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.
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.
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.
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:
Not luck of the draw exactly but it was a random mutation in a convenient host that led to the discovery of a gene responsible for fungal disease that wrecks up to one fifth of the world’s cereal production, or hundreds of millions of tonnes of crops.
Near identical genes are also present in the fungi that cause vegetables to rot, trees to die and people to scratch, itch or struggle to breathe.