Sensors applied to plant leaves warn of water shortage

Forgot to water that plant on your desk again? It may soon be able to send out an SOS.

Engineers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT, USA) have created sensors that can be printed onto plant leaves and reveal when the plants are experiencing a water shortage. This kind of technology could not only save neglected houseplants but, more importantly, give farmers an early warning when their crops are in danger, says Michael Strano, the Carbon P. Dubbs Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT and the senior author of the new study.

UK backs neonics ban

In a government statement today, Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, says the UK supports further restrictions on the use of neonicotinoids because of their effects on bees and other pollinators.

The announcement, says the statement, follows advice in October from the UK government’s advisory body on pesticides, the Expert Committee on Pesticides (ECP). Scientific evidence now suggests that the environmental risks posed by neonicotinoids are greater than previously understood, says the ECP advice.

Why plants form sprouts in the dark

Ute Krämer and Scott Sinclair © RUB, Marquard

A signal from the cell wall decides that, in the dark, seeds grow into long yellow sprouts, instead of turning green and forming leaves. The signal that switches on the darkness programme in seedling development has not hitherto been identified. Earlier studies had shown that these processes involve photoreceptors inside plant cells.

One vital signal outside the cells has now been described by the team of Prof Dr Ute Krämer and Dr Scott Sinclair at Ruhr-Universität Bochum (Germany), in collaboration with Prof Dr Dominik Begerow, likewise from Bochum, as well as colleagues from Australia, France, Switzerland, and from the Max Planck Institute of Plant Breeding Research in Cologne, in the journal Current Biology. The article was published online on November 2, 2017.

Help the James Hutton Institute shape the future of soft fruit research

© James Hutton InstituteDid you know products developed at the James Hutton Institute and its forebears are familiar names on supermarket shelves, including popular raspberry varieties such as Glen Ample and Glen Lyon? Also, were you aware of the fact that 50% of the world’s blackcurrant crop was developed by scientists in Dundee?

Now you have a chance to help shape the future of soft fruit research: our commercial subsidiary, James Hutton Limited, is seeking to gather opinions from soft fruit growers, marketers and retailers about the kind of tools and models that would be useful to them to support decision making throughout the growing season and ultimately, maximise the most desirable outcomes at harvest.  In the long term, this will help to support wider, Innovate UK funded and AHDB-supported research.

Swapping where crops are grown could feed an extra 825 million people

Redrawing the global map of crop distribution on existing farmland could help meet growing demand for food and biofuels in coming decades, while significantly reducing water stress in agricultural areas, according to a new study. Published today in Nature Geoscience, the study is the first to attempt to address both food production needs and resource sustainability simultaneously and at a global scale.

The results show that “there are a lot of places where there are inefficiencies in water use and nutrient production,” says lead author Kyle Davis, a postdoctoral researcher with Columbia University‘s Earth Institute. Those inefficiencies could be fixed, he says, by swapping in crops that have greater nutritional quality and lower environmental impact.

Applications open for 2018 NIAB Faculty Fellowship

For early career researchers spanning plant and crop science and those in aligned areas such as pathology, entomology, bioinformatics, engineering and robotics: NIAB wishes to support outstanding early career researchers in applications for independent research fellowship such as: