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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Botany Ecology Environment 

An Evolutionary Approach to Conserving Plant Habitats

By Mackenzie Myers (@thetiniestnail) To conserve plant habitats, a traditional approach to biodiversity—species richness, or saving as many species as possible—might not be the most effective route. Instead, vulnerable landscapes might be better served by a quality-over-quantity mindset, a recent paper from a team of UC Berkeley scientists suggests. Think of going into a grocery store. On a budget and with limited cooking time, shoppers probably don’t buy the first dozen random ingredients they see on the shelf. Rather, they find it more practical to shop deliberately, perhaps by looking…

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Biology Botany 

Plants Can Win a Battle against Aphids

By Radhika Desikan Being sessile, plants are faced with constant pressures from their environment, such as extreme climates, microbes, and herbivores including insects and animals. To cope with these challenges, some plants have evolved the ability to tolerate particular stresses or defend themselves against insect pests. For decades, scientists have been trying to understand how some plants tolerate these challenges, with the aim of improving overall plant health and increasing crop yields. Aphids are a problem Aphids are common pests of most cultivated plants. They belong to a family of…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

Microbes Help Plants Survive Heavy Metal Stress

By Radhika Desikan When you hear the term heavy metal, what do you think of? Music or chemistry? Exposure to heavy metal music can cause stress in some humans. But what about chemical heavy metals? Are they good or bad for the environment and living organisms? In chemical terms, heavy metals are elements in earth’s crust that have a high density (weight), and they include zinc, copper, iron, silver, gold, arsenic, lead, and cobalt, to name a few. While trace amounts of heavy metals such as copper, iron, cobalt, and…

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Anthropology Biology Botany Chemistry 

Leaf Age Matters for Plant Survival

By Radhika Desikan Does age really matter? For us humans, age seems to be a very sensitive issue relevant to how we live our lives. And while it also matters to plants, it does so at a different level. Some of our tissues, like skin, have cells that are constantly dividing (to replace dead cells) and therefore differ in age, but what defines our age as an organism is not the life span of individual cells in our body, but rather the length of time that has passed since our…

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Biology Botany 

Plants Communicate with Neighbors in Response to Touch

By Radhika Desikan How well do you and your neighbour know each other? Chances are, very little these days. But some living things, including plants, know their neighbours well. According to new research, it appears that what one plant “feels” can also be sensed by its neighbouring plant. Isn’t that remarkable? It is a fact of life that plants do not move from one place to another. Therefore plants, unlike humans, cannot move away from any impending danger, be it a herbivore, a disease-causing microbe, or even the cold and…

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Biology Botany Chemistry 

To Grow or Not to Grow? Bacteria Make Seeds Think!

By Radhika Desikan A seed is the beginning of new life for most flowering plants. It has all the potential to develop into a new plant, with its own stored food used for germination (the sprouting of a seed). However, if you have done any gardening, you might know that not all seeds always germinate. Whether or not a seed grows into a plant is determined by a number of factors, such as the presence of oxygen, water, and the right temperature. Seeds have a remarkable ability to detect whether…

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Biology Botany Physics 

How Do Plants Know Which Way to Grow?

By Shayna Keyles (@shaynakeyles) How do plants know which way is up and which way is down? No matter which way you put a seed in the soil, it will always send its roots down and its shoots up. (Unless you’re in space–we’ll get back to that later.) The answer lies in tropism: motion in response to external stimulus. This is pretty amazing, considering that in the traditional sense, plants can’t move. Specifically, plants are affected by geotropism, phototropism, and hydrotropism. In other words, plants move toward gravity, light, and water,…

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California’s Urban Forests Have Lowest Tree Cover per Resident Botany Environment 

California’s Urban Forests Have Lowest Tree Cover per Resident

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore California’s urban forests are not just a pretty sight; they are an asset valued at a whopping $181 billion, finds a new study. But, according to the study, the state’s urban tree cover at 90.8 square meters (109 square yards) per city resident is the lowest among all US states. The good news is that there are 236 million spots available for more trees to be planted. The study finds that urban forests cover 15 percent of the urban area in California, consisting of 173 million…

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