Why the whitefly is such a formidable threat to food security

Researchers have sequenced the genome of the whitefly (Bemisia tabici), an invasive insect responsible for spreading plant viruses worldwide, causing billions of dollars in crop losses each year.

The genome study, led by Associate Professor Zhangjun Fei of the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI; USA), offers many clues to the insect’s remarkable ability to resist pesticides, transmit more than 300 plant viruses, and to feed on at least 1,000 different plant species. Published in the journal BMC Biology, the study will serve as a foundation for future work to combat this global pest.

Corn yield modeling towards sustainable agriculture

With an innovative modeling approach, researchers set out to examine corn and soybean yields and optimal nitrogen (N) fertilizer rates. In their study, recently published in Frontiers in Plant Science, they uses a 16-year long-term dataset from central Iowa, USA, with a state-of-the-art simulator that modeled corn and soybean yields, improving predictions of optimal N fertilizer rates for corn. This has global relevance for food security and sustainable agricultural practices in light of future climate change scenarios.

Forming a second line of plant defense — capturing disease-resistant DNA

Scientists have developed a new improved method for capturing longer DNA fragments, doubling the size up to 7000 DNA bases that can be analysed for novel genes which provide plants with immunity to disease.

Flowers use physics to attract pollinators

A new review indicates that flowers may be able to manipulate the laws of physics, by playing with light, using mechanical tricks, and harnessing electrostatic forces to attract pollinators.

The New Phytologist review describes the latest advances in our understanding of how plants use their flowers to ensure reproductive success. Flowers use light to attract pollinators by creating colour using microscopic structures or chemical effects. Using gravity to their advantage, petals cause pollinators to slip or grip when they land on a flower, ensuring that they transfer pollen without taking too much of the sugary nectar reward. Plants may even alter their electrical fields to influence pollinator visits.

“It is surprising to many people that plants use the laws of physics to their advantage in attracting pollinators, but of course it makes sense that evolution has used all the available opportunities to enhance plant fitness,” said Dr. Beverley Glover (University of Cambridge), co-author of the review.

 

Article source: Wiley

GOBII releases open-source tools for faster plant breeding

Crop breeders in developing countries can now access free tools to accelerate the breeding of improved crop varieties, thanks to a collaboration between the GOBII project at the Boyce Thompson Institute (BTI) and Cornell University (USA), and the James Hutton Institute (JHI) in Scotland.

The collaboration works with breeding centers around the world to identify unmet needs and has developed tools to make the process of adding a trait into an existing, high-yield crop variety more efficient. Researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center (CIMMYT) are using the tools to develop corn varieties with greater resistance to viruses.