How do plants sense their environment? How do they cope with different challenges, like competition for resources or pest attacks? In a new study researchers explain the role of ST2a, a gene up-regulated by plant proximity cues, which participates in the inactivation of jasmonates –a group of regulators that orchestrate defense responses. This way they manage to demonstrate how competition signals promote plant growth at the expense of reduced defenses.
A common agricultural spray may be the key to preventing smoky flavor. It’s a problem plaguing grape-growers worldwide—in an ever-changing climate, how can they protect their crops from the undesirable effects of wildfire smoke exposure.
A team of researchers has successfully tested a new strategy for identifying genetic resources critical to the ongoing battle against plant pathogens such as bacteria, fungi and viruses that infect and destroy food crops worldwide.
When emerging plant pathogens go undetected, they have the potential to negatively affect food industries, conservation efforts, and even human health. And, just like emerging human pathogens, such as the 2019 novel Coronavirus, emerging plant pathogens need to be diagnosed as soon as possible to prevent them from spreading
A plant disease spread by sap-sucking insects has been devastating olive and fruit orchards across southern Europe, but scientists are inching closer to halting its spread with the help of insect repelling clays, vegetative barriers and genetic analysis.
Potato virus Y is the most economically important and devastating aphid-transmitted virus, affecting both tuber yield and quality. The virus is also a major cause of seed potato degeneration, which leads to regular flushing out of seed potatoes after limited field production cycles. There is no remedy for this virus and once a plant becomes infected, it stays sick for life.
One of the world’s most widely used glyphosate-based herbicides, Roundup, can trigger loss of biodiversity, making ecosystems more vulnerable to pollution and climate change, say researchers from McGill University.
The widespread use of Roundup on farms has sparked concerns over potential health and environmental effects globally. Since the 1990s use of the herbicide boomed, as the farming industry adopted “Roundup Ready” genetically modified crop seeds that are resistant to the herbicide. “Farmers spray their corn and soy fields to eliminate weeds and boost production, but this has led to glyphosate leaching into the surrounding environment. In Quebec, for example, traces of glyphosate have been found in Montérégie rivers,” says Andrew Gonzalez, a McGill biology professor and Liber Ero Chair in Conservation Biology.
To test how freshwater ecosystems respond to environmental contamination by glyphosate, researchers used experimental ponds to expose phytoplankton communities (algae) to the herbicide. “These tiny species at the bottom of the food chain play an important role in the balance of a lake’s ecosystem and are a key source of food for microscopic animals. Our experiments allow us to observe, in real time, how algae can acquire resistance to glyphosate in freshwater ecosystems,” says post-doctoral researcher Vincent Fugère.
Ecosystems adapt but at the cost of biodiversity
The researchers found that freshwater ecosystems that experience moderate contamination from the herbicide became more resistant when later exposed to a very high level of it – working as a form of “evolutionary vaccination.” According to the researchers, the results are consistent with what scientists call “evolutionary rescue,” which until recently had only been tested in the laboratory. Previous experiments by the Gonzalez group had shown that evolutionary rescue can prevent the extinction of an entire population when exposed to severe environmental contamination by a pesticide thanks to the rapid evolution.
However, the researchers note that the resistance to the herbicide came at a cost of plankton diversity. “We observed significant loss of biodiversity in communities contaminated with glyphosate. This could have a profound impact on the proper functioning of ecosystems and lower the chance that they can adapt to new pollutants or stressors. This is particularly concerning as many ecosystems are grappling with the increasing threat of pollution and climate change,” says Gonzalez.
The researchers point out that it is still unclear how rapid evolution contributes to herbicide resistance in these aquatic ecosystems. Scientist already know that some plants have acquired genetic resistance to glyphosate in crop fields that are sprayed heavily with the herbicide. Finding out more will require genetic analyses that are currently under way by the team.
Read the paper: Nature Ecology & Evolution
Article source: McGill University
Image credit: Vincent Fugère
Alternaria blight caused by fungal pathogen devastates Brassica crops such as cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and mustard seed. Highly infectious, this fungus can infect the host plant at all stages of growth. Currently Alternaria blight is managed by chemical fungicides, but recently efforts have been made to utilize breeding and modern biotechnological approaches to develop blight-resistant crop varieties.
Dissolved carbon in soil can quench plants’ ability to communicate with soil microbes, allowing plants to fine-tune their relationships with symbionts. Experiments show how synthetic biology tools can help understand environmental controls on agricultural productivity.