How Plants Worked….A Look Back at 2015 – October

From Ancestors to Zombies

“Diversity” seems to be the best word to describe the plant news from October 2105.

Many agree that the ability to form symbiotic relationships with soil microorganisms such as bacteria and fungi were key to the successful colonization of the land by green plants. A report published last October supports the idea that land plant ancestors were predisposed to form such partnerships.

After over a hundred years, some scientists are still debating the findings of Gregor Mendel.

A few months ago I wrote a post regarding “rewilding”, that is, the reintroduction of wild traits back into crop plants. Some plant scientists think this may be a novel approach to crop plant defense against insect predators.

What triggers flowering in plants has been a major question for plant physiologists for a very long time. But lots has been learned in the last 20 years or so. A paper published last October revealed how a plant hormone may instigate flower formation.

Zombies is a subject that people never seem to get tired of hearing about (inexplicably, to me , at least). Anyway, what would plant versions of zombies look like? Some scientists think they have an answer to this question.

  • When the algal ancestor of modern land plants made the transition from aquatic environments to an inhospitable shore 450 million years ago, it changed the world by dramatically altering climate and setting the stage for the vast array of terrestrial life.Ancestors of land plants were wired to make the leap to shore.
  • Biologists arguing about whether the results of experiments by the man hailed as the father of modern genetics are “too good to be true” have been distracted from a more important debate.Learning the right lesson from Mendel’s peas.
  • Rose gardeners have a lot to say about aphids. Some may advise insecticides as a way to manage an infestation, but others will swear by live ladybugs (natural predators of aphids). The latter is more environmental friendly, and once the ladybugs run out of food to eat, they move on. While this strategy may work in someone’s backyard, it’s not an option on a large farm.Wild plants call to carnivores to get rid of pests — could crops do the same?
  • …flowers don’t develop just anywhere on the plant; they only grow from certain cells, which must receive a particular signal to begin the process. While researchers knew that flower formation was governed by the activity of the hormone auxin, they didn’t understand precisely how it signaled the plant to form blooms.Biologists discover plant hormone ‘switch’ that unravels chromatin to form flowers.
  • It begins as a fairy tale which later turns into a horror story: Lusciously flowering plants, surrounded by a large number of insects. Usually, both sides profit from the encounter: Feasting on the plant juice and pollen, the insects pollinate the flowers and thus secure the survival of the plants. However, sometimes the insects – in this case a certain species of leafhoppers – can bring disaster to the plants, which they are not able to overcome.How Plants turn into Zombies.

    Back next time with a glance back at the plant news from November 2015…

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