain lack of water better than other plants.


Europe's current approach to food, agriculture, and the environment is not sustainable

At the launch of the report, Opportunities and Challenges for Research on Food and Nutrition Security and Agriculture in Europe, at the Palais des Académies in Brussels, the European national science academies along with the InterAcademy Partnership called for European policy-makers to urgently re-think their approach to food and agriculture. Calling for a "food systems approach", the national science academies say that the current siloed policy approach to food, agriculture, climate change, and health - both at the EU and Member State levels - is not the way forward, particularly if ambitious targets such as the Paris Agreement are going to be met. An integrative food systems approach encompasses all the steps involved from growing through to processing, transporting, trading, purchasing and consuming food, and avoiding waste.


New study explains antibiotic resistance in apple and pear disease

When humans get bacterial infections, we reach for antibiotics to make us feel better faster. It's the same with many economically important crops. For decades, farmers have been spraying streptomycin on apple and pear trees to kill the bacteria that cause fire blight, a serious disease that costs over $100 million annually in the United States alone.


Could eating moss be good for your gut?

An international team of scientists including the University of Adelaide has discovered a new complex carbohydrate in moss that could possibly be exploited for health or other uses.


New model could help build communities of climate change-defying trees

Researchers in Australia have developed a model to help build plant communities that are more resilient to climate change.


Grassland plants react unexpectedly to high levels of carbon dioxide

Plants are responding in unexpected ways to increased carbon dioxide in the air, according to a twenty-year study conducted by researchers at the University of Minnesota and published in the journal Science. For the first 12 years, researchers found what they expected regarding how different types of grasses reacted to carbon dioxide. However, researchers' findings took an unanticipated turn during the last eight years of the study.


Just one more ash dieback spore could push European ash trees to the brink

Ash dieback threatens 95% of all European ash trees and has already killed or severely damaged a quarter in southern Sweden and destroyed more than 80% of young ash trees in Norway.


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.


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.


'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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.