Tag: plant science

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.

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.

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:

Bees feast on fast food

Honey bees love the invasive plant Himalayan balsam and eat it like ‘fast food’ but, like humans, they thrive better on a varied diet.

A study of honey bee bread in Lancashire and Cumbria bee hives showed that in some samples nearly 90% of the pollen came from the invasive plant Himalayan balsam.

Bee bread is made up of pollen stored in cells in the hive, and is the basic component of food for bee larvae and young bees, while older bees eat nectar in the form of honey.

Gotcha: the gene that takes the fun out of fungus

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.