How Plants Work – “Greatest Hits” of 2017 – March

Three (CC BY 2.0) by Kevin Dooley

From RNA to DNA.

Though plant molecular biology seems to be where most of the plant science action (and interest) is these days, some of the favorite plant science news stories in March 2017 included plant morphology, plant microscopy and plant archeology.

But the most popular story had to do with currently THE hottest topic in biology, namely, CRISPR technology.

  • The plant’s immune system can recognize whether a piece of RNA is an invader or not based on whether the RNA has a threaded bead-like structure at the end, say University of Tokyo researchers.
    How plants can tell friend from foe.
  • Conifers are the world’s tallest, widest, and oldest trees. But they have some of the smallest leaves in the plant kingdom, with most never growing beyond 6 centimeters. To find out why, scientists mathematically modeled how liquid nutrients move through the needlelike leaves of conifers, including redwoods and cedars.
    Why do the world’s largest trees have some of the smallest leaves?
  • It’s hard to take a picture of something that’s always moving—just ask anyone who’s had to photograph a child. Now, one team of researchers has solved the problem on a tiny scale, with a program that lets microscopes automatically track objects invisible to the human eye.
    Watching plants grow has never been this exciting.
  • Scientists studying the Amazon rain forest are tangled in a debate of nature versus nurture. Many ecologists tend to think that before Europeans arrived in the Americas, the vast wilderness was pristine and untouched by humans. But several archaeologists argue that ancient civilizations once thrived in its thickets and played a role in its development.
    How the Amazon’s Cashews and Cacao Point to Cultivation by the Ancients.
  • Out of the more than 300,000 plant species in existence, only three species–rice, wheat, and maize–account for most of the plant matter that humans consume, partly because in the history of agriculture, mutations arose that made these crops the easiest to harvest. But with CRISPR technology, we don’t have to wait for nature to help us domesticate plants,…”
    Want more crop variety? Researchers propose using CRISPR to accelerate plant domestication.
  • Tomorrow we go underground for some of the favorite plant news items of April 2017…

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