In the face of climate change, animals have an advantage over plants: They can move. But a new study led by Brown University researchers shows that plants may have some tricks of their own.
In a paper published in Science, the research team identifies the genetic signature in the common European plant Arabidopsis thaliana that governs the plant’s fitness — its ability to survive and reproduce — in different climates. The researchers further find that climate in large measure influences the suite of genes passed on to Arabidopsis to optimize its survival and reproduction. The set of genes determining fitness varies, the team reports, depending on the climate conditions in the plant’s region — cold, warm, dry, wet, or otherwise. (pointed out by Rodomiro Ortiz rodomiroortiz(a)gmail dot com)
Banana growers in the Philippines faced with a virulent fungal disease have won backing from scientists to establish a new research centre. The move follows appeals from growers who are facing the uncontrollable spread of Panama disease, caused by a destructive fungus that has wiped out banana varieties in the past.
The disease, also known as fusarium wilt, has been dormant for about 50 years, but a virulent strain has now reappeared in plantations in the Philippines, having spread from Australia to countries in Southeast Asia and Taiwan.
In the Philippines, the ‘tropical race 4’ strain has already wiped out 1,200 hectares of banana plantations, particularly the Cavendish variety, according to Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA).
Each year, plant viruses and fungal attacks lead to crop losses of up to 30 percent. That is why it is important to detect plant disease early on. Yet laboratory tests are expensive and often time-consuming. Researchers are now developing a low-cost quick test for use on site.
We animals don’t give plants nearly enough credit. “A vegetable” is how we refer to a person who has been reduced to a condition of utter helplessness, having lost most of the essential tools for getting along in life. Yet plants get along in life just fine, thank you, and had done so for millions of years before we came along. True, they lack such abilities as locomotion, the command of tools and fire, the miracles of consciousness and language. But the next time you’re tempted to celebrate human consciousness as the pinnacle of evolution, stop for a moment to consider exactly where you got that idea. Human consciousness. Not exactly an objective source.
Applications are now open for the International Undergraduate Summer Research Training Programme. The 8 week programme is co-hosted by The John Innes Centre, The Sainsbury Laboratory and The Genome Analysis Centre and provides UK and non-UK students with the unique opportunity to spend the summer of 2012 on the Norwich campus.
“U.S. plant scientists have taken the first steps toward a 10-year plan to help improve global food supplies using sustainable practices and to make progress in understanding how plants work.
There is both a great need and great potential right now, says Gary Stacey, a plant scientist at the University of Missouri, Columbia, who chaired a closed meeting last week … Food prices and the demand for food are rising, says Stacey, climate change is affecting natural habitats as well as cropland, and there’re increasing efforts to use plants for energy.”
“A heart disease and cancer-fighting “superbroccoli” developed by British scientists goes on sale in the UK today. The vegetable looks the same as normal broccoli but contains boosted levels of glucoraphanin, which may protect the body against heart disease and some types of cancer. The new broccoli, called Beneforte, contains two to three times more glucoraphanin than standard broccoli. It will be sold at Marks & Spencer stores from and make an appearance on the shelves of other supermarkets next year.
Beneforte was developed by British scientists using conventional breeding techniques rather than genetic engineering.”
In the UK, “50% of [sceince] graduates who are employed within 6 months of graduating go into a ‘graduate job’ with different proportions of these going into scientific/technical jobs … graduates entering a profession connected to their degree discipline … are much higher than for the social sciences, arts and humanities. The figures also show that large proportions (30 – 40%) of science and engineering graduates continue their studies including, higher degrees, which suggests that are specialising further in order to increase their chances of gaining employment in a career related to their discipline” writes Sarah Blackford on the CaSE Science campaign blog. In a letter in the Guardian today, http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2011/sep/09/science-graduates-careers , Imran Khan welcomes the diversity of jobs open to science graduates.
It isn’t green and it doesn’t grow, but the wafer sitting in a beaker of water in Dan Nocera’s laboratory is remarkably like a leaf. Using a silicon solar cell coated with cheap and abundant catalysts, the device uses sunlight to rip apart molecules of water, just like a photosynthesizing leaf. This produces hydrogen and oxygen gases, which bubble up on either side of the wafer
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