The Week in Botany

The Week in Botany 7

Our weekly round-up of all things botanical. If you'd like to receive this as an email on a Monday, instead of waiting a week, you can sign up here.

Monday, 24 July 2017

Hello everyone. I’m collating this on a Sunday afternoon to go out on Monday morning. The only urgently time-sensitive link we have is the Improbable Botany kickstarter at the end of the News and Links section. If you like your sci-fi botanically-based you might want to take a look before the deadline. A new Special Issue of Annals of Botany is out too. This is on Polyploidy in Ecology and Evolution. It’s currently free access, but will go behind the paywall after three months, so you might want to download any papers that interest you from that. We will be posting snippets for the papers in the issue for the next few weeks. The final time-sensitive information is that if you’re at the IBC in Shenzhen then you can meet some of us at stand E33, on Tuesday and Thursday at 12.15.

From AoBBlog

Photosynthetic plasticity and survival across the Triassic-Jurassic boundary
Investigating the often overlooked evolutionary role of photosynthetic plasticity under fluctuating [O2]:[CO2], Yiotis et al. assess mature plants from two angiosperms, two monilophytes and Ginkgo biloba acclimated to a Triassic-Jurassic boundary (TJB) atmosphere and their photosynthetic plasticity using gas exchange and chlorophyll fluorescence methods.

How a misunderstanding over diet created an ecocide
For years the tale of how the inhabitants of Easter Island depleted their soils and destroyed their ecosystem has been a cautionary tale for western civilisation. There’s just one problem with this as a historical warning – it seems that it never happened.

Carbon stores support efficient nitrate use during regrowth of perennial ryegrass
Plant regrowth in response to defoliation relies on efficient nitrogen use. Roche et al. find that remobilisation of water soluble carbohydrate stores in leaves of perennial ryegrass (Lolium perenne) is coordinated with nitrogen availability to support efficient N assimilation into amino acids in leaf and sheath tissues.

Skating on thin ice..?
Nigel Chaffey has a follow up to a story from 2012. Algae are blooming in unexpected places and this could have consequences for the rest of the food chain.

Polyploidy and interspecific hybridization shape adaptation, speciation and evolution
This Annals of Botany Special Issue on Polyploidy in Ecology and Evolution presents the evolutionary consequences of new, recent, and ancient polyploidy. Alix et al. survey experimental, genomic, ecological and theoretical studies demonstrating that polyploidization often occurs during periods of major evolutionary transitions and adaptive radiation of species. Polyploidy, the cornerstone of bursts of adaptive speciation, brings about genetic novelty. The emergence of new gene functions enables diversification, speciation, and hence plant evolution.

Sex-specific functional traits in cycads
A study published in AoB PLANTS by Krieg et al. is the first of its kind to examine sex-mediated ecophysiology in cycads. Their results show unexpended differences in photosynthetic physiology and highlight the role that nitrogen-fixing soil bacteria may play in cycad reproduction and ecology. They found that species can vary markedly in nitrogen relations and that plant sex can drive unique leaf physiology.

Resource: The Chicago Guide to Fact–Checking
How can you make the process of fact-checking easier, so you know what you’re saying is accurate? Ian Street finds a useful resource.

Impact of transposable elements on polyploid plant genomes
Transposable elements (TEs), together with polyploidization have a key role in plant evolution, generating changes in genome size, as well as acting as a source for new coding and regulatory genetic sequences. Vicient and Casacuberta review the main consequences of TE activity in plant genomes and gene evolution, in particular after polyploidization events.

Developing Sustainable Bioenergy Crops for Future Climates 24-27th September 2017

You are welcome to join us at Bioenergy 2017. This meeting will bring together researchers, breeders, growers and policy makers who are concerned with the development of new bioenergy crops for future climates.

News and Links

Maize, rice, wheat: alarm at rising climate risk to vital crops
Simultaneous harvest failures in key regions would bring global famine, says the Met Office The Guardian

How do pine trees guard against drought?
Do young pines build up food reserves at the expense of growth to enable them to survive longer in the event of a drought? This controversial hypothesis is refuted by a new study carried out by the Swiss Federal Institute for Forest, Snow and Landscape Research (WSL). In the experiment, the trees swiftly adapted to an artificial drought and were equipped to combat it the following year. Journal of Ecology Blog

Australian organisation have now digitised 1000+ rare books, historic journal volumes & field diaries for the Biodiversity Heritage Library

We Are Owned by the Wilderness
Parker J Palmer asks if we can own wilderness. On Being

Forest Bathing: A Retreat To Nature Can Boost Immunity And Mood
Forest bathing isn’t a bath. We sat on the banks of the river, but we did not get in the water. It’s not a hike, either. We did walk the forest trails, but we meandered with no particular destination in mind. NPR Radio

The Stinging Nettles
What is it that makes nettles sting? In Defense of Plants takes a look. In Defense of Plants

How many genebanks are there in the world?
It turns out that counting them isn’t so simple. The Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

A nice field trip to see Drosera rotundifolia in Belgium
In late June, I went with our French local carnivorous plant society to visit an interesting site in Belgium, not very far from my hometown. The habitat there was supposed to harbor a small Drosera rotundifolia population. A Garden’s Chronicle

Drosera intermedia surviving the drought in Southern Belgium
Just before we went to observe a Belgian population of Drosera rotundifolia, we prospected another site  where we could allegedly find some Drosera intermedia, the oblong-leaved sundew.  A Garden’s Chronicle

Monster Swiss cheese plant in search of black holes
The leaf of the Swiss Cheese Plant, Monstera deliciosa, is nothing like a cheese of any kind when young. As it ages, perforations reach deep into the leaf and holes appear towards its centre. It becomes fern-like (pinnate), but with holes… Talking Plants

Taproot Episode 1, Season 1: Extreme Open Science and the Meaning of Scientific Impact with Sophien Kamoun
The Taproot is the podcast that digs beneath the surface to understand how scientific publications in plant biology are created. In each episode, co-hosts Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter take a paper from the literature and talk about the story behind the science with one of its authors. Plantae

Adaptive root foraging strategies along a boreal–temperate forest gradient
In this paper we analysed adaptive foraging mechanisms of ectomycorrhizal and fine roots of Picea abiesPinus sylvestris and Betula pendula along a gradient from temperate to subarctic boreal forest (38 sites between latitudes 48°N and 69°N) in Europe. The study was carried out in cooperation with colleagues and research groups from Finland, Germany, United Kingdom and Lithuania. Ivika Ostonen on her paper in New Phytologist. EcolChange

Summer of Weeds: Eating Purslane
If it wasn’t so prolific and persistent, purslane would probably be a welcome guest in our vegetable gardens and edible landscapes. Easily among the most nutritious and versatile of the edible weeds, Portulaca oleracea is an annoyingly abundant annual that has inserted itself into garden beds and croplands in temperate climates across the globe. Awkward Botany

The Life Cycle of Fall Armyworm
The Fall armyworm, Spodoptera frugiperda, is a major invasive pest in Africa. It has a voracious appetite and feeds on more than 80 plant species, including maize, rice, sorghum and sugarcane. Another feature which makes it an incredibly successful invasive species is its ability to spread and reproduce quickly. CABI have developed a poster to show the life cycle of the Fall armyworm, which includes egg, 6 growth stages of caterpillar development (instars), pupa and adult moth. CABI – The Plantwise Blog

With GMO insect-resistant sugarcane approval, Brazilian farmers poised to reap benefits of biotech pipeline
In June, Brazil became the second country, after Indonesia, to approve the commercial cultivation of genetically engineered insect-resistant sugarcane designed to naturally ward off the potentially devastating sugarcane borer. The borer causes an estimated $1.5 billion in losses to Brazilian farmers each year. The Genetic Literacy Project

Grad School Is Hard on Mental Health. Here’s an Antidote.
I knew grad school would be difficult, but I was surprised to find one way in which I wanted to work harder: learning how to talk about science. I grew up seeing science misrepresented or misunderstood in the news and pop culture. I thought the relationship between science and society needed repair, and I saw scientists’ isolation as part of the problem. So I couldn’t believe that my Ph.D. program was willing to release me into the world without teaching me how to talk to people outside academe. The Chronicle of Higher Education

Let’s hear it for the garden volunteers
An army of volunteers keep the horticulture industry afloat. Let’s recognise their contribution, argues Robbie Blackhall-Miles. The Guardian

Enterprise: Game on
Scientists are designing board, card and digital games to convey scientific concepts. Nature

Who Dares Doubt The Decomposing Powers Of Fungi?
Apparently, it is widely accepted that it took fungi 120 mil­lion years to figure out how to decompose woody plants. Hence lignin-rich materials ac­cu­mu­lated along with the appearance of widespread forests in the Car­bo­niferous Period (ca. 359 − 299 million years ago), which led to huge coal deposits until white rot fungi finally caught up in the Permian (ca. 299 − 252 mya). As a mi­cro­bial chauvinist, I can’t imagine fungi being this evolutionarily retarded. If alien plants composed of degradable plastic were to in­va­de the Earth, would it take 120 million years to evolve ef­fi­cient biodegradation pathways? Small Things Considered

Improbable Botany
Eleven leading science fiction authors imagine alien plant invasions and botanical futures in this short story anthology. If you want to support it on Kickstarter you need to get your pledge in by Kickstarter

Call for Papers: Special issue on the Ecology and Evolution of Plant Reproduction

Botanists have long been fascinated by the extraordinary diversity in flowering plant reproductive patterns and have sought to understand theecological processes and genetic mechanisms influencing plant mating. Over the last five years, research progress in this discipline has rapidly accelerated. Important new insights in this field often combine elegant theoretical models with innovative field and laboratory experiments. Annals of Botany will release a Special Issue on the Ecology and Evolution of Plant Reproduction in January 2019, and it will highlight papers from 3 symposia at the XIX International Botanical Congress in Shenzhen, China. See the full call for papers for more information.

Scientific Papers

Plant Genetics, Ecologically Based Farming and the Future of Food
Here I provide examples of crops derived from three modern genetic approaches to plant breeding: genetic engineering, which allows the introduction of genes from one species into another; marker-assisted breeding, which facilitates precision breeding using molecular techniques; and genome editing, which allows for targeted insertions, deletions, or replacement of DNA sequences. Over the last twenty years, scientists and breeders have used these approaches to create crop varieties that thrive in extreme environments or can withstand attacks by pests and disease. Geographical Review

Early Arabidopsis root hair growth stimulation by pathogenic strains of Pseudomonas syringae
Selected beneficial Pseudomonas spp. strains have the ability to influence root architecture in Arabidopsis thaliana by inhibiting primary root elongation and promoting lateral root and root hair formation. A crucial role for auxin in this long-term (1 week), long-distance plant–microbe interaction has been demonstrated. Annals of Botany

Are mycorrhizal fungi our sustainable saviours? Considerations for achieving food security
We draw on ecological knowledge of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) to inform their role in agroecosystems, providing a balanced look at mycorrhiza–crop symbioses in terms of plant ecophysiology and the wider role of AMF in agroecosystems and ask the question: are AMF our sustainable saviours? Journal of Ecology

Light triggers PILS-dependent reduction in nuclear auxin signalling for growth transition
Here, we used apical hook development as a model for growth transitions in plants. A PIN-FORMED (PIN)-dependent intercellular auxin transport module defines an auxin maximum that is causal for growth repression during the formation of the apical hook. Our data illustrate that growth transition for apical hook opening is largely independent of this PIN module, but requires the PIN-LIKES (PILS ) putative auxin carriers at the endoplasmic reticulum. Nature Plants

Synthetic Botany
We highlight new approaches to the DNA-based manipulation of plants and the use of advanced quantitative imaging techniques in simple plant models such as Marchantia polymorpha. These offer the prospects of improved understanding of plant dynamics and new approaches to rational engineering of plant traits. Cold Spring Harbor Perspectives in Biology

Herbicide Diversity And Herbicide-resistant Weed Evolution In The United States
Here, I show that adoption of GE corn varieties did not reduce herbicide diversity, and therefore likely did not increase selection pressure for herbicide-resistant weeds in that crop. Adoption of GE varieties reduced herbicide diversity in cotton and soybean, but glyphosate largely displaced herbicides that are more likely to select for herbicide-resistant weeds. Pre-print at A Plant Out of Place

Cell cycle arrest in plants: what distinguishes quiescence, dormancy and differentiated G1?
Here the physiology and molecular regulation of (1) meristematic quiescence, (2) dormancy and (3) terminal differentiation (cell cycle exit) are considered in order to determine whether and how the molecular decisions guiding these nuclear states are distinct. A brief overview of the canonical cell cycle regulators is provided, and the genetic and genomic, as well as physiological, evidence is considered regarding two primary questions: (1) Are the canonical cell cycle regulators superior or subordinate in the regulation of quiescence? (2) Are these three modes of quiescence governed by distinct molecular controls? Annals of Botany FREE ACCESS

The basis of resilience in forest tree species and its use in adaptive forest management in Britain
Dealing with each new threat as it arises is unlikely to be cost-effective and probably impractical. A better strategy for establishing long-term resilience would be to harness evolutionary processes, to maximize the capability of individual tree species to respond to new threats by the reorganization of populations via natural selection; in other words, to be resilient. Forestry

Combining semi-automated image analysis techniques with machine learning algorithms to accelerate large scale genetic studies
We trained a Random Forest algorithm to infer architectural traits from automatically-extracted image descriptors. The training was performed on a subset of the dataset, then applied to its entirety. This strategy allowed us to (i) decrease the image analysis time by 73% and (ii) extract meaningful architectural traits based on image descriptors. bioRxiv

Dissecting the ‘bacon and eggs’ phenotype: transcriptomics of post-anthesis colour change in Lotus
Post-anthesis colour change (PACC) is widely thought to be an adaptation to signal floral suitability to pollinators. Lotus filicaulis and Lotus sessilifolius are insect-pollinated herbaceous legumes with flowers that open yellow, shift to orange and finally red. This study examines the molecular basis for floral colour change in these Lotus species. Annals of Botany

Precision targeting by phosphoinositides: how PIs direct endomembrane trafficking in plants
Here, we review the general mechanisms by which phosphoinositides and membrane trafficking feedbacks on each other to regulate cellular patterning. We then use the specific examples of polarized trafficking, endosomal sorting and vacuolar biogenesis to illustrate these general concepts. Current Opinion in Plant Biology

Seed size and its rate of evolution correlate with species diversification across angiosperms
Here, we show that absolute seed size and the rate of change in seed size are both associated with variation in diversification rates. Based on the largest available angiosperm phylogenetic tree, we found that smaller-seeded plants had higher rates of diversification, possibly due to improved colonisation potential. PLOS Biology

Lipid transfer from plants to arbuscular mycorrhiza fungi
In a forward genetic approach, we identified two Lotus japonicus mutants defective in arbuscular mycorrhiza-specific paralogs of lipid biosynthesis genes (KASI and GPAT6). These mutants perturb fungal development and accumulation of emblematic fungal 16:1ω5 FAs. Using isotopolog profiling we demonstrate that 13C patterns of fungal FAs recapitulate those of wild-type hosts, indicating cross-kingdom lipid transfer from plants to fungi. eLife

Harnessing plant spectra to integrate the biodiversity sciences across biological and spatial scales
What can you tell from the colour of a leaf? Examining the reflected light from plants could reveal a lot about diversity. AmJBot

That closes the email for this week. We’ll be watching the #IBC2017 hashtag to see what’s happening in Shenzhen. If you want to keep up with what we’re sharing, you can follow us on Twitter @annbot.

About the author

Alun Salt

When he's not the web developer for AoB Blog, Alun Salt researches something that could be mistaken for the archaeology of science. His current research is about whether there's such a thing as scientific heritage and if there is how would you recognise it?

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