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

11 (CC BY-SA 2.0) by Ole Husby

From Mysterious Flowers to GM Bananas.

The favorite plant news stories of November 2017 ranged from the seemingly esoteric to seriously familiar.

  • “The mysterious flowers of Aspidistra elatior are found on the southern Japanese island of Kuroshima. Until recently, scientists thought that A. elatior has the most unusual pollination ecology among all flowering plants, being pollinated by slugs and amphipods. However, direct observation of their ecosystem has revealed that they are mainly pollinated by fungus gnats, probably thanks to their resemblance to mushrooms.”
    Flower attracts insects by pretending to be a mushroom: The true pollinators for one of the strangest flowers are finally revealed.
  • “About 22,000 years ago, as the ice sheets that consumed much of North America and Europe began retreating, humans started to consume a fruit that today brings joy to millions of wine drinkers around the world: grapes.”
    UCI-led genomic study reveals clues to wild past of grapes.
  • “Mitochondria are cell organelles that play critical roles in maintaining the cell’s health, or homeostasis. One way that mitochondria do this is by harvesting energy though oxidative phosphorylation, where various enzymes in the mitochondria release energy to produce the molecule ATP, the cell’s “energy currency” that can be used in other processes. This is why mitochondria are often described as the cell’s “powerhouse”.”
    Animals’ mitochondria defenses discovered in plants.
  • “Scientists from Wageningen University & Research have found natural genetic variation for photosynthesis in plants and are unravelling it to the DNA level. As a result it should be possible to breed crops that use photosynthesis more effectively in the future, increasing their yield and enabling them to capture more CO2 from the air in the soil. This represents a major step on the long road to solving global food challenges and realising the Paris climate agreement.”
    One step closer to crops with twice the yield.
  • “A field trial in Australia has shown that genetically modified banana trees can resist the deadly fungus that causes Panama disease, which has devastated banana crops in Asia, Africa, and Australia and is a major threat for banana growers in the Americas.”
    GM banana shows promise against deadly fungus strain.

    Next-Time: We’ll conclude the “Greatest Hits” list of 2017 with December’s most retweeted plant news stories. And I’ll reveal which was THE most popular report of 2017.

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