organic strawberries Botany Ecology Health 

Wounding Leaves Produces Sweeter Organic Strawberries

By Radhika Desikan Do you like your fruit to be organically grown or conventionally grown? This has been a choice available to consumers since the first half of the 20th century in response to raised awareness about agriculture’s dependence on synthetic chemicals. With increasing scientific discoveries of novel chemicals that protect and help plants grow, there was also increased knowledge about the possible dangers of having these chemicals in food crops. This resulted in farmers growing crops without the use of agrochemicals, leading to the movement of organic farming. There…

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Parasitic plant: Dodder (Cuscutta) Photo by BCGX via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0) Biology Botany 

Parasitic Plant Has Edge in Evolutionary Arms Race

By Cameron Duke (@DukeofCam) The relationship between a parasite and its host can be a contentious one. Their interests are in direct conflict with one another, so each is always trying to circumvent the other’s plan. This is often thought of as an evolutionary “arms race.” In this ongoing competition, a parasite evolves a more efficient way to prey on the host, and the host adapts in response. These successive adaptations can lead to complex life cycles and intimate species-specific relationships.  New research out of Penn State, conducted by Michael…

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Plant Genome Biology Botany Genetics 

Genome Revelations: How Green Plants Evolved

By Jacqueline Mattos (@mattosjacq) Plants are ancestral organisms that have evolved over millions of years, leading to the broad diversity we see today. Green plants evolved from a common ancestor into approximately 450,000–500,000 species today. There are many gaps in understanding of their diversification that scientists still struggle to fill. In a recent paper published in Nature, researchers from the One Thousand Plant Transcriptomes Initiative reviewed and analyzed genomic data from 1,124 plant species and provided the most complete evolutionary relationship tree for green plants to date. Genomes, transcriptomes, and…

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Biology Botany 

Bananas, Panama Disease, and You

By Radhika Desikan Bananas are a ubiquitous fruit that generally appeals to humans of all ages, from infants to older people. But did you know that our consumption of bananas might be reduced in the future, due to a devastating disease that is hitting the crop worldwide? Panama disease of bananas is a hugely devastating plant disease caused by the fungus Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. cubense (Foc). It was originally discovered in the late 19th century, but spread globally in the early 20th century, when the disease wiped out a…

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Biology Botany 

Steroid Hormones Protect Cotton from Drought

By Radhika Desikan As you are reading this, chances are that you are wearing something made of cotton, or have come in contact with some cotton fabric today. Cotton accounts for nearly half of all clothing material in the world. Cotton plants date back to prehistoric times; there is evidence of cotton farming from around 5000 BC in the Indian subcontinent. Cotton fabric is made of cotton fibres, which grow in the protective cases (bolls) around the seeds of the cotton plant (Gossypium hirsutum). However, it is not just the…

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Biology Botany Education 

Curing “Plant Blindness” with Botanical Gardens and Farms

By Neha Jain (@lifesciexplore) What was the last plant you saw? Have you ever seen a grain of wheat? How many varieties of rice are there? Although many of us desire a green environment, more and more people, especially urban dwellers, are becoming oblivious to the plants around them—so much so that just over two decades ago, researchers even coined a term for this phenomenon: “plant blindness.”  Much of the food we eat today is the result of thousands of years of plant cultivation and breeding by our ancestors. As…

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Biology Botany 

This Bug’s Bacteria Helps Rice Plants Boost Immunity

By Radhika Desikan Rice is the most widely consumed staple cereal crop for about half of the world’s human population, but its cultivation comes with inherent challenges, such as crop attacks by herbivorous pests. Brown planthopper (BPH) is an insect pest which feeds on rice plants and causes extensive damage to crops. However, there are some rice varieties that are resistant to BPH; increasing research in this area is aimed at understanding the mechanisms of this resistance. Moreover, although there are about 800 insect herbivores that feed on rice, the…

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