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The Week in Botany 177

November 23, 2020

I started working late on this week's round-up of what people following @botanyone on Twitter are sharing. I'm feeling a little tired and worn out, but that's reasonable as there's still a pandemic going on. So far it's hit Eid and Diwali, and this week will clash with Thanksgiving for Americans. If you are celebrating, then be sure to do it safely.
If you can't get to see your family, I sympathise. I was going to link to a post on how to spend Thanksgiving alone here, but even the posts published in 2020 say things like go and see a Thanksgiving Parade or Get out among people. You could get out and away from people though. Apparently, a couple of hours might be enough.
I won't be getting out among people, so I should be back next week. Until then, take care.
Alun (

From Botany One

Biotic interactions of native and non-native species under future warming
How do abiotic and biotic factors influence range expansion of closely related native and non-native Eugenia shrub species?

The crowning glory of Kew
Nigel Chaffey reviews "Palace of Palms: Tropical dreams and the making of Kew" by Kate Teltscher

Lessons from Mediterranean olive domestication: keep wild relatives close by and do not “overselect”
New study in the journal BMC Biology found that Mediterranean olives have almost as high genetic diversity as olive cultivars.

The same mobile protein governs seed size and infloresence structure
The mobile protein connected to the regulation of flowering in Arabidopsis also helps regulate endosperm development in the seed.

A step to the biofuels of the future?
Compiling a genome of an Asian grass is already producing useful results for breeding.

A new assessment of Madagascar’s Coffea species shows which traits reflect phylogenetic signal
Flowering phenology appears to have a strong genetic component, and may serve as a barrier to hybridization.

Plants that … CURE
A review of "Plants that cure: A natural history of the world’s most important medicinal plants".

News and Views

Trump administration kick-starts drilling in Arctic National Wildlife Refuge on Monday
Officials aim to sell drilling rights to the pristine wilderness’s coastal plain before the president-elect takes office
The Washington Post

An introduction to the Little Karoo
Also known as the Klein Karoo, South Africa’s Little Karoo region is a semiarid intermontane basin that is located between the Langeberg, Outeniqua and Tsitsikamma mountains to the south and the Swartberg mountains to the north.
Botanical Society of South Africa

November 18 has been selected to celebrate and highlight the work and barriers of LGBTQIA+ people in science, technology, engineering, and maths (STEM).
Pride in STEM

Joel Salatin’s Unsustainable Myth
His go-it-alone message made him a star of the food movement. Then a young Black farmer dug into what he was really saying.
Mother Jones

Glyphosate extension to December 2025 likely in GB
The widely used herbicide glyphosate is likely to have its authorisation expiry date extended until 15 December 2025 in Great Britain after the Brexit transition period ends on 31 December.
Farmers Weekly

Chinese flower has evolved to be less visible to pickers
Fritillaria delavayi, used in traditional medicine, turning grey to blend into rocks
The Guardian

Postdoc survey reveals disenchantment with working life
The second article in a series on Nature’s inaugural survey of postdocs in academia worldwide uncovers a sense of instability among the research precariat.

Global map of bees created in conservation first
Scientists have mapped the distribution of all 20,000 bee species on earth.
BBC News

I Spent Two Years Trying to Fix the Gender Imbalance in My Stories
"Here’s what I’ve learned, and why I did it."
The Atlantic

Got Rosettes? Phenotype Them Fast, Accurately, and Easily with ARADEEPOPSIS!
“Deep learning” is a buzz term that seems to be cropping up in plant biology research these days. So why the recent fascination with a computational concept among us plant biologists, and why should we care?

Scientific Papers

Genome of Solanum pimpinellifolium provides insights into structural variants during tomato breeding
Wang et al. present a high-quality chromosome-scale genome sequence of SP LA2093. Genome comparison identifies more than 92,000 structural variants (SVs) between LA2093 and the modern cultivar, Heinz 1706. Genotyping these SVs in ~600 representative tomato accessions identifies alleles under selection during tomato domestication, improvement and modern breeding, and discovers numerous SVs overlapping genes known to regulate important breeding traits such as fruit weight and lycopene content. Expression quantitative trait locus (eQTL) analysis detects hotspots harboring master regulators controlling important fruit quality traits, including cuticular wax accumulation and flavonoid biosynthesis, and SVs contributing to these complex regulatory networks. The LA2093 genome sequence and the identified SVs provide rich resources for future research and biodiversity-based breeding.
Nature Communications

Fungi took a unique evolutionary route to multicellularity: Seven key challenges for fungal multicellular life - ScienceDirect
In contrast to animals and plants, how multicellularity evolved in fungi and how it compares to the general principles distilled from the study of more widely studied model systems, has received little attention. This review broadly discusses multicellular functioning and evolution in fungi. Nagy et al. focus on how fungi solved some of the common challenges associated with the evolution of multi-celled organisms and what unique challenges follow from the peculiar, filamentous growth form of fungi. Nagy et al. identify and discuss seven key challenges for fungal multicellular growth: apical growth, compartmentalization, long-distance mass transport, controlling mutational load, cell-to-cell communication, differentiation and adhesion.
Fungal Biology Reviews

The association between early career informal mentorship in academic collaborations and junior author performance
AlShebli et al. study mentorship in scientific collaborations, where a junior scientist is supported by potentially multiple senior collaborators, without them necessarily having formal supervisory roles. However, many commentators say they studied them badly.
Nature Communications

A network of transcriptional repressors modulates auxin responses
The hormone auxin is a key signal for plant growth and development that acts through the AUXIN RESPONSE FACTOR (ARF) transcription factors. A subset of these, the conserved class A ARFs, are transcriptional activators of auxin-responsive target genes that are essential for regulating auxin signalling throughout the plant lifecycle. Although class A ARFs have tissue-specific expression patterns, how their expression is regulated is unknown. Truskina et al. show, by investigating chromatin modifications and accessibility, that loci encoding these proteins are constitutively open for transcription.

Coordination between microbiota and root endodermis supports plant mineral nutrient homeostasis
Salas-González et al. demonstrate that genes controlling endodermal function in the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana contribute to the plant microbiome assembly. They characterize a regulatory mechanism of endodermal differentiation driven by the microbiota with profound effects on nutrient homeostasis. Furthermore, they demonstrate that this mechanism is linked to the microbiota’s capacity to repress responses to the phytohormone abscisic acid in the root. Their findings establish the endodermis as a regulatory hub coordinating microbiota assembly and homeostatic mechanisms.

Fire and biodiversity in the Anthropocene
Fire has played a prominent role in the evolution of biodiversity and is a natural factor shaping many ecological communities. However, the incidence of fire has been exacerbated by human activity, and this is now affecting ecosystems and habitats that have never been fire prone or fire adapted. Kelly et al. review how such changes are already threatening species with extinction and transforming terrestrial ecosystems and discuss the trends causing changes in fire regimes. They also consider actions that could be taken by conservationists and policy-makers to help sustain biodiversity in a time of changing fire activity.

Divergence in a stress-associated gene regulatory network underlies differential growth control in the Brassicaceae family
The use of marginal lands in agriculture is increasingly necessary to support the global human population. Elevated salinity frequently occurs in degraded soils and hinders their use due to the negative impact salt stress has on plant growth. While the hormonal networks controlling growth have been extensively characterized in stress-sensitive plants, it is unclear how these pathways are rewired in plants that maintain growth in extreme environments. Sun et al. have compared the physiological and molecular responses of four closely related members of the Brassicaceae family including two salt-tolerant species (Shrenkiella parvula and Eutrema salsugineum) and two salt-sensitive species (Sisymbrium irio and Arabidopsis thaliana) to the salt stress-induced hormone, abscisic acid (ABA). While ABA inhibits root growth in most species, they uncovered substantial growth-promoting effects in Shrenkiella parvula, due to an enhancement in cell elongation.

The End of Botany
Biologists unable to recognize common plants, and a decline in botany students, faculty, courses, university departments, and herbaria, highlight the current erosion of botany. How did we reach this crisis, knowing that plants form the basis for life? What are the causes? What can we do to reverse it?
Trends in Plant Science

Amazon rainforest photosynthesis increases in response to atmospheric dryness
Earth system models predict that increases in atmospheric and soil dryness will reduce photosynthesis in the Amazon rainforest, with large implications for the global carbon cycle. Using in situ observations, solar-induced fluorescence, and nonlinear machine learning techniques, Green et al. show that this is not necessarily the case: In many of the wettest parts of this region, photosynthesis and biomass tend to increase with increased atmospheric dryness, despite the associated reductions in canopy conductance to CO2. These results can be largely explained by changes in canopy properties, specifically, new leaves flushed during the dry season have higher photosynthetic capacity than the leaves they replace, compensating for the negative stomatal response to increased dryness.
Science Advances

Tip‐to‐base xylem conduit widening as an adaptation: causes, consequences, and empirical priorities - Olson
In the stems of terrestrial vascular plants studied to date, the diameter of xylem water‐conducting conduits D widens predictably with distance from the stem tip L approximating D ∝ Lb, with b ≈ 0.2. Because conduit diameter is central for conductance, it is essential to understand the cause of this remarkably pervasive pattern. Olson et al. give reason to suspect that tip‐to‐base conduit widening is an adaptation, favored by natural selection because widening helps minimize the increase in hydraulic resistance that would otherwise occur as an individual stem grows longer and conductive path length increases.
New Phytologist


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