The synthetic poison 1080 (pronounced ten eighty), is used widely in Australia and New Zealand to control the population of feral animals that threaten local species with extinction. While 1080 is fatal to feral fauna, the scientific magic of it, is that many native species can snack on the substance without any harm. All because of some peas, their poison, and a plant v. herbivore arms race.… Read more
Breeders have spent decades, centuries even, creating near-perfect crop lines. Meanwhile, scientists argue that these plants might still be further improved, and that new technologies can provide shortcuts in creating new lines. However, as is often the case, the theoretical discussion leads in practice to a dead end: the new technology simply doesn’t work when used with certain optimised lines. Recent work from Kelliher et al. demonstrates a neat way to ignore this problem. All you need is a few genetic glitches (or deliberately programmed errors), and a sprinkling of the right drugs.… Read more
Earlier in the week we introduced Amaranthus. A genus containing ornamental plants, various species with edible leaves and stems (i.e. vegetables), and plants producing grains filled with desirable products like proteins, the limiting amino acid lysine, fiber, and several minerals like iron. And we mentioned the resilience of the genus- its ability to withstand various environmental conditions. Well, today we’ll discuss the flipside of that coin: the role of an amaranth species as one of the most competitive and damaging weeds there is.… Read more
Many of you have probably already heard of amaranth. The pseudocereal jumped to global attention a few years back, as another ‘ancient superfood’ that could cure our health woes, following in the footsteps of foods like quinoa and chia.
I’m a little late to jump on the amaranth bandwagon, but last week I heard about some cool new scientific research that made me want to know more about the wondergrain. So here are five facts about #ourfavouriteplant of the week, amaranth… Read more
As anyone living in a poorly lit apartment (or country- heyo Germany!) will tell you, plants are pretty fond of light. Nonetheless, for many plants, life begins in darkness. Seeds often germinate under several centimetres of soil, so seedlings spend the first moments of their existence struggling to escape the black. Once they do, the success of finally meeting the light comes with its own challenge: a need for the plantling to discard the tools it used to emerge from seed and soil, and swiftly develop a skill for sunbathing.… Read more
Welcome to a new Plants and Pipettes segment- #didtheyreallycallitthat, in which we discuss the bizarre names that plant scientists give their favourite genes, proteins or mutants. Just for the record, we at Plants and Pipettes are totally in favour of inventive naming. It makes everything a lot easier to remember. And at least a little bit more fun.… Read more
Last weekend, while snooping around the Copenhagen Botanical Garden, I ran into a fellow Australian. Wollemia nobilis, the stuff of coniferous-tree legends! A tree that stood still in time as dinosaurs walked the Earth and then perished, as tectonic plates shifted and reshaped the lands, and as the ice advanced and retreated. A tree that was lost, and then found… but even now remains hidden in a location known only to some chosen few. Here are some of my favourite facts about the Australian Wollemi pine.… Read more