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The Week in Botany 148

May 4, 2020

Calan Haf hapus! It's the start of the summer half of the year in the Celtic calendar and this weekend was the opposite to Calan Gaeaf, marked on October 31. I should have mentioned this last week, but the calendar has snuck up on me this year. If you're in the Northern hemisphere then you should notice nature pushing on with life. For people in the Better hemisphere, it's a time when it hit home how much darker the nights are getting.
One side effect a sneaky calendar is that I'm still up to my neck in packing boxes as I wrote for the move on May 4 morning. So while I have a selection of the stories shared by people @botanyone on Twitter, it's not as many as usual. I'm told internet access will be back for me Tuesday. With luck that means another collection of news and papers will be with you next week,
Until then, stay safe.
Alun (

From Botany One

Control of masting may be epigenetic
Successive years of epigenetic marking may allow trees to ‘remember’ the conditions of the past few years.

Fields of yellow: getting the nutrient balance right in oilseed rape
How Brassica napus takes up phosphorus can also change how it takes up other nutrients.

Spectacular speckles: silicon only disguises the signs of manganese toxicity in sunflowers and soybeans
Silicon is essential for string plants, but new research reveals that it can also hide evidence of poisoning in plants.

Population genetic variability and distribution of the endangered Greek endemic Cicer graecum
Stathi et al. investigate the genetic diversity of five populations of Cicer graecum, an endangered wild relative of chickpea (Cicer arietinum) endemic to Northern Peloponnisos, Greece.

Do plants use ‘expanding beams’ to build their cell walls?
Beams of homogalacturonan in plant cells could be creating peculiar the shapes of pavement cells.

Dying to grow: Programmed Cell Death key to an epiphytic orchid’s root development
Li and colleagues combined the use of transmission electron microscopy, x-ray microtomography, and transcriptome methods to characterize the major anatomical and molecular changes that occur during the development and death of velamen radicum cells of Cymbidium tracyanum, a typical epiphytic orchid.

An acceptable elitism? Getting the best out of nitrogen-fixing bacteria
Marcela Mendoza-Suárez and colleagues have a new tool to turbocharge legumes.

News and Views

Video from the Plant Carbon Drawdown Symposium 2020
Video of the talks from the Symposium earlier this year.
The Salk Institute

Norman Borlaug saved millions of lives, would his critics prefer he hadn’t?
Norman Borlaug is perhaps the most important person in human history whose name and legacy remain largely unknown. A hero to those in the realms of plant science and humanitarianism and a villain to some in the environmental movement, Borlaug nonetheless never achieved the widespread recognition that should have accompanied his outsized impact on agriculture.
Alliance for Science

Online Plant Science-Related Courses
A collection of quarantine-friendly education and training in plant science, bioinformatics and methods - for researchers and students by Stephanie Smith.

We’re all going on a bug hunt
The next time you see those frothy blobs of cuckoo spit that appear on plants this time of year, take note: your evidence could contribute to a national research project.
John Innes Centre

Free textbooks from Springer Online
Includes a few plant science books.
Springer Online

Post-doctoral positions to investigate plant-pathogen molecular interactions
Three post-doctoral positions are available in the Wenbo Ma group at the Sainsbury Laboratory. The appointees will deploy state-of-the-art methods to elucidate fundamental principles in plant-pathogen interactions.
The Sainsbury Laboratory

Scientific Papers

Using clear plastic CD cases as low‐cost mini‐rhizotrons to phenotype root traits
Cassidy et al. developed a novel low‐cost method to visually phenotype belowground structures in the plant rhizosphere. Their method combines the benefits of pots and germination pouches. In CD mini‐rhizotrons, plants grew significantly larger than in germination pouches, and unlike pots, it is possible to measure roots without destructive sampling. 
Applications in Plant Sciences

GlobalFungi: Global database of fungal records from high-throughput-sequencing metabarcoding studies
Fungi are key players in vital ecosystem services, spanning carbon cycling, decomposition, symbiotic associations with cultural and wild plants and pathogenicity. The high importance of fungi in the ecosystem processes contrasts with the incompleteness of understanding of the patterns of fungal biogeography and the environmental factors that drive it. To close this gap of knowledge, Větrovský et al. have collected and validated data published on the composition of soil fungal communities in terrestrial environments including soil and plant-associated habitats and made them publicly accessible through a user interface at

Diminishing CO2-driven gains in water-use efficiency of global forests
There is broad consensus that, via changes in stomatal conductance, plants moderate the exchanges of water and carbon between the biosphere and atmosphere, playing a major role in global hydroclimate. Tree rings record atmospheric CO2 concentration (ca) and its isotopic composition (13C/12C)—mediated by stomatal and photosynthetic influences—that can be expressed in terms of intrinsic water-use efficiency (W). Adams et al. compile a global W dataset based on 422 tree-ring isotope series and report that W increased with ca over the twentieth century, but the rates of increase (dW/dca) declined by half.
Nature Climate Change

Taxonomic similarity does not predict necessary sample size for ex situ conservation: a comparison among five genera
Effectively conserving biodiversity with limited resources requires scientifically informed and efficient strategies. Guidance is particularly needed on how many living plants are necessary to conserve a threshold level of genetic diversity in ex situ collections. Hoban et al. investigated this question for 11 taxa across five genera. In this first study analysing and optimizing ex situ genetic diversity across multiple genera, they found that the percentage of extant genetic diversity currently conserved varies among taxa from 40% to 95%. Most taxa are well below genetic conservation targets. Resampling datasets showed that ideal collection sizes vary widely even within a genus: one taxon typically required at least 50% more individuals than another

Local conditions and policy design determine whether ecological compensation can achieve No Net Loss goals
Sonter et al. use spatial simulation models to quantify potential net impacts of alternative compensation policies on biodiversity (indicated by native vegetation) and two ecosystem services (carbon storage, sediment retention) across four case studies (in Australia, Brazil, Indonesia, Mozambique). No policy achieves No Net Loss of biodiversity in any case study. Two factors limit their potential success: the land available for compensation (existing vegetation to protect or cleared land to restore), and expected counterfactual biodiversity losses (unregulated vegetation clearing). Compensation also fails to slow regional biodiversity declines because policies regulate only a subset of sectors, and expanding policy scope requires more land than is available for compensation activities. 
Nature Communications

A consensus phylogenomic approach highlights paleopolyploid and rapid radiation in the history of Ericales
Large genomic data sets offer the promise of resolving historically recalcitrant species relationships. However, different methodologies can yield conflicting results, especially when clades have experienced ancient, rapid diversification. Larson et al. analyzed the ancient radiation of Ericales and explored sources of uncertainty related to species tree inference, conflicting gene tree signal, and the inferred placement of gene and genome duplications.

Effects of amusing memes on concern for unappealing species
There is limited knowledge of the mechanisms that can inspire people's concern and engagement in the protection of unpopular and unappealing species. Lenda et al. analyzed Polish people's interest in themed internet memes featuring the proboscis monkey (Nasalis larvatus) and the consequences of this interest for conservation marketing We examined Google Trends data, used Google Search, and searched popular media materials to estimate interest in the proboscis monkey in Poland. 
Conservation Biology

The negative regulator SMAX1 controls mycorrhizal symbiosis and strigolactone biosynthesis in rice
Most plants associate with beneficial arbuscular mycorrhizal (AM) fungi that facilitate soil nutrient acquisition. Prior to contact, partner recognition triggers reciprocal genetic remodelling to enable colonisation. The plant Dwarf14-Like (D14L) receptor conditions pre-symbiotic perception of AM fungi, and also detects the smoke constituent karrikin. D14L-dependent signalling mechanisms, underpinning AM symbiosis are unknown. Choi et al. present the identification of a negative regulator from rice, which operates downstream of the D14L receptor, corresponding to the homologue of the Arabidopsis thaliana Suppressor of MAX2-1 (AtSMAX1) that functions in karrikin signalling. They demonstrate that rice SMAX1 is a suppressor of AM symbiosis, negatively regulating fungal colonisation and transcription of crucial signalling components and conserved symbiosis genes. 
Nature Communications


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