articles

Plants ‘smell’ pheromones of parasitic worms

Plants perceive the chemical signals that waft off worms like bad B-O as a sign to hunker down and start preparing their defences.

The fact that nematodes -a type of small slender worm- are the most abundant animals on earth is almost definitely one of my least favourite facts.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not an anti-wormer. But you might say I’m a bit of a worm snob – I simply prefer the fancy segmented ‘earthworm’ variety (aka annelids). While earthworms exist in my mind as friendly soil-living earth munchers that are ‘just the right size for a small child to put in its pockets’, I know that nematodes can range from microscopic to over a metre long.… Read more

Bug Pest Steals Plant Genes to Neutralize Plant Defences

Reading Time: 4 minutes

Plants and herbivorous insects have long struggled in an evolutionary arms race. Now, in the first example of animals thieving plant genes, research shows that sweet potato whiteflies have overcome plant defences by looting the plants’ own genetic arsenal. … Read more

This superhero protein will fight anaemia

Reading Time: 5 minutes

I like plants a lot – especially when I can eat them. A purely plant based diet, however, might not include enough iron to stay healthy (although not necessarily). New research could change that. … Read more

It’s time we talked about see-through wood

Using the chemicals we bleach our hair with and a little sun we can create a new type of wood that’s (nearly) as clear as glass.

Wood is a rather remarkable material that humans have been using for over a million of years, both for fuel and for the creation of structures. Wood is cheap yet versatile, with low density and light weight, yet high strength, and the ability to be highly insulating. Relevant to modern times, it’s also a renewable resource, and a carbon sink. … Read more

Blast in the Past makes Lettuce Less Limp

Reading Time: 3 minutes

After harvest, products like lettuce can quickly lose their looks and crunch. Now, research shows that a short spell of high light before the harvest can help greens stay fresher and more nutritious.Read more

You make my heart skip a beat

Reading Time: 3 minutes

Roses are Red

Delphinium is Blue

It might look quite lovely

But it’s poisonous too!

In honour of the recent Valentine’s day, and the recording of our soon-to-be-released Plant Book Club episode on Plants that Kill*.… Read more

A mysterious molecular sunscreen protects photosynthesis

Reading Time: 6 minutes

Change is a good thing but it can lead to problems. Like when you change your greenhouse to a nicer one – what if your plants don’t like it? Or worse, what if they like it so much that they don’t behave like you’re used to? Researchers at the University of Gothenburg, Sweden, made that experience and used it to uncover a mysterious molecular sunscreen. … Read more