There’s no such thing as ‘the’ Arabidopsis genome

In the year 2000, the first complete nuclear genome of a plant species – Arabidopsis thaliana – was released into the wild (a.k.a to bunch of salivating scientists). Less than twenty years later, we had a total of 1135 genomes… for Arabidopsis alone! Today we’re talking about Arabidopsis ‘races’, and how they are a powerful tool for unravelling plant secrets.… Read more

RuBisCO: Room for Improvement?

Welcome to the final instalment of our three part series on RuBisCO. Today, we discuss three key ideas and attempts to improve RuBisCO… or at least to more efficiently clean up its mess. … Read more

Simple Things* #9

Green living things can’t move to one another like animals do to make more of themselves. So, they use smaller animals to help them. Green living things have cups at the end of their stick-like bodies, and these cups have colors and smells that make small animals want to come to them. A green living thing puts some special stuff that sticks to things at the end of long tiny sticks in the middle of the cups. This special stuff is important to make more of the green living thing.… Read more

Mushroom Diet: The Orchids who give up Photosynthesis

When we think of plants we tend to make certain assumptions. Green, for starters. Photosynthesising, for sure. But some plants have decided to throw it all away, and act like the animals do. Meet Epipactis helleborine, an orchid species that sometimes lives entirely on a diet of mushrooms.
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PEPC is the new RuBisCOla

Last week, we discussed how RuBisCO, although incredible and amazing…is also a little bit terrible at its job. Today we’re introducing a couple of cheats that plants have found to work around RuBisCO’s issues, and what this might mean for the future of food and fuel for humankind.
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Simple Things* #8

If you want to study a certain bit of parents’ information you often first have to make more of that parents’ information – from one or several pieces, to several tens of hundreds or hundreds of hundreds of hundreds of pieces. The information is stored on two long pieces that are sticking together.

In order to make more, the parents’ information is first made hot, to force the two sides to not be together anymore.

Then, you choose two very small parts of broken up parents’ information that fit to the ends of a piece of information that you are interested in.… Read more

The Greatest Protein on Earth

RuBisCO is probably the most abundant protein complex on the planet. It’s a major player in photosynthesis: responsible for taking carbon dioxide and fixing it into a human-consumable carbon source (sugars!), and in doing so helping to make the oxygen we breathe, and helping our plant friends grow. So RuBisCO is at the centre of nearly everything that we breathe and eat eat, dress in, wear and build our homes with. We think you might agree with us that RuBisCO is indeed The Greatest Protein On Earth.… Read more

Pennycress: Arabidopsis’ ‘cooler’ cousin

Before last week, I had never heard of pennycress. It’s a relative of our beloved Arabidopsis, that up until now has been firmly relegated to the category of ‘weed’. But its oily seeds, its ability to withstand extreme cold, and the possible ease at which it can be genetically manipulated, just might make it a promising crop plant for the future of food security. … Read more

Simple Things #7

In which we use Randall Munroe’s ‘simple writer‘ to explain plant-and-pipette topics. Can you guess what they are?

Monroe’s ‘simple writer’ limits language use to only the 10 hundred most common words in the English language. So the word ‘chloroplast’ is out. But so is ‘duck’, ‘cuddle’, and ‘explosion’.

We’ve tried to define a plant and pipette related word using only these common words. Can you tell what we’re talking about? The solution is shown at the bottom.… Read more