What’s New About How Plants Work? – “Tasty Tidbits” From 2014 (Seventh Course)

From Plant Vibrations To Plant Detox

Much of the plant news in July 2014 seemed to come in pairs.

There were a pair of stories involving “vibrations”, a pair about plant development in 3D, and a pair about plants “cleaning” the environment.

So, of course, the tasty news tidbits for the seventh month of 2014 will be served up in pairs.

  • News about vibrations in plants last July involved both the macro and molecular scales.

    First, at the macro level…Plant scientists have known for decades that plants respond to mechanical stimulations, such as wind, raindrops, etc. (see thigmomorphogenesis, for example). But can plants actually detect and respond to mechanical stimulations by insects?
    Apparently so. For example, see Plants respond to leaf vibrations caused by chewing insects.

    And for plant vibrations at the molecular level: “Biophysics researchers at the University of Michigan have used short pulses of light to peer into the mechanics of photosynthesis and illuminate the role that molecule vibrations play in the energy conversion process that powers life on our planet.
    Read how this work not only adds to our understanding of photosynthesis, but also may help improve solar panel design at: Deep within spinach leaves, vibrations enhance efficiency of photosynthesis.

  • Understanding how differential gene expression ultimately results in the formation of leaves, roots and flowers has long been the “Holy Grail” of plant development biology.

    The 3-dimensional (3D) imaging of developing plants has greatly contributed to achieving this quest. The results of two such studies were reported in July 2014:
    The first: Flower development in 3D: Timing is the key.
    And the second: Plants grown in a microscope reveal root development.

  • Despite the statement by Ronald Reagan that “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.”, I presume most of us would prefer to breathe the air in a forest rather than the car-exhaust-laden air along a busy city street. Indeed, new evidence supports the idea that trees may actually help remove air pollution.
    Read about it at: First national study finds trees saving lives, reducing respiratory problems.

    Using plants to mitigate environmental pollution is often referred to as phytoremediation. A good example of this was reported online last July at: Using sunflowers to clean up toxic soils.

    On Menu #8: Old seeds, “genetically-edited” fruit, and more….

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