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The Week in Botany 143

March 30, 2020

A way of getting a lift when I'm down is to follow what people following @botanyone on Twitter are sharing. The reason is that 99% of the time people share items because it's something they like, so scrolling through all the shares is like a raw shot of positivity. I'll admit, that's not been the case this week. As a result, there are fewer links than usual. On the other hand, I did enjoy Debarati Chakraborty's article in Botany One, The Scented Story of Rice.
I also moved one of the half-finished ideas from my to-do list to completion. If you've ever wanted to participate on Twitter, but don't know where to start we now have a first draft of Twitter for Science Networking.
I'll be aiming to put out another newsletter next week, unless I'm ill in which case I'll take the week off and catch up with some podcasts, including In Defense of Plants, Branch Out, and On The Ledge
Alun (

From Botany One

European white oak hybrids can be well-identified with a small set of genetic markers
A limited set of SNPs identified the species of test trees with a high degree of accuracy, finding asymmetrical mixing among the three species.

Twitter for Science Networking
Suddenly can't network at conferences? How could you network on Twitter?

Males become female when striped maples take a health hit
Above a certain trauma threshold, male trees had a high probability of becoming female, possibly in a bid to better their chances at reproduction.

The scented story of rice
The power of aroma compounds to offer physical, mental and spiritual delight is one of the oldest enchanting tales.

Puzzles in Moss Genome Evolution
Some plants have pairs of chromosomes, they’re diploid organisms like us. Other plants have more than two copies of chromosomes, they’re polyploid. Strawberries can even be octoploid. Mosses can be polyploid too, but a new study by Jillian Bainard and colleagues shows that mosses do things differently.

How do plant hybrids aid invasions?
Hybrids might offer demographic, as well as genetic assistance to invasive species.

Range-wide genetic structure of an endemic herb from the Amazonian Savannas
The study assesses neutral and adaptive genetic structure and genetic diversity in Brasilianthus carajensis (Melastomataceae), an endemic herb from Amazonian Savannas.

Pollen on stigmas as proxies pollinator effectiveness
How pollen can reveal quality of pollination, as well as quantity.

The Oaks of the North Are Unexpectedly Well-Defended
Xoaquín Moreira and colleagues looked at seed defences in oak, and found that in Europe, the seeds in the north have higher chemical defences than the south.

News and Views

Activity: iNaturalist Observation Project, by Aaron Liston –
This iNaturalist plant observation assignment for college students was developed by Aaron Liston from Oregon State University. It was designed to replace a traditional collection assignment. The students are asked to find, photograph, briefly describe, and upload at least 20 species that are identified to the species level and then submit a summary table with additional information (authority, geographic range, native or introduced) for each species.
Botany Depot

Learning on the job: students make valuable scientific discoveries
“Hey Zoë, we’ve found a Pinguicula!”
“I doubt it, they don’t grow in Belize.”
“Well, this is definitely a Pinguicula.”
Botanics Stories

How Scientists Figured Out What Viruses Are
With the COVID-19 coronavirus causing a global pandemic, a look back at the scientists who figured out viruses and their relationship to disease
Smithsonian Magazine

Help needed to rescue UK's old rainfall records
At a loss to know what to do with your self-isolation time?
Well, why not get on the computer and help with a giant weather digitisation effort?
BBC News

Scientific Papers

Niche differentiation and plasticity in soil phosphorus acquisition among co-occurring plants
How species coexist despite competing for the same resources that are in limited supply is central to our understanding of the controls on biodiversity. Resource partitioning may facilitate coexistence, as co-occurring species use different sources of the same limiting resource. In plant communities, however, direct evidence for partitioning of the commonly limiting nutrient, phosphorus (P), has remained scarce due to the challenges of quantifying P acquisition from its different chemical forms present in soil5. To address this, Phoenix et al. used 33P to directly trace P uptake from DNA, orthophosphate and calcium phosphate into monocultures and mixed communities of plants growing in grassland soil. They show that co-occurring plants acquire P from these important organic and mineral sources in different proportions, and that differences in P source use are consistent with the species’ root adaptations for P acquisition.
Nature Plants

C2 photosynthesis: a promising route towards crop improvement?
C2 photosynthesis is a carbon concentrating mechanism that can increase net CO2 assimilation by capturing, concentrating and re‐assimilating CO2 released by photorespiration. Empirical and modelling studies indicate that C2 plants assimilate more carbon than C3 plants under high temperature, bright light, and low CO2 conditions. Marjorie Lundgren argues that engineering C2 photosynthesis into C3 crops is a promising approach to improve photosynthetic performance under these – and temporally heterogeneous – environments, and review the modifications that may re‐create a C2 phenotype in C3 plants.
New Phytologist

Identification of a plant kinase that phosphorylates the bacterial effector AvrPtoB
A critical component controlling bacterial virulence is the delivery of pathogen effectors into plant cells during infection. Effectors alter host metabolism and immunity for pathogen benefit. Multiple effectors are phosphorylated by host kinases, and this posttranslational modification is important for their activity. Lei et al. sought to identify host kinases involved in effector phosphorylation.

Cutin and suberin: assembly and origins of specialized lipidic cell wall scaffolds - ScienceDirect
Cutin and suberin are hydrophobic lipid biopolyester components of the cell walls of specialized plant tissue and cell-types, where they facilitate adaptation to terrestrial habitats. Many steps in their biosynthetic pathways have been characterized, but the basis of their spatial deposition and precursor trafficking is not well understood.
Current Opinion in Plant Biology

A roadmap for gene functional characterisation in crops with large genomes: Lessons from polyploid wheat
Understanding the function of genes within staple crops will accelerate crop improvement by allowing targeted breeding approaches. Despite their importance, a lack of genomic information and resources has hindered the functional characterisation of genes in major crops. The recent release of high-quality reference sequences for these crops underpins a suite of genetic and genomic resources that support basic research and breeding. For wheat, these include gene model annotations, expression atlases and gene networks that provide information about putative function. Sequenced mutant populations, improved transformation protocols and structured natural populations provide rapid methods to study gene function directly. Adamski et al. highlight a case study exemplifying how to integrate these resources.

The giant sequoia genome and proliferation of disease resistance genes
The giant sequoia (Sequoiadendron giganteum) of California are massive, long-lived trees that grow along the U.S. Sierra Nevada mountains. As they grow primarily in isolated groves within a narrow range, conservation of existing trees has been a national goal for over 150 years. Genomic data are limited in giant sequoia, and the assembly and annotation of the first giant sequoia genome has been an important goal to allow marker development for restoration and management. Using Illumina and Oxford Nanopore sequencing combined with Dovetail chromosome conformation capture libraries, 8.125 Gbp of sequence was assembled into eleven chromosome-scale scaffolds. This giant sequoia assembly represents the first genome sequenced in the Cupressaceae family, and lays a foundation for using genomic tools to aid in giant sequoia conservation and management.

Building customizable auto-luminescent luciferase-based reporters in plants
Khakhar et al. reconstitute a fungal bioluminescence pathway (FBP) in planta using a composable toolbox of parts. They demonstrate that the FBP can create luminescence across various tissues in a broad range of plants without external substrate addition. They also show how their toolbox can be used to deploy the FBP in planta to build auto-luminescent reporters for the study of gene-expression and hormone fluxes.

Plant diversity in hedgerows and road verges across Europe
Vanneste et al. assessed plant diversity patterns in 336 vegetation plots distributed along hedgerows and road verges, spanning a macro‐environmental gradient across temperate Europe. They compared herb‐layer species richness and composition in these linear elements with the respective seed‐source (core) habitats, i.e. semi‐natural forests and grasslands. Next, they assessed how these differences related to several environmental drivers acting either locally, at the landscape level or along the studied macro‐ecological gradient. Across all regions, about 55% of the plant species were shared between forests and hedgerows, and 52% between grasslands and road verges. Habitat‐specialist richness was 11% lower in the linear habitats than in the core habitats, while generalist richness was 14% higher. The difference in floristic composition between both habitat types was mainly due to species turnover, and not nestedness.
Journal of Applied Ecology


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