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

Murano Number 8 (CC BY-SA 2.0) by KLMircea

From Chronic Drought to the Shyness of Trees.

Perhaps fitting with the month of August (in the northern hemisphere at least), a couple of the more popular plant news items four months ago had to do with how plants respond to drought. Other retweeted stories ranged from ancient algae to plump tomatoes. But the most popular post, by far, introduced many to a new concept regarding tree canopies.

  • “The amount of time it takes for an ecosystem to recover from a drought is an important measure of a drought’s severity. During the 20th century, the total area of land affected by drought increased, and longer recovery times became more common, according to new research….”
    Incomplete drought recovery may be the new normal.
  • “A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth.”
    The algae that terraformed Earth.
  • “A solution to help farmers to grow crops in dry areas or during stretches of drought may depend on breeding and cultivating plants that protect themselves with a thicker layer of leaf wax, a new study shows.”
    Wax on: How wheat plants shield themselves during drought.
  • Farmers can grow big, juicy tomatoes thanks to a mutation in the Cell Size Regulator gene that occurred during the tomato domestication process. Esther van der Knaap of the University of Georgia, Athens and colleagues describe this gene variant in a study published in open-access journal PLOS Genetics on August 17th, 2017.”
    Researchers describe gene that makes large, plump tomatoes.
  • From Robert Macfarlane’s fascinating Twitter account comes this new-to-me term: crown shyness, a phenomenon where the leaves and branches of individual trees don’t touch those of other trees, forming gaps in the canopy.”
    The shyness of trees.

    The most popular plant news story on my HPW Twitter feed last September involved “tree blindness”. Find out what that is here, tomorrow.

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