On our Scoop It between January 3rd and January 17th

These are links from our Scoop It page between January 3rd and January 17th:

The Archaeobotanist: African Archaeobotany 2011

A blog review­ing Dorian Fuller’s archaeo­botan­ical high­lights of 2011. Africa, as a con­tin­ent, remains one of the archaeo­botan­ic­ally least known and so it worth not­ing a num­ber of con­tri­bu­tions over the past year.

One of the best iteg­rated stud­ies (from any­where, not just Africa) of wood char­coal along­side seeds, pol­len and other lines of evid­ence for the study of chan­ging cul­tiv­a­tion prac­tices, includ­ing shift­ing cul­tiv­a­tion in Burkino Faso by Hohn and Neumann, which is in press but on-line.

A import­ant book released in 2011 was Marijke van der Veen’s Consumption, Trade and Innovation, …

On the Horizon, Planes Powered by Plant Fuel

The use of jet fuel from renew­able sources is now well demon­strated, but it costs more than double what fuel made from pet­ro­leum does, accord­ing to air­lines, air­craft com­pan­ies and sup­pli­ers. One way to cut the cost may be to tinker with the plants that bio­fuel is made from. Take jatropha, for example. Lufthansa said last week that it had com­pleted a series of more than 800 flights by an Airbus A321 that shuttled between Hamburg and Frankfurt while burn­ing a 50 per­cent bio­fuel mix in one of its two engines. The bio­fuel was derived partly from jatropha, a trop­ical shrub with an oil-rich nut, and it cost about two and a half times what ordin­ary petroleum-based fuel does.

Richard Jenkins from Madagascar

I was recently in Wales, back from Madagascar for a short visit. It was a time for reflec­tion. My father died sud­denly in August and I star­ted sort­ing out some of my old belong­ings in my par­ents’ house. It made me won­der: “what made a boy from Llanelli com­mit him­self to biod­iversity conservation?”


Richard Jenkins on con­serving the Madagascan rainforest.

European Wide Fascination of Plants Day May 18 2012

At its General Meeting in June, the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO) announced that it is now act­ively pre­par­ing the Europe-wide out­reach and pub­lic dia­logue activ­ity called “The Fascination of Plants Day”. The ulti­mate goal of this cam­paign is to approach as many European cit­izens (and those leav­ing else­where) as pos­sible to emphas­ize the fas­cin­a­tion of plants and the import­ance of plant sci­ence for agri­cul­ture (i.e. sus­tain­ing and improv­ing food and feed in Europe), hor­ti­cul­ture, forestry, provid­ing as well non-food products (e.g. pulp and paper, tim­ber, chem­ic­als, energy, phar­ma­ceut­ic­als), and for envir­on­mental con­ser­va­tion. The “Fascination of Plants Day” will take place on Friday, May 18, 2012.

The sus­tain­ab­il­ity of chocol­ate

People eat 3 bil­lion pounds of chocol­ate every year. Chocolate is made from the seeds of the cacao plant, Theobroma cacao. But des­pite chocolate’s pop­ular­ity in the United States and Europe, the cacao plant is in trouble. This is due to cur­rent agri­cul­tural and fair trade prac­tices, accord­ing to bot­an­ist Frank Almeda, senior cur­ator at the California Academy of Sciences. The most com­mon way of grow­ing cacao is in a mono­cul­ture, like corn is grown, which makes plants much more sus­cept­ible to a pleth­ora of dis­eases and pest infest­a­tions, says Dr Almeda. Making things worse, cacao farm­ers make less than one dol­lar a day, so cul­tiv­at­ing cacao isn’t even eco­nom­ic­ally feas­ible, so farm­ers are abandon­ing their cacao plantations.

First plant to use bur­ied leaves to catch worms found — life — 09 January 2012 — New Scientist

A sticky end awaits worms that stray too close to a scrawny-looking plant unique to Brazil. Philcoxia min­en­sis is the first car­ni­vor­ous plant dis­covered to trap and devour prey in the soil with the help of sticky leaves prod­ded below the surface.

What are the parts of a cell? Even a friendly alien could under­stand this! Kahn Academy Plantcellbiology​.com

The Khan Academy is on a mis­sion to provide free online edu­ca­tional resources for every­one, no mat­ter if you are a stu­dent, teacher or a friendly alien just try­ing to get a leg up in earthly bio­logy”. With over 2700 videos avail­able, they are doing very well! This blackboard-style video explains the dif­fer­ent parts of a cell.

Sequencing Methods to Watch in 2012: The Fall of the Genome (and rise of bioin­form­at­ics)

Predicting what might hap­pen next year in the field of next-generation sequen­cing may seem futile on the sur­face. Sequencing tech­no­logy advances so rap­idly these days that the pre­dic­tions that might seem out­land­ish at the start of the year will appear to have been much too con­ser­vat­ive by year’s end. But, your edit­ors at BioTechniques are up to the chal­lenge, and here we have assembled our pre­dic­tions and thoughts on the world of next-generation sequen­cing in 2012 …

Data ana­lysis dilemma. The volume of data gen­er­ated using next-generation sequen­cing is mind bog­gling … it is clear that the data deluge will con­tinue in the com­ing years and the need for com­pu­ta­tional bio­lo­gists will grow (gradu­ate stu­dents take note).

Roots, Tubers, and Bananas — CGIAR Research Program

Increasing rates of per­sist­ent hun­ger, con­tin­ued pop­u­la­tion growth, and accel­er­at­ing cli­mate change are threat­en­ing the sta­bil­ity of world food sys­tems. These global con­cerns demand a new scale of response. The CGIAR Research Program on Roots, Tubers, and Bananas is being cre­ated to bring together the research syn­er­gies, strengths, and resources from mul­tiple organ­iz­a­tions, focused on a key group of crops, to help address these chal­lenges more glob­ally and effi ciently.


Research has a vital role to play and must embrace a broad port­fo­lio of com­mod­it­ies bey­ond the grain crops that have tra­di­tion­ally been the focus of food secur­ity ini­ti­at­ives. It is led by the International Potato Center (CIP), Bioversity International, the International Center for

Tropical Agriculture (CIAT), and Agricultural Research for Development in Africa (IITA) and includes a wide spec­trum of research-for-development stake­hold­ers. This new col­lab­or­a­tion, with its com­bined scale and capa­city, will increase the abil­ity to advance research, share know­ledge, and enhance uptake to increase research and devel­op­ment impacts.
The pro­gram is devoted to achiev­ing sus­tain­able pro­ductiv­ity increases for global food secur­ity.
Strategies to reduce the risk of food short­ages and mal­nu­tri­tion must include increased yields and
stronger, more diver­sifi ed crop sys­tems. The pur­pose of this pro­gram is to exploit the under­u­til­ized
poten­tial of root, tuber, and banana crops for improv­ing nutri­tion and food secur­ity. In addi­tion, Roots,
Tubers, and Bananas aims to increase income gen­er­a­tion, foster greater gender equity, and improve
live­li­hoods – espe­cially among some of the world’s most poor and vul­ner­able populations.

The story of agri­cul­ture: make the global eco­nomy green

We need to make the global eco­nomy green. Agriculture provides sig­ni­fic­ant oppor­tun­it­ies for growth, invest­ment and jobs to help make this hap­pen. Everyone needs agri­cul­ture. Agriculture feeds our entire pop­u­la­tion and pro­duces fibre for cloth­ing, feed for live­stock and bioen­ergy. Particularly in the devel­op­ing world, agri­cul­ture con­trib­utes sig­ni­fic­antly to GDP growth, leads the way in poverty reduc­tion and accounts for the lion’s share of employ­ment oppor­tun­it­ies, espe­cially for women. Agriculture also has one of the highest poten­tials for redu­cing car­bon emis­sions and help­ing vul­ner­able people adapt to cli­mate change.


Explore Farming First’s Infographic on the Green Economy
1 How can we feed future generations?

2 How can we reduce poverty around the world?

3 Why does agri­cul­ture mat­ter to a green economy?

4 Where do we invest to build a green economy?

5 How can we build a more sus­tain­able sup­ply chain?

6 How can we man­age envir­on­mental sus­tain­ab­il­ity
with eco­nomic viability

(via Rodomiro Ortiz — thanks!)

The nam­ing of names: new grass spe­cies hon­ours Emeritus Professor — University of Leicester

Genetically import­ant spe­cies iden­ti­fied and christened.


Brachypodium sta­cei
In the journal Annals of Botany, a paper on the grass Brachypodium dis­ta­chyon has split the plant into three spe­cies, one of which has been christened Brachypodium sta­cei. The new paper by research­ers in Spain, Germany, Poland and Aberystwyth lead by Pilar Catalán examined B. dis­ta­chyon vari­ants, find­ing dif­fer­ent num­bers of chro­mo­somes. They determ­ined that the plants with ten pairs of chro­mo­somes were one dis­tinct spe­cies, the plants with 20 pairs of chro­mo­somes were another – and the plants with 30 pairs were a third spe­cies derived from a his­tor­ical hybrid­isa­tion between the first two.

From now on, B. dis­ta­chyon will refer spe­cific­ally to the ten-pair spe­cies while the 20-pair spe­cies will be B. sta­cei (the 30-pair spe­cies becomes B. hybridum).


The paper notes: “Species ded­ic­ated to Prof. Clive A. Stace, who ini­ti­ated the sys­tem­atic and evol­u­tion­ary stud­ies of Brachypodium.” Professor Stace worked at the University of Leicester for more than thirty years, pub­lish­ing the defin­it­ive cata­logue of British plant spe­cies. One of our cur­rent Biology Professors, Pat Heslop-Harrison, is Chief Editor of the Annals of Botany and notes that this paper, pub­lished today, is his­tor­ic­ally import­ant because it marks a sea-change in the way that new plant spe­cies are announced. Previously, any novel spe­cies had to be described in Latin and ‘pub­lic­a­tion’ was only con­sidered valid in print journ­als. However, from 1 January 2012 there is a brave new world of flora tax­onomy which allows descrip­tions in English and recog­nises online pub­lic­a­tion, crit­ical to speed up cata­loguing and meas­ur­ing the diversity of plant life.

Appropriately enough, B. sta­cei is found in the extreme west­ern range of the plant, mostly on the Balearic Isles where our bio­logy under­gradu­ates decamp each year for the ‘Island Biology and Speciation’ mod­ule field course. Now run by Dr John Bailey and Dr Richard Gornall, this course was ini­ti­ated by Professor Stace so it is won­der­fully appro­pri­ate that the next batch of stu­dents will actu­ally be able to find samples of Brachypodium sta­cei in the wild.


Evolution and taxo­nomic split of the model grass Brachypodium dis­ta­chyon doi​.org/​1​0​.​1​0​9​3​/​a​o​b​/​m​c​r​294


Ann Bot is a gestalt entity who works in the office for the Annals of Botany.

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