articles

Plastic in your Plants

Recent reports have revealed the alarming ability of microplastics to accumulate in fish and other sea creatures, with the ultimate fear being that these plastics might end up on human plates. They may also accumulate within the tissue of some plants, as further shown by two recent studies.… Read more

These two genes help rice to keep its head above water

Think about any crop plant and what of it is important to you. You might say taste, fruit size, yield per acre – but would you consider plant height? Maybe you should! Researchers have discovered two new genes that react to flooding and control the height of rice plants – so that they don’t drown.… Read more

Missing: Have you seen this Coffee?

Alternative Title: You’re not a real hipster unless you drink Coffea stenophylla (but you can still be in our club if you choose C. affinis.)

Coffee. It’s a hot beverage on a cold day, a quick wake-me-up drug to help you through that morning meeting, and a multibillion dollar industry which involves over 100 million people at the farming stage alone.

Today, we tell the story of two missing coffee species – how they were lost, how they were found again, and what the future might hold for their survival, and that of one of world’s favourite hot beverages.… Read more

Do GMO have worse off-target effects than conventional plants?

Without plant breeding, the fruit and veggies of today would look very differentOver thousands of years, humans have  genetically modified plants through selective breeding, to yield bigger, tastier and hardier plants. In the 1990s, the tool set of plant breeders was extended by means of genome engineering. Genome engineering encompasses the introduction of foreign genes into the DNA of plants as well as other molecular methods that selectively modify, delete or add genetic information. … Read more

Are plants as smart as dogs?

Being the father of a young child allows me to witness learning every single day. While I do my best to teach my child through explanation and demonstration, I can’t help but notice that he’s also recently developed associative learning. If I go to put on his shoes, for example, my child gets excited because shoes are associated with going outside – the same shoes did not trigger any excitement several months ago. 

Associative learning, also known as classical conditioning, might be familiar to you because of Pavlov’s famous dog.… Read more

An extra pair of genes

Genes in many organisms tend to hang around in pairs, with one member of the that comes from mum and one coming from dad. But for some species, having just two sets of genes isn’t enough- they like to double or even triple up on things.

Today we’re talking about plants who want more, and what you can do when you have too much of a good thing.… Read more

This seaweed would look completely different without the bacteria around it

Do you ever wonder how you would have turned out if you’d hung out with different crowds in your youth? All living things – you, me, plants – are shaped by their environments, which includes both non-living/abiotic factors (sun, sea and soil), and biotic factors – the other living things around us.

The seaweed Ulva mutabilis is no different – while growing up its shape and size heavily relies on the microbes around it. And without its bacterial friends, it will never settle down.… Read more

Thorns to branches

On today’s episode of “how it’s made”: Thorns!

The pointy defence system relied on by many plants has an interesting origin story. Thorns start out as branch-like structures that grow out of the main stem and then, all of a sudden, turn into sharp death spikes. Now, researchers have not only figured out how that happens, but also how it can be stopped. … Read more

Researchers use genetic copy/paste to make better rice

Oh sun! How beautiful are the days when you shine, how warm is your light, and how much energy do you push into the photosystems of our plants!

Sometimes, as it turns out, that energy is a little too much. A surplus of light creates a major challenge to plants, causing damage to the core of their photosystems. Recent research shows that the simple addition of an extra copy of an important gene can prime plants to keep producing even when the heat is on.… Read more