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From Sexy Mushrooms to Electric Algae

The rains of November help to bring out the mushrooms in the forests of North America. And, fittingly, one of the most popular plant-related stories of November 2015 was a tale of “Sex, death and mushrooms”.

According to a report published last November, wheat “…provides a fifth of global caloric intake.” And “Estimates put potential losses from wheat rust diseases in Australia alone at more than one-and-a-half billion dollars each year.” So, it wasn’t surprising that a paper, published late last year, announcing the identification of a key wheat disease-resistance gene attracted a lot of interest.

I’ve long believed that most people underestimate the importance of plants. But some people also believe that plants possess some sort of innate “intelligence”. What do you think? The BBC weighed in on the subject last November…..

Are algae plants? According to one botanical webpage: “Most algae are traditionally considered as a plant subkingdom within the 5-kingdom classification. The diagnostic characters of the algal group as a whole were ill-defined, but nevertheless vastly different from the well-defined traits of the other two plant subkingdoms, namely the bryophytes and vascular land plants. Other biologists who were convinced that not all algae are plants revised the classification, preferring algae to be placed in Kingdom Protista, with only some multicellular phyla, particularly the Chlorophyta, Rhodophyta and Phaeophyta, remaining as plants. Then there were other biologists who regarded some of these multicellular forms to be placed in Kingdom Protista. The result was, and still is confusion.

Anyway, however you consider algae, they were in the plant news several times in November 2015.

  • The unpredictable flowering of beautiful alien forms from rotting wood, dung or leaf litter in a forest moving toward winter is a strong and strange conjuration of life-in-death — in Baltic mythology, mushrooms were thought to be the fingers of the god of the dead bursting through the ground to feed the poor.Sex, death and mushrooms.
  • An international team of scientists has identified a gene that can prevent some of the most significant wheat diseases-…Wheat disease-resistance gene identified, potential to save billions.
  • Research suggests plants might be capable of more than we suspect. Some scientists – controversially – describe plants as “intelligent”.Do we underestimate the power of plants and trees?
  • Scientists from the John Innes Centre, the universities of Cambridge and Edinburgh and Stanford University in California, have shown that genes from an alga which is capable of very efficient photosynthesis can function properly when introduced into Arabidopsis, a plant commonly used for scientific experiments.New progress towards maximising photosynthesis in plants.
  • To limit climate change, experts say that we need to reach carbon neutrality by the end of this century at the latest. To achieve that goal, our dependence on fossil fuels must be reversed. But what energy source will take its place? Researchers from Concordia just might have the answer: algae.Harnessing the electrical energy from plants – Algae could be new green power source.
  • Next-Time: Wrapping up the 2015 plant news retrospective….

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