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The Week in Botany 37

March 5, 2018

The idea that we can learn from 'The wisdom of crowds' has taken a bit of a battering over the past couple of years, but it helps if you're following the right crowd. I think this is what we're doing with the @botanyone Twitter account, as I get pointed to some excellent writing on the internet. This week in Mycoheterotrophy, Vincent Merckx has written an introduction to a post that I would love to have written about some good news from Borneo. The link is below, along with other stories and papers that proved popular on Twitter over the past week.

From Botany One

Melatonin and its relationship to plant hormones
Plant melatonin appears to be a multi-regulatory molecule, similar to those observed in animals, with many specific functions in plant physiology.

Effects of plant polyploidy on the legume-rhizobia mutualism
Forrester and Ashman propose a framework to understand how polyploidy directly enhances the quantity and quality of rhizobial symbionts hosted by legume plants, resulting in increased host access to fixed nitrogen.

Coeliacs, snakebites and the perils of apricots…
Nigel Chaffey continues his exploration of the unexpected health benefits of some foods.

Population genetics of a rare Grevillea
For conservation of rare riparian species, avoiding an impact to hydrodynamic processes, such as water tables and flooding dynamics, may be just as critical as avoiding direct impacts on the number of plants.

Can plants escape from an arms race?
It's easy to see how herbivory could lead to defences in plants, but what happens when the attackers start using those expensive defences for their own benefit?

Introgression of Aegilops speltoides in a hexaploid wheat background
Aegilops speltoides introgressions have the potential to play a critical role in the development of superior wheat varieties in the future.

Differential expression of NAM gene underlies diverse leaf forms in Achillea
This paper provides an important case study in the large family Asteraceae that contains almost one-tenth of all flowering plants and has an enormous diversity of leaf forms.

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.

News and Views

Svalbard Global Seed Vault Celebrates 10 Years
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault marked its 10th anniversary today by receiving shipments of over 70,000 crop varieties at the storage facility in Norway, last week.
The Crop Trust

The Inside Story Of How An Ivy League Food Scientist Turned Shoddy Data Into Viral Studies
Brian Wansink won fame, funding, and influence for his science-backed advice on healthy eating. Now, emails show how the Cornell professor and his colleagues have hacked and massaged low-quality data into headline-friendly studies to “go virally big time.”

Plants go extinct, but sometimes species are rediscovered. This one after 151 years.
Mycoheterotrophs never fail to fascinate. With their rarity and weird shapes they really are the aliens of the plants world. Some species, like the mythical Thismia  americana,  almost reach a ‘Loch Ness monster’ status: seen a few times, a long time ago, and never again. Yet maybe, somewhere, it is still out there…

Richard Spruce and the Trials of Victorian Bryology
Obsessed with the smallest and seemingly least exciting of plants — mosses and liverworts — the 19th-century botanist Richard Spruce never achieved the fame of his more popularist contemporaries. Elaine Ayers explores the work of this unsung hero of Victorian plant science and how his complexities echoed the very subject of his study. (from 2015, but popular this week)
The Public Domain Review

Anti-GMO articles tied to Russian sites, ISU research shows
Politics isn't the only issue where Russia seeks to sway U.S. opinion. The former communist country is trying to influence American's attitudes about genetically engineered crops and biotechnology, according to new Iowa State University research.
Des Moines Register

What can trees tell us about Climate Change?
Quite a lot, actually! But to understand what the trees tell us, we first have to understand the difference between weather and climate.
NASA Climate Kids

What happens to tree seeds at the Millennium Seed Bank?
Through our partnership with Kew Gardens on the UK National Tree Seed Project (UKNTSP), we manage over 80 amazing volunteers who collect the seed from woodland across the UK and send it to the Millennium Seed Bank (MSB). After our last blog opened the flood gates with even more questions, we take a closer look at what happens to the seeds there.
The Woodland Trust

Seeds Only a Plant Breeder Could Love, Until Now
It took him almost 15 years to develop the Badger Flame, a stunning oblong beet with swirls of deep orange. That’s when he hit a wall. “I might have a novelty I’m really excited about, but unless a seed company wants to market it, it doesn’t go anywhere,” Mr. Goldman said. “It’s a huge gap in the business.”
NY Times

Bill Gates calls GMOs 'perfectly healthy' — and scientists say he's right
Bill Gates has a message for those advocating against genetically modified organisms: I'm disappointed. In a Reddit "Ask Me Anything" thread on Tuesday, Gates said that not only does he view genetically modified foods as "perfectly healthy," but that he sees them as a promising tool in a wider array of resources in the fight to reduce world hunger.
Business Insider

The 8 Million Species We Don’t Know
Unless humanity is suicidal (which, granted, is a possibility), we will solve the problem of climate change. Yes, the problem is enormous, but we have both the knowledge and the resources to do this and require only the will. The worldwide extinction of species and natural ecosystems, however, is not reversible. Once species are gone, they’re gone forever.
NY Times

Interactions between white-tailed deer and invasive plants in North American forests

White-tailed deer are emblematic ungulates that, due to anthropogenic modification of landscapes, currently occur at elevated densities. Elevated deer densities often co-occur with non-native plants, but it is not known if plant invasions are a consequence of deer impacts or occur independent of deer impacts on ecosystems, or whether these two stressors are synergistic. A colloquium on ‘Interactions of white-tailed deer and invasive plants in forests of eastern North America’ explored these topics at the 2016 annual meeting of the Botanical Society of America. Now you can read a Special Issue on the topic in the Open Access journal AoB PLANTS.

Scientific Papers

Evolution of pyrrolizidine alkaloid biosynthesis in Apocynaceae: revisiting the defence de-escalation hypothesis
Livschultz et al. studied the evolution of pyrrolizidine alkaloids (PAs) in Apocynaceae, larval host plants for PA-adapted butterflies (Danainae, milkweed and clearwing butterflies), to test if the evolutionary pattern is consistent with de-escalation.
New Phytologist

Why plants make puzzle cells, and how their shape emerges
The puzzle-shaped cells that appear in the epidermis of many plants are a striking example of a complex cell shape, however their functional benefit has remained elusive. Sapala et al. propose that these intricate forms provide an effective strategy to reduce mechanical stress in the cell wall of the epidermis.

Convergent evolution of high elevation plant growth forms and geographically structured variation in Andean Lupinus (Fabaceae)
The Andean Lupinus radiation presents one of the highest rates of net species diversification in plants and includes species with a wide variety of growth forms, but the detailed geographical and adaptive trajectories of diversification in the Andes remain unresolved. One of the most distinctive of these growth forms is the fistulose-inflorescence rosette, FIR, typical of tropical high-elevation habitats. To gain insights into the evolutionary origins of this growth form and the biogeography of Andean Lupinus, genome-scale nextRADseq data were generated for 124 individuals from the northern and central Andes.
Botanical Journal of the Linnean Society

MSD1 regulates pedicellate spikelet fertility in sorghum through the jasmonic acid pathway
Grain number per panicle (GNP) is a major determinant of grain yield in cereals. However, the mechanisms that regulate GNP remain unclear. To address this issue, Jiao et al. isolate a series of sorghum [Sorghum bicolor (L.) Moench] multiseeded (msd) mutants that can double GNP by increasing panicle size and altering floral development so that all spikelets are fertile and set grain
Nature Communications

An apoplastic peptide activates salicylic acid signalling in maize
Papain-like cysteine proteases (PLCPs) regulate plant defence to drive cell death and protection against biotrophic pathogens. In maize (Zea mays), PLCPs are crucial in the orchestration of salicylic acid (SA)-dependent defence signalling. Despite this central role in immunity, it remains unknown how PLCPs are activated, and which downstream signals they induce to trigger plant immunity. Here, Ziemann et al. discover an immune signalling peptide, Z. mays immune signalling peptide 1 (Zip1), which is produced after salicylic acid (SA) treatment.
Nature Plants

Persistent Underrepresentation of Women's Science in High Profile Journals
Past research has demonstrated an under-representation of female editors and reviewers in top scientific journals, but very few studies have examined the representation of women authors within original research articles. Shen et al. collected research article publication records from 15 high-profile multidisciplinary and neuroscience journals for 2005-2017 and analyzed the representation of women over time, as well as its relationship with journal impact factor.

Plant breeding for harmony between agriculture and the environment
Dr Seth Murray notes: "This is among my favorite figures: showing the tremendous impact agricultural science has had on US food production and reducing land use. Plant breeding can make similar improvements for environmental sustainability or nutrition!"
Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment

Herbarium data: Global biodiversity and societal botanical needs for novel research
This paper provides an overview of how aggregated, open access botanical and associated biological, environmental, and ecological data sets, from genes to the ecosystem, can be used to document the impacts of global change on communities, organisms, and society; predict future impacts; and help to drive the remediation of change. Advocacy for botanical collections and their expansion is needed, including ongoing digitization and online publishing.
Applications in Plant Sciences

Spatial specificity of auxin responses coordinates wood formation
The cambium, the stem cell niche mediating wood formation, fundamentally depends on auxin signalling but its exact role and spatial organization is obscure. Brackmann et al. show that, while auxin signalling levels increase in differentiating cambium descendants, a moderate level of signalling in cambial stem cells is essential for cambium activity.
Nature Communications

Bacteria exploit autophagy for proteasome degradation and enhanced virulence in plants
Autophagy and the ubiquitin-proteasome system (UPS) are two major protein degradation pathways implicated in the response to microbial infections in eukaryotes. Üstün et al. have identified both pro- and anti-bacterial functions of autophagy mechanisms upon infection of Arabidopsis with virulent Pseudomonas syringae pv. tomato DC3000 (Pst).
The Plant Cell


Next week and onwards

At Botany One we have a return from Joseph Stinziano at Tree Physiology. I've started work on the annual report for Botany One. It's a little early, but I'd like to make time to get some opinions on what is or isn't working here or at Botany One. Feel free to email me your comments or criticism at or else leave a comment when I blog about this later on this month. Until next week, take care.



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