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The Week in Botany 166

September 7, 2020

We have another collection of stories by people following @botanyone on Twitter. I'm not sure what happened to automated systems this week, as I'm sure I saw a couple of well-shared stories that didn't seem to surface. The forensic botany story, in one form or another, was extremely well-shared, so I've picked one version of it and added it.
The other big news is that the State of the World's Plants and Fungi event will be going ahead. I'm pleased to see this, as they're excellent at getting a few plant stories into the mainstream press during the event. This year it should be more accessible than usual, as it will be online, so that's something to look forward to in a month.
If you're impatient and you want to something to look forward to that's a bit closer, then I'll be doing my best to get another round-up of plant stories out next week at the same time. Until then, take care.
Alun (

From Botany One

AoBP ECOS Awardee Larry York
“Knowledge is empowering and should be free to all”

Are a few, large seeds or many, small seeds a better strategy for a plant?
For the first time, estimates of comparative seed yield and number for over 800 annuals and their predictor equations have been produced and the ecological importance of these regenerative traits has been illustrated.

Floras of the Future: A look at Flora of North America Online
Staying up to date and making all treatments machine-readable will broaden the project’s appeal, but it’s no small feat.

AoBP ECOS Awardee Elise Gornish
"The main reason more scientists don’t communicate their science effectively is a lack of formal training"

“Conservation – success or failure – is cultural”
Despite the lack of greenery – reading Framing Nature: conservation and culture is a great history lesson about the dynamics of wildlife conservation in the UK and offers hope for the future.

News and Views

By Losing Genes, Life Often Evolved More Complexity
Recent major surveys show that reductions in genomic complexity — including the loss of key genes — have successfully shaped the evolution of life throughout history.
Quanta Magazine

Short, engaging videos about plant biology
Videos are excellent ways to communicate about plant science. They can stimulate curiosity, explain a complicated idea, or make the invisible visible. Here is a curated list of some of our favorite short plant science videos.

The True Colors of America’s Political Spectrum Are Gray and Green
With its lush green fields and trees, slate-gray roads and tiny blue backyard swimming pool, this aerial shot over Blue Ridge, Va., looks like any number of places in the United States. It seems strange that an ordinary patch of land like this could offer clues about the political leanings of its inhabitants. But to some degree, it can. Think of it as the aerial-image version of those red-and-blue electoral maps.
The New York Times

State of the World's Plants and Fungi Virtual Symposium
Join international experts 13–15 October 2020 to discuss actions for protecting and sustainably using the world’s plant and fungal biodiversity for the benefit of people and the planet.

Scottish Government investment announced
Scottish Government investment confirms Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh as a leader in global conservation for a green recovery
Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh

More Than a Movement: Black Women Seek Diversity and Equality in the Outdoors
"We spoke with three Black women working in the natural sciences who have embraced these online movements as a way to amplify their environmental research and collaborate with other scientists of color. They represent the state of environmentalism as it is—enthusiastic about education, resolute in their stewardship, and committed to community action—as well as what it could be."

Forensic botanists: The science of using plants to find bodies
In the United States, 100,000 people go missing every year, the authors of the new study say. And when search teams hunt for human remains, logistical issues can slow the process. Searching on foot can be arduous, and tree cover can block the view for aerial searches. But the researchers say their method turns that problem into an asset.

Anyone for "Foggage"? Why this ancient grazing system is better for wildlife than using sileage...
At my home in North Wales it’s the beginning of September and I’m staring out of the window as rivulets of rain trickle down the glass. Beyond, I can see our meadow in the gloom. The flowers are fading a little now, washed out and forlorn under the grey sky, and the hay has still not been cut.

Scientific Papers

Novel bacterial clade reveals origin of form I Rubisco
Rubisco sustains the biosphere through the fixation of CO2 into biomass. In plants and cyanobacteria, form I Rubisco is structurally comprised of large and small subunits, whereas all other Rubisco forms lack small subunits. The rise of the form I complex through the innovation of small subunits represents a key, yet poorly understood, transition in Rubisco’s evolution. Through metagenomic analyses, Banda et al. discovered a previously uncharacterized clade sister to form I Rubisco that evolved without small subunits. This clade diverged before the evolution of cyanobacteria and the origin of the small subunit; thus, it provides a unique reference point to advance our understanding of form I Rubisco evolution.
Nature Plants

Hybrid Rubisco with Complete Replacement of Rice Rubisco Small Subunits by Sorghum Counterparts Confers C4-Plant-like High Catalytic Activity
Matsumura et al. knocked out rice RbcS multigene family by CRISPR/Cas9 and completely replaced the rice RbcS with sorghum RbcS in rice Rubisco. Obtained hybrid-Rubisco showed almost C 4-plant-like catalytic properties, i.e., higher k cat, higher K c and lower S c/o. Transgenic lines expressing the hybrid-Rubisco accumulated reduced levels of Rubisco, whereas these showed slight but significantly higher photosynthetic capacity and similar biomass production under high CO 2 condition compared to wild-type rice. High-resolution crystal structural analysis of the wild-type Rubisco and hybrid-Rubisco revealed the structural differences around the central pore of Rubisco and the βC-βD hairpin in RbcS. They speculate that such differences, particularly in the βC-βD hairpin, may impact the flexibility of Rubisco catalytic site and change the catalytic properties.
Molecular Plant

Botanic garden solutions to the plant extinction crisis
Botanic gardens and arboreta have evolved significantly from their origins as oases reserved for the elite, to the conservation powerhouses they are today, visited by over half a billion people annually. Now, with their sophisticated facilities and botanical expertise, gardens are uniquely positioned to address many of the challenges associated with preserving plant diversity for the benefit of people and the planet. Globally, however, resources for and awareness of these efforts are limited. Funders, governments, corporations, and global citizens need to greatly increase their support of gardens, recognizing the critical role they play in a scientifically informed, coordinated, global effort to save plants from extinction – because all life depends on plants.
Plants People Planet

KATANIN-dependent mechanical properties of the stigmatic cell wall mediate the pollen tube path in Arabidopsis
Riglet et al. show that isotropic reorientation of CMTs and CMFs in aged Col-0 and katanin1-5 (ktn1-5) papilla cells is accompanied by a tendency of pollen tubes to coil around the papillae. They show that this coiled phenotype is associated with specific mechanical properties of the cell walls that provide less resistance to pollen tube growth. Their results reveal an unexpected role for KTN1 in pollen tube guidance on the stigma by ensuring mechanical anisotropy of the papilla cell wall

Planting Equity: Using What We Know to Cultivate Growth as a Plant Biology Community
Beronda L. Montgomery on how the Plant Biology Community can respond to inequalities among people.
Plant Cell

Quinone perception in plants via leucine-rich-repeat receptor-like kinases
Laohavisit et al. use Arabidopsis thaliana and DMBQ as a model plant and quinone to show that DMBQ signalling occurs in Arabidopsis via elevation of cytosolic Ca2+ concentration. They performed a forward genetic screen in Arabidopsis that isolated DMBQ-unresponsive mutants, which they named cannot respond to DMBQ 1 (card1). The CANNOT RESPOND TO DMBQ 1 (CARD1; At5g49760, also known as HPCA1) gene encodes a leucine-rich-repeat receptor-like kinase that is highly conserved in land plants. In Arabidopsis, DMBQ triggers defence-related gene expression, and card1 mutants show impaired immunity against bacterial pathogens. In Phtheirospermum japonicum (a plant that parasitizes roots), DMBQ initiates Ca2+ signalling in the root and is important for the development of the haustorium.

New Horizons for Dissecting Epistasis in Crop Quantitative Trait Variation 
Using the traits and developmental pathways that were major targets in domestication and breeding, Soyk et al. highlight how epistasis is central in guiding the behavior of the genetic variation that shapes quantitative trait variation. They outline new strategies that illuminate how quantitative epistasis from modified gene dosage defines background dependencies. Advancing our understanding of epistasis in crops can reveal new principles and approaches to engineering targeted improvements in agriculture.
Annual Review of Genetics

Reduced phenotypic plasticity evolves in less predictable environments
Leung et al. exposed 32 lines of the halotolerant microalga Dunaliella salina to ecologically realistic, randomly fluctuating salinity, with varying levels of predictability, for 500 generations. They found that morphological plasticity evolved to lower degrees in lines that experienced less predictable environments. Evolution of plasticity mostly concerned phases with slow population growth, rather than the exponential phase where microbes are typically phenotyped. This study underlines that long‐term experiments with complex patterns of environmental change are needed to test theories about population responses to altered environmental predictability, as currently observed under climate change.
Ecology Letters

Article processing charges, the geographic diversity of author communities, and barriers to publication for authors in the Global South
After correcting for differences in sample size, Smith et al. found no difference between Open Access (OA) and paywalled (PW) journals in the number of countries in which lead authors were based. After correcting for the dominance of China and the USA, they found that author diversity in OA journals was significantly lower than in PW journals. Most OA articles were written by authors in high-income countries; no articles in OA journals had first authors from low-income countries. Their results suggest article processing charges are a barrier to OA publication for scientists from the Global South.
MetaArXiv Preprints

Niche Breadth: Causes and Consequences for Ecology, Evolution, and Conservation
Carscadden et al review key research in ecology, evolution, and conservation biology in light of niche breadth. Namely, they explore the role of niche breadth in shaping geographic distributions and species richness from local to landscape scales, how niche breadth evolves and influences lineage diversification, and its use for understanding species invasions, responses to climate change, vulnerability to extinction, and ecosystem functioning.
The Quarterly Review of Biology

Facing Rose rosette virus: A risk to European rose cultivation
Rose rosette virus (RRV; genus Emaravirus) is a devastating virus that has been spreading since the 1940s in the United States and Canada. It is an emerging risk to European and worldwide rose cultivation, causing symptoms such as witches' broom, malformations, excessive thorn production, and eventually plant death. In this review Vzquez-Iglesias et al. describe current knowledge about RRV, the molecular and serological methods available for the detection of this virus, pathways to entry, and the possible impact if it establishes and spreads in Europe.
Plant Pathology


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