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

6550017045 6ecf0fc462Some Plant Science News from August 2012

The eighth month of the year may be when many people in the U.S. and Europe are on holiday.

But there didn’t seem to be a holiday for plant science news.

There were so many interesting reports published last August, it was hard for me to choose only a few.

Anyway, here are five that I found particularly “tasty”:

  • From 10 August 2012 Nature | News: “Black cottonwood trees (Populus trichocarpa) can clone themselves to produce offspring that are connected to their parents by the same root system. Now, after the first genome-wide analysis of a tree, it turns out that the connected clones have many genetic differences, even between tissues from the top and bottom of a single tree.”
    Tree’s leaves genetically different from its roots.
  • From Plant Physiology: “Fruits are classified into two physiological groups, “climacteric” or “nonclimacteric,” according to their respiration patterns and reliance on ethylene biosynthesis during ripening. Climacteric fruits show an increase in respiration rate and ethylene formation during ripening. Nonclimacteric fruits exhibit neither the respiratory burst nor an elevated ethylene synthesis during ripening.”

    A team of researchers from Germany and the U.S. investigated why ethylene causes some plants to mature after picking and has absolutely no effect on others. In the August 2012 issue of the scientific journal Plant Physiology, they reported their results .
    Ethylene of no effect – why peppers do not mature after picking.

  • From an engineer’s perspective, many plants and plant structures are prime examples of precise engineering on a microscopic scale. An MIT researcher has compiled data on the microstructures of a number of different plants.
    Plants exhibit a wide range of mechanical properties that may help engineers design new materials.
  • Can we have enough to eat and a healthy environment, too? Yes—if we’re smart about it, suggests a study published in the 29 August 2012 issue of Nature by a team of researchers from the University of Minnesota and McGill University in Montreal.
    Can we increase global food production, while reducing the environmental impacts of agriculture? Yes we (maybe) can!
  • As reported in the 31 August 2012 issues of Science, an interdisciplinary and international group of researchers based at Duke University successfully followed the genes underlying variation of complex traits in a natural setting back to the evolutionary processes that influenced them.
    Evolution of the mustard’s spice.
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