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Invasive species and habitat loss our biggest biodiversity threats
Invasive species and habitat loss are the biggest threats to Australian biodiversity, according to new research by the Threatened Species Recovery Hub in partnership with The University of Queensland. Lead researcher Stephen Kearney from UQ's School of Earth and Environmental Sciences said Australia was rich in unique biodiversity, but has had a poor track record since European settlement. (2018-12-10)

Plants as antifungal factories
Researchers from three research institutes in Spain have developed a biotechnological tool to produce, in a very efficient manner, antifungal proteins in the leaves of the plant Nicotiana benthamiana. These proteins are promising biomolecules that could be used to develop new antifungals whose properties and mechanisms of action represent improvements on the existing ones, and which can be applied in diverse fields, including crop and postharvest protection and animal and human health. (2018-12-10)

How catnip makes the chemical that causes cats to go crazy
Researchers at John Innes Centre have shed light on how catnip -- also known as catmint -- produces the chemical that sends cats into a state of wanton abandon. (2018-12-10)

Can rice filter water from ag fields?
While it's an important part of our diets, new research shows that rice plants can be used in a different way, too: to clean runoff from farms before it gets into rivers, lakes, and streams. (2018-12-05)

New butterfly named for pioneering 17th-century entomologist Maria Sibylla Merian
More than two centuries before initiatives to increase the number of women in STEM fields, Maria Sibylla Merian was a professional artist and naturalist whose close observations and illustrations were the first to accurately portray the metamorphosis of butterflies and moths and emphasize the intimate relationship between insects and their host plants. Now, a new Central American butterfly species has been named in her honor. (2018-12-05)

Inactivating genes can boost crop genetic diversity
Researchers from CIRAD and INRA recently showed that inactivating a gene, RECQ4, leads to a three-fold increase in recombination in crops such as rice, pea and tomato. The gene inhibits the exchange of genetic material via recombination (crossover) during the sexual reproduction process in crops. This discovery, published in the journal Nature Plants on Nov. 16, 2018, could speed up plant breeding and development of varieties better suited to specific environmental conditions (disease resistance, adaptation to climate change). (2018-12-04)

Human environmental effects favor cosmopolitan species over local iconic species
Human habitat modification is favoring the same species everywhere, while unique species are disappearing, finds a study publishing on Dec. 4 in the open-access journal PLOS Biology, led by Tim Newbold at University College London and Andy Purvis at the Natural History Museum in London. (2018-12-04)

Scientists consider climate change-resistant crops
Meng Chen and his team identified the genetic mechanism used by all plants as they respond to daylight conditions as well as the ability to sense temperature. 'To cope with rapid temperature changes associated with global warming, we may have to help nature to evolve crops to adapt to the new environment,' Chen said. (2018-12-04)

Global warming increases frost damage on trees in Central Europe
Global warming increases frost damage on trees in large areas of Central Europe, according to a new Finnish-Chinese study. Late frost damages are economically important in agriculture and forestry. In certain years, they are known to have caused losses amounting to up to hundreds of millions of euros. (2018-12-03)

Plant cells inherit knowledge of where's up and where's down from mother cell
Knowing which way is up and which way is down is important for all living beings. For plants, which grow roots into the soil and flowers above ground, getting this polarization wrong would cause a whole host of problems. How polarity is reestablished after cell division was unknown -- until now. Researchers at IST Austria have solved one piece of the puzzle (2018-12-03)

Why do some plants live fast and die young?
An international team led by researchers at the University of Manchester have discovered why some plants 'live fast and die young' whilst others have long and healthy lives. (2018-11-28)

Study explains waterhemp's metabolic resistance to topramezone
Corn naturally tolerates certain herbicides, detoxifying the chemicals before they can cause harm. It's what allows farmers to spray fields with the class of herbicides known as HPPD-inhibitors, which kill weeds such as waterhemp and Palmer amaranth and leave corn unscathed. But in more and more fields, the method is failing; waterhemp isn't dying. (2018-11-27)

Oxygen could have been available to life as early as 3.5 billion years ago
Microbes could have performed oxygen-producing photosynthesis at least one billion years earlier in the history of the Earth than previously thought. (2018-11-27)

Virtual models provide real knowledge in the grass family
The complex flowers of the grass family have enormous economic importance, as their pollination leads to the production of grains such as rice, wheat, and corn. Grass species are notoriously difficult to study, however. Researchers present a cost-effective method using computer-assisted design (CAD) software to create high-quality, 3D digital representations of intricate plant structures that can advance understanding of pollination, with implications for both agriculture and weed control. (2018-11-26)

Something to chew on
Cows eat grass. It seems simple enough. But just which kind of grass cows and their vegetarian comrades munch on can influence the entire ecosystem. (2018-11-26)

UNH researchers discover new materials to generate solar fuel production
Researchers at the University of New Hampshire have identified new, readily available materials that convert sunlight and carbon dioxide (CO2) into building blocks for liquid fuels that could one day heat homes and power cars. (2018-11-26)

Plant root hairs form outward due to shank hardening
Plant root hairs increase the roots surface area enabling it to absorb more water and nutrients. Now, researchers have discovered how the hairs grow straight and long. To develop an elongated structure, cell expansion on the sides of the root hair must be suppressed as the tip elongates. If it wasn't for the suppression mechanism, the root would bulge out like a balloon and be unable to form the elongated tubular structure. (2018-11-20)

Mite genomes reveal 'mighty surprising' fragrant and colorful secrets
Scientists at the University of Liverpool have uncovered some unexpected 'foreign' genes in the tiny itch-inducing chigger mite and its more benign but enormous cousin, the giant velvet mite. Genome sequencing of these mites, both members of the trombidid mite family, reveals them to have functional genes for producing terpenes -- naturally occurring and often fragrant compounds that are commonly found in plants, but extremely rare in the animal world. (2018-11-19)

From the Arctic to the tropics: Researchers present unique database on Earth's vegetation
Which plant species grow where -- and why? In a new study in Nature Ecology & Evolution, an international research team presents the world's first global vegetation database which contains over 1.1 million complete lists of plant species for all terrestrial ecosystems. (2018-11-19)

Soil's history: A solution to soluble phosphorus?
New research suggests that, over time, less phosphorus fertilizer may be necessary on agricultural fields. (2018-11-14)

Recommending plants to benefit and attract pollinators
Pollinating Insects are integral to the health of all terrestrial ecosystems and agriculture worldwide. As homeowners attempt to conserve pollinators through horticulture practices, they often seek the advice and guidance of horticulture retail employees regarding what plants they can successfully include on their properties to maximize their intended benefit to pollinators as well as to their home ecosystems. (2018-11-14)

Back-to-the-future plants give climate change insights
If you were to take a seed and zap it into the future to see how it will respond to climate change, how realistic might that prediction be? More so than was previously realized, according to a study from UC Davis and the University of Southampton. (2018-11-13)

'Scaring' soybeans into defensive mode yields better plants a generation later
By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny 'remember' the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to a team of researchers. (2018-11-13)

How plants evolved to make ants their servants
Plants have evolved ways to make ants defend them from attacks and spread their seeds, and this new study shows how it happened. In a new study breaking down the genetic history of 1,700 species of ants and 10,000 plant genera, researchers found that the long history of ant and plant co-evolution started with ants foraging on plants and plants responding by evolving ant-friendly traits. (2018-11-12)

Pollution in cities damaging insects and ecosystems
High levels of pollution found in many of the world's major cities are having negative effects on plants and insects, according to new research from the University of Sheffield. (2018-11-09)

Researchers generate plants with enhanced drought resistance without penalizing growth
Extreme drought is one of the effects of climate change that is already being perceived. A team led by the researcher at the Centre for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG) Ana CaƱo-Delgado has obtained plants with increased drought resistance by modifying the signaling of the plant steroid hormones, known as brassinosteroids. The study, published in Nature Communications, is the first to find a strategy to increase plant hydric stress resistance without affecting overall plant growth. (2018-11-08)

Exploiting epigenetic variation for plant breeding
Epigenetic changes can bring about new traits without altering the sequence of genes. This may allow plants to respond quicker to changes in their environment. Plant biologists at the University of Zurich have now demonstrated that epigenetic variation is also subject to selection and can be inherited. This could expand the possibilities for crop breeding. (2018-11-08)

New tool to predict which plants will become invasive
New research from the University of Vermont provides insight to help predict which plants are likely to become invasive in a particular community. The results showed that non-native plants are more likely to become invasive when they possess biological traits that are different from the native community and that plant height can be a competitive advantage. (2018-11-08)

Utah's Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument home to rich bee diversity
Utah State University researchers say one out of every four bee species in the United States is found In Utah and the arid, western state is home to more bee species than most states in the nation. About half of those species dwell within the original boundaries of the newly reduced Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. (2018-11-07)

Dry conditions may have helped a new type of plant gain a foothold on Earth
Plants reap energy from the sun using two photosynthesis pathways, C3 and C4. A new study led by University of Pennsylvania biologists suggests that water availability drove the expansion of C4 species, which may help to explain how different plant lineages came to be distributed on the planet today (2018-11-07)

Fern plant infusion keeps the doctor away in Medieval Europe
The remains of a medieval skeleton has shown the first physical evidence that a fern plant could have been used for medicinal purposes in cases such as alopecia, dandruff and kidney stones. (2018-11-05)

Small genetic differences turn plants into better teams
Diverse communities of plants and animals typically perform better than monocultures. However, the mechanisms that are responsible for this have so far been a mystery to science. Biologists at the University of Zurich have now been able to identify the genetic cause of these effects. Their findings might help to improve crop yield. (2018-11-05)

Key gene find could enable development of disease-resistant crops
Discovery of a gene that helps plants control their response to disease could aid efforts to develop crops that are resistant to infection, research suggests. (2018-11-02)

Plants rely on their resident bacteria to protect them from harmful microbes
New study shows that plant-associated bacteria protect their hosts by competing with harmful filamentous microbes for access to plant roots. (2018-11-01)

OSU helps establish roadmap for filling the gaps in forest pollinator research
Actively managed conifer forests may also provide important habitat for the pollinators that aid the reproduction of food crops and other flowering plants around the globe. (2018-10-31)

How plants cope with stress
With climate change comes drought, and with drought comes higher salt concentrations in the soil. A team led by University of Pennsylvania scientists have identified a mechanism by which plants respond to salt stress, a pathway that could be targeted to engineer more adaptable crops. (2018-10-30)

Study: Coal power plant regulations neglect a crucial pollutant
Rice University researchers determine that particle-forming sulfur dioxide is the most damaging pollutant from Texas' coal-fired power plants that lack equipment to scrub emissions. (2018-10-29)

Improving climate models to account for plant behavior yields 'goodish' news
Climate scientists have not been properly accounting for what plants do at night, and that, it turns out, is a mistake. A new study from the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (Berkeley Lab) has found that plant nutrient uptake in the absence of photosynthesis affects greenhouse gas emissions to the atmosphere. (2018-10-29)

Illinois study provides whole-system view of plant cold stress
When temperatures drop, plants can't bundle up. Stuck outside, exposed, plants instead undergo a series of biochemical changes that protect cells from damage. Scientists have described these changes and identified some of the genes controlling them, but it's not clear how all the processes work together. Lacking this global view, plant breeders have struggled to engineer cold-tolerant crops. A recent University of Illinois study provides answers. (2018-10-29)

Photosynthesis like a moss
Moss evolved after algae but before vascular land plants, such as ferns and trees, making them an interesting target for scientists studying photosynthesis, the process by which plants convert sunlight to fuel. Now researchers at the Department of Energy's Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory have made a discovery that could shed light on how plants evolved to move from the ocean to land. (2018-10-29)

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