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The Week in Botany 38

March 12, 2018

Its been a busy week for @botanyone and elsewhere, with International Women's Day. There's also been other things grabbing attention of our followers on Twitter, including an interesting debate in Plant Physiology on Plant Neurobiology.

From Botany One

Sorghum root-system classification in contrasting phosphor environments
Genotypes with an exploratory root system at both high and limited P availability, which may be advantageous if N or water is the limiting factor, showed the highest P uptake levels.

Pining for resistance: a new way to assess pine susceptibility to fungal diseases
McAllister et al. demonstrate the utility of rh-qPCR to quantify ophiostomoid fungi in situ from MPB and pine DNA extracts

Physiological basis of miscanthus chilling tolerance
The understanding of the mechanisms that underlie chilling tolerance in the genus Miscanthus is limited, but could help breeding adapted varieties and aid the development of cold tolerant C4 crops.

Botany global … and local
You can help save the planet with a tweet.

Non-Specific Phospholipase C2 (NPC2) in plant immune responses in Arabidopsis
The non-specific phospholipases C (NPC) are recently discovered new subclass of plant phospholipases. Most of them have not yet been characterised thoroughly.

Contrasting soil-texture niches, competitive abilities, and coexistence
In a recent article published in AoB PLANTS, Eckhart et al. report that two closely related annual plants differ in distribution, performance, and competitive abilities as functions of soil-texture (i.e., particle-size) variation.

Rare soil bacteria affect plant performance
Kurm et al. inoculated soil with a serial dilution of a microbial community and a presumed plant beneficial bacterium (Pseudomonas fluorescens). Subsequently, they measured plant biomass (Arabidopsis thaliana), defence-gene expression, and aphid numbers (Myzus persicae).

Anna Atkins Photographic Pioneer
For International Women’s Day 2018, we celebrate the life and work of Anna Atkins, a pioneer of photography. She pushed the technology of her day to its limit, breaking new ground and created cyanotypes that remain beautiful works of art to this day.

Orchid populations and endophytic fungi change with rainfall and prescribed burning in Pterostylis
Wildfires are common in seasonally dry parts of the world with a Mediterranean climate. Prescribed burning is used to reduce fuel load and fire risk, but information on its effects is often lacking.

The Broccoli Tree​
A video on what sharing a plant through the internet can lead to.

Plant Health Undergraduate Summer Studentships 2018

Plant health researchers are invited to submit proposals for one of nine available funded studentships for undergraduates to run over the summer of 2018. Funding for the scheme is provided by Defra, BSPP and N8 AgriFood. Proposed research projects must address at least one of the following themes:
Detection or Control | Data & Modelling | Trade | Host plants / earth observations | High-risk pests or pathogens | Knowledge Exchange | Oak Health | Social research – biosecurity behaviours
More details and eligibility requirements are available here:
Closing date for applications: 10:00 26th March 2018.

News and Views

When writing, tell us your biological results!
Margaret Stanley notes: "Yes - just like the Oscars - the statistics should only be nominated for 'best supporting role' - don't make the reader work to find out the 'best biological actor'! "
Dynamic Ecology

How to tackle the childcare–conference conundrum
Parent–researchers face a conundrum as they struggle to attend key conferences and further their careers while finding care for the children. Conferences face a conundrum as they assess how to better accommodate mothers and families.

Scientists engineer crops to conserve water, resist drought
The RIPE Project gathers news coverage of their work reducing water use in growing plants.

The women watching over London's natural history collections
Here, some of the Museum's female curators, conservators and others share their career paths and advice for budding Museum professionals.
Natural History Museum

Barbara Mcclintock: Against the Genetic Grain
The tale of much of Barbara McClintock’s life is that of the scientist working long hours with a microscope seeking to solve mysteries. 

Celebrating women role models in ecology
In this post, we want to thank and celebrate some of the women in ecology that have welcomed us into this field, encouraged us to pursue careers in ecology, and guided us to success.
Rapid Ecology

Mary Anning: the unsung hero of fossil discovery
Mary was a pioneering palaeontologist and fossil collector. Her lifetime was a constellation of firsts.
Natural History Museum

The illegal orchid trade and its implications for conservation
Orchids are perhaps best known for the over 1 billion mass-market pot plants traded internationally each year, but there is also a large-scale commercial trade of wild orchids for food, medicine and as ornamental plants. 
OUP Blog

Millions of Chinese farmers reap benefits of huge crop experiment
Decade-long study involving 21 million smallholders shows how evidence-based approaches could improve food security.

The Carnivorous Waterwheel
Bladderworts (Utricularia spp.) aren't the only carnivorous plants stalking prey below the water surface. Meet the waterwheel (Aldrovanda vesiculosa). At first glance it looks rather unassuming but closer inspection will reveal that this carnivore is well equipped for capturing unsuspecting prey. 
In Defense of Plants

Call for papers: Developing sustainable bioenergy crops for future climates

Rapid progress has been made over the last five years with respect to emerging new genomic technologies for crop improvement and this Annals of Botany Special Issue will be devoted to highlighting the latest findings and considering the potential of these technologies for the future deployment of bioenergy crops in the face of climate change. At the same time, cutting-edge research that provides insights into the complex plant traits underpinning drought tolerance and response to other abiotic and biotic stresses is required for these relatively new crops. Knowledge in this area will be brought together in this Special Issue, and there will be a focus on recent advances in high throughput phenotyping to unravel these complex responses. See the full call for papers for more information.

Scientific Papers

Plant Evolution: Phylogenetic Relationships between the Earliest Land Plants
The key structures and functions of land plants are most often studied in flowering plant models. However, the evolution of these traits (character states) is often difficult to infer, because we lack an accurate phylogenetic frame of reference. The potential branching order of the earliest land plants has now been further condensed, narrowing down potential reference frameworks for comparative studies.
Current Biology

RecQ helicases function in development, DNA repair, and gene targeting in Physcomitrella patens
RecQ DNA helicases are genome surveillance proteins found in all kingdoms of life. They are characterized best in humans, as mutations in RecQ genes lead to developmental abnormalities and diseases. To better understand RecQ-functions in plants Wiedemann et al. concentrated on Arabidopsis thaliana and Physcomitrella patens, the model species predominantly used for studies on DNA repair and gene targeting.
The Plant Cell

Chromatin accessibility changes between Arabidopsis stem cells and mesophyll cells illuminate cell type-specific transcription factor networks
Cell differentiation is driven by changes in transcription factor (TF) activity and subsequent alterations in transcription. To study this process, differences in TF binding between cell types can be deduced by probing chromatin accessibility. Sijacic et al. used cell type-specific nuclei purification followed by the Assay for Transposase Accessible Chromatin (ATAC-seq) to delineate differences in chromatin accessibility and TF regulatory networks between stem cells of the shoot apical meristem (SAM) and differentiated leaf mesophyll cells in Arabidopsis thaliana.
The Plant Journal

Unleashing meiotic crossovers in hybrid plants
Here Fernandes et al. showed that meiotic recombination can be massively increased in hybrid plants, up to almost eightfold. This opens the possibility of manipulating recombination to enhance the efficiency of plant breeding programs, which is important as we face the double challenge of ensuring food security while preserving natural resources.

Great moments in evolution: the conquest of land by plants
In the past few years, the ever increasing availability of genomic and transcriptomic data of organisms representing the earliest common ancestors of the plant tree of life has much informed our understanding of the conquest of land by plants.
Current Opinion in Plant Biology

Can we build it? Yes we can, but should we use it? Assessing the quality and value of a very large phylogeny of campanulid angiosperms
Beaulieu and O'Meara provided in detail their trials and tribulations of compiling a large, sparsely sampled matrix from GenBank data and inferring a well-supported, time-calibrated phylogeny of Campanulidae. They also used a simulation approach to assess tree quality and to study the value of using very large, comprehensive phylogenies in a comparative context.

Robust DNA Isolation and High-throughput Sequencing Library Construction for Herbarium Specimens
This article demonstrates a detailed protocol for DNA isolation and high-throughput sequencing library construction from herbarium material including rescue of exceptionally poor-quality DNA.

Auxin and Vesicle Traffic
Two views on a recent Mettbach et al paper.
Plant Physiology

Low agreement among reviewers evaluating the same NIH grant applications
Pier et al. replicated the NIH peer-review process to examine the qualitative and quantitative judgments of different reviewers examining the same grant application. We found no agreement among reviewers in evaluating the same application. These findings highlight the subjectivity in reviewers’ evaluations of grant applications and underscore the difficulty in comparing the evaluations of different applications from different reviewers—which is how peer review actually unfolds.

Phyllosphere microbiology: at the interface between microbial individuals and the plant host
Leaf surfaces are home to diverse bacterial communities. Within these communities, every individual cell perceives its unique environment and responds accordingly. In this insight article, the perspective of the bacterial individual is assumed in an attempt to describe how the spatially heterogeneous leaf surface determines the fate of bacteria. 
New Phytologist


Next week and onwards

Plant Neurobiology returns in a way, if I can get the review of Wohlleben's Hidden Life of Trees written. Another couple of books to review are the RHS Latin books. Nigel Chaffey will also be looking at some stromatolites. Until next week, take care.



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