What’s New About How Plants Work? – Some “Tasty Tidbits” from 2012 (Fifth Course)

3735124247 d497b0d8caOn Today’s Menu: Tomatoes, Plant Architecture, and Plant Diversity

May of 2012 was a good month for tomato science.

  • Researchers primarily at the University of Florida, Gainesville, discovered that a large chemical diversity exists among heirloom varieties of tomato. They saw this, however, as an opportunity to discover which chemicals in a ripe tomato are most important for the “best tasting” tomatoes. Their results are discussed and put into a commercial perspective here:
    The scientific search for the essence of a tasty tomato.
  • In a report published in the 31 May 2012 issue of Nature, a consortium of plant geneticists from 14 countries presented the results of a nine year effort to decode the tomato genome, in the hope of breeding better ones.
    More Genes Than Humans: The Tomato Decoded
  • May of 2012 was also a good month for plant developmental biology, not only with regard to how form affects function, but also about how some plant structures are actually constructed.

  • Plants may elongate their stems when growing at high temperature in order to facilitate the cooling of their leaves.
    How plants chill out.
  • New research revealed that velcro-like cells on some plant flower petals may play a crucial role in helping bees grip the flowers.
    Blowing in the wind: how hidden flower features are crucial for bees.

  • For the first time, scientists have identified how a plant’s skin (known as the plant cuticle) is assembled. The waxy plant cuticle is essential to prevent leaves, stems, flowers and fruits from drying out, provide a barrier against pathogens, protect against ultraviolet radiation and prevent organs from fusing together during development.
    Researchers identify how plant “skins” are stitched together.
  • Finally, the fifth month of last year also provided further insights into the significance of plant diversity, specifically, what affects it and how it affects ecosystem productivity.


  • How species diversity is maintained is a fundamental question in biology. In a study reported in the May 18 2012 issue of Science, a team of Indiana University biologists has shown for the first time that diversity is influenced on a spatial scale of unparalleled scope, in part, by how well tree seedlings survive under their own parents.
    Forest diversity from Canada to the sub-tropics influenced by family proximity.
  • In a paper published in the 4 May 2012 issue of Science magazine, Peter B. Reich and collaborators provide evidence that vegetation, such as a patch of prairie or a forest stand, is more productive in the long run when more plant species are present.
    Long-term study shows that plant diversity is key to maintaining productive vegetation.

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