Intense Lawn Mowing Lowers Biodiversity, Favors Pests Biodiversity Ecology 

Intense Lawn Mowing Lowers Biodiversity, Favors Pests

By Neha Jain @lifesciexplore  Looks can be deceiving: a uniformly well-mowed lawn might look good, but ecologically, it is not desirable. According to a recent study that analyzed the results of many studies on lawn mowing, more intensely mowed lawns showed lower plant and insect diversity and a greater abundance of pests.  According to the researchers, adopting low-intensity lawn management would bring about a host of environmental benefits including cutting down on greenhouse gas emissions, lowering the prevalence of pests, increasing pollinators and plant diversity, and saving costs.  Less is…

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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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Biota Project Health 

Medicinal Plants to Nourish the Soul

White sage. Peyote. Opium Poppy. African Dream Root. What do all these species have in common? These are all plants that serve both medicinal and spiritual roles in cultures across the world. Plants have long since played important roles in human experience since time immemorial. Plants have provided civilization with food, shelter, tools, and the earliest form of health care. It is from the plant kingdom that people began developing the first medicines. Foxgloves, from the genus Digitalis, native to Europe, Asia, and northwestern Africa, were the original sources of…

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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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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 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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Maize Biology 

Do We Really Need Fertilizers To Grow Crops?

By Radhika Desikan We all learn that plants can make their own food via a complex process called photosynthesis. However, to make their food, and to grow properly, plants need nutrients (chemicals) such as nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, and calcium from the soil. Although these chemicals are naturally present in most soils, years of intensive farming have depleted soils of these nutrients. As a result, humans have resorted to using artificial fertilizers, which are basically synthetic nutrients manufactured through a process that uses a lot of energy, and produces a lot…

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