Blog Archives

Genomic atlas of gene switches in plants provides roadmap for crop research

June 30, 2013 — What allows certain plants to survive freezing and thrive in the Canadian climate, while others are sensitive to the slightest drop in temperature? Those that flourish activate specific genes at just the right time — but the way gene activation is controlled remains poorly understood.

A major step forward in understanding this process lies in a genomic map produced by an international consortium led by scientists from McGill University and the University of Toronto and published online today in the journal Nature Genetics.

The map, which is the first of its kind for plants, will help scientists to localize regulatory regions in the genomes of crop species such as canola, a major crop in Canada, according to researchers who worked on the project. The team has sequenced the genomes of several crucifers (a large plant family that includes a number of other food crops) and analyzed them along with previously published genomes to map more than 90,000 genomic regions that have been highly conserved but that do not appear to encode proteins.

“These regions are likely to play important roles in turning genes on or off, for example to regulate a plant’s development or its response to environmental conditions,” says McGill computer-science professor Mathieu Blanchette, one of the leaders of the study. Work is currently underway to identify which of those regions may be involved in controlling traits of particular importance to farmers.

The study also weighs in on a major debate among biologists, concerning how much of an organism’s genome has important functions in a cell, and how much is “junk DNA,” merely along for the ride. While stretches of the genome that code for proteins are relatively easy to identify, many other ‘noncoding’ regions may be important for regulating genes, activating them in the right tissue and under the right conditions.

While humans and plants have very similar numbers of protein-coding genes, the map published in Nature Genetics further suggests that the regulatory sequences controlling plant genes are far simpler, with a level of complexity between that of fungi and microscopic worms. “These findings suggest that the complexity of different organisms arises not so much from what genes they contain, but how they turn them on and off,” says McGill biology professor Thomas Bureau, a co-author of the paper.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Researchers build searchable database of non-native plants

Ever wonder what that plant is in your yard that seems to be taking over? The University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences has a new website designed to help you figure it out.

Researchers with UF/IFAS’ Center for Aquatic and Invasive Plants spent more than a year developing a searchable website and database to help Floridians assess problem — or just plain puzzling — non-native plants.

Plants that come into the United States from abroad can choke out crops, native plants and gardens or cause algae blooms that kill fish, and can even poison animals. Invasive species threaten Florida’s environment, economy and health and cost the United States an estimated $ 120 billion a year.

The Assessment of Nonnative Plants in Florida’s Natural Areas website and database is at http://assessment.ifas.ufl.edu/. The site helps predict the invasion risk of non-native species in the state, as well as species proposed for introduction.

“One of our immediate goals was to take our existing database of non-native plant species and make it more readily available to both UF faculty/staff and the general public on a user friendly, easily searched website,” said Deah Lieurance, coordinator of the UF/IFAS Assessment. “We improved from the previous website by making the database accessible with search and filtering options. We also added more than 1,500 photos, links to distribution maps, information on where the plant is native, and growth forms — trees, vines, herbs or shrubs.”

The website features more than 800 species, easily searchable by common or scientific name, and results can be filtered. For example, results can be narrowed to vines that are safe to plant in North Florida. Scrolling through all the photos only takes a few minutes. The website shows a “caution” in some cases, “invasive not recommended,” in others and “prohibited” for species that pose the greatest ecological threats.

About 70 percent of the species in the database are not a problem, and in some cases may even be beneficial. A simple search will tell you when and where it’s safe to use plants such as Japanese holly and canna lily.

Luke Flory, an assistant professor in ecology with UF/IFAS, provides oversight of the assessment program and said everyone from weekend gardeners to professional landscapers to UF faculty and staff rely on the recommendations of the UF/IFAS assessment team when considering the use of nonnative plants.

“The new IFAS Assessment web site provides one more tool for Floridians to manage and conserve our valuable natural resources by helping to prevent further non-native plant invasions,” Flory said.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Crabgrass’ secret: The despised weed makes herbicide to kill neighboring plants

June 26, 2013 — Contrary to popular belief, crabgrass does not thrive in lawns, gardens and farm fields by simply crowding out other plants. A new study in ACS’ Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry has found that the much-despised weed actually produces its own herbicides that kill nearby plants.

Chui-Hua Kong and colleagues point out that crabgrass is not only a headache for lawns and home gardens, but also a major cause of crop loss on farms. Scientists long suspected, but had a hard time proving, that the weed thrived by allelopathy. From the Greek “allelo-,” meaning “other,” and “-pathy,” meaning “suffering,” allelopathy occurs when one plant restricts the growth of another by releasing toxins. They set out to determine if crabgrass has this oppressive ability.

Kong’s team isolated three chemicals from crabgrass that affect the microbial communities in nearby soil and did indeed inhibit the growth of staple crops wheat, corn and soybeans. “The chemical-specific changes in [the] soil microbial community generated a negative feedback on crop growth,” the scientists said, noting that the chemicals also would have a direct toxic effect on other plants.

The authors acknowledge funding from the National Natural Science Foundation of China.

Share this story on Facebook, Twitter, and Google:

Other social bookmarking and sharing tools:


Story Source:

The above story is reprinted from materials provided by American Chemical Society.

Note: Materials may be edited for content and length. For further information, please contact the source cited above.


Journal Reference:

  1. Bin Zhou, Chui-Hua Kong, Yong-Hua Li, Peng Wang, Xiao-Hua Xu. Crabgrass (Digitaria sanguinalis) Allelochemicals That Interfere with Crop Growth and the Soil Microbial Community. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry, 2013; 61 (22): 5310 DOI: 10.1021/jf401605g

Note: If no author is given, the source is cited instead.

ScienceDaily: Agriculture and Food News

FSIS Approves Chinese Plants for Poultry Processing

Four Chinese poultry processing plants have been approved to export cooked chicken to the U.S.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) has approved China’s export health certificate which demonstrates that poultry exported to the U.S. was raised and slaughtered in the U.S., Canada or Chile and that it was cooked to a proper temperature.

For the first time, FSIS also published the names of the four Chinese poultry processing establishments it audited in March 2013 and found to be operating under requirements equivalent to those of the U.S.

The plants are located in the Shandong province and include Shangdong Delicate Food Co., Weifang Legang Food Co., Qingyun Ruifeng Food Co., and Qingdao Nine-alliance Group Co.

It will be up to U.S. companies to decide to import cooked poultry from China. It’s currently unknown when – or even if – the marketplace will participate in the arrangement which could be economically beneficial for them.

When they do, FSIS will re-inspect the products exported by the four Chinese establishments when they reach U.S. ports before they will be allowed into domestic commerce.

Chinese-processed poultry that hits U.S. stores would be labeled as such, although if it’s repacked or further processed in the U.S., information that it had originated in China would not be included on the label. FSIS believes this repackaging is unlikely to occur, but states that if it does, it would be done under agency supervision.

Nancy Huehnergarth, a nutrition policy consultant and one of the women behind the Change.org petition to keep Chinese chicken off U.S. plates (which currently has 327,500 signatures), thinks consumers should be scared about the new development given China’s “abysmal” record on food safety. She is particularly worried that consumers’ right to know where their food comes from will be jeopardized by repackaging and reprocessing.

Food Safety News

Salt-loving plants may be key to global efforts for sustainable food production

Farmland is vanishing in part because the salinity in the soil is rising as a result of climate change and other human-made phenomena. In an Opinion piece publishing in the Cell Press journal Trends in Plant Sciences, researchers propose a new concept for breeding salt- tolerant plants as a way to contribute to global efforts for sustainable food production.

“We suggest that we should learn from nature and do what halophytes, or naturally salt-loving plants, are doing: taking up salt but depositing it in a safe place — external balloon-like structures called salt bladders,” says co-senior author Prof. Sergey Shabala, of the University of Tasmania, in Australia. “This strategy has never been targeted by breeders and, therefore, could add a new and very promising dimension to breeding salinity-tolerant crops.”

Soil salinity is claiming about 3 hectares, or 7.4 acres, of usable land from conventional crop farming every minute. This costs the agricultural sector many billions of dollars each year and jeopardizes the ability to meet the target of feeding 9.3 billion people by 2050. Unfortunately, decades of plant breeding for salinity tolerance have not resulted in a major breakthrough that might allow us to resolve this issue.

Dr. Shabala and his colleagues note that recent research on salt bladders creates the exciting possibility of modifying genes in traditional crops such as wheat or rice to allow them to develop salt bladders without a major impact on their growth and yield. “We know already about the key genes required to grow trichomes, or outgrowths of a plant. If we learn to activate those that trigger the developmental shift from an ordinary trichome to a salt bladder, one may be able to grow external salt depots on any crop,” says co-senior author Prof. Rainer Hedrich, of the Institute for Molecular Plant Physiology and Biophysics, in Würzburg, Germany.

They are confident that researchers have all of the tools needed to identify the molecular transporters involved in salt loading within salt bladders as well as the developmental switches that are involved.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Cell Press. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Plants prepackage beneficial microbes in their seeds

Plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacteria. These ‘commensal’ bacteria help the pants extract nutrients and defend against invaders — an important step in preventing pathogens from contaminating fruits and vegetables. Now, scientists have discovered that plants may package their commensal bacteria inside of seeds; thus ensuring that sprouting plants are colonized from the beginning. The researchers, from the University of Notre Dame, presented their findings at the 5th ASM Conference on Beneficial Microbes.

Plants play host to a wide variety of bacteria; the plant microbiome. Just as in humans, the plant microbiome is shaped by the types of bacteria that successfully colonize the plant’s ecosystem. Most of these bacteria are symbiotic, drawing from and providing for the plant in ways such as nitrogen-fixing and leaf-protection. Pathogenic bacteria may also colonize a plant. Pathogens can include viruses and bacteria that damage the plant itself or bacteria like the Shiga-toxin producing E. coli O104:H4. In 2011, Germany, France and the Netherlands experienced an outbreak of E. coli that was ultimately traced to the consumption of contaminated sprouts, which was thought to be caused by feral pigs in the growing area. Such opportunistic contamination is hard to guard against as most growing takes place in open, outdoor spaces with little opportunity for control.

The hypothesis behind this research is that the best way to defend against pathogenic contamination is with a healthy microbiome colonized by bacteria provide protection from invasive pathogens. Just as with babies, early colonization is crucial to establishing a beneficial microbiome. The researchers, led by Dr. Shaun Lee, looked inside sterilized mung beans and were able to isolate a unique strain of Bacillus pumilus that provides the bean with enhanced microbial protection.

“This was a genuine curiosity that my colleague and I had about whether commensal bacteria could be found in various plant sources, including seed supplies” said Dr. Lee. “The fact that we could isolate and grow a bacterium that was packaged inside a seed was quite surprising.”

The researchers first sterilized and tested the outer portion of a sealed, whole seed. When that was determined to be sterile, they sampled and plated the interior of the seeds and placed them in bacterial agar, which they incubated. What they found was the new strain of Bacillus pumilus, a unique, highly motile Gram-positive bacterium capable of colonizing the mung bean plant without causing any harm. Genome sequencing revealed that the isolated B. pumilus contained three unique gene clusters for the production of antimicrobial peptide compounds known as bacteriocins.

Dr. Lee and his colleagues theorize that their findings could have a wide impact, both on our understanding of plants and in creating food-safe antimicrobials. The finding that plant seeds can be pre-colonized may be an important mechanism by which a beneficial plant microbiome is established and sustained. Moreover, the team is now isolating and studying the bacteriocins, which Dr. Lee says “have tremendous potential.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by American Society for Microbiology. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Lettuce grower in Australia now producing young plants in a retractable roof greenhouse

Lettuce grower in Australia now producing young plants in a retractable roof greenhouse

Koala Produce in Gatton, QLD is now producing all of their young plants inside their new retractable roof greenhouse. This is the first time that Koala has produced their own seedlings so they had no experience growing in any type of greenhouse. According to Anthony Staatz of Koala, the retractable roof greenhouse design reinforced their vision of growing their plants outside to grow them strong and hardy but with the ability to protect the plants from the extreme rain, hail, wind and heat. Even though the greenhouse management team had no previous greenhouse experience, “the results have exceeded expectations”. They found that water management was easier than they expected since they installed irrigation booms.  If plants were too dry, they could easily water them and if plants were too wet, it was easy to dry out the plants simply by retracting the roof.

To incorporate the materials handling requirements into the overall greenhouse layout and ensure that all growing areas were the same size, the greenhouse was designed with a series of 10m wide houses with 12.8m wide houses being used where internal roadways are located. Koala constructed the greenhouses themselves with the assistance of a local construction builder who had never built a greenhouse before.

For more information:
Cravo Equipment Ltd
Benjamin Martin
Canada
Toll Free: (CDA/ US) 888 738 7228
Office:  +(1) 519 759 8226 x260
Mobile:  +(1) 905 317 3546
Skype: benjamin_cravo
[email protected]
www.cravo.com

Publication date: 9/26/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Consumers will pay more for eco-friendly plants, study shows

People concerned with future consequences of their decisions will pay up to 16 cents more for eco-friendly plants, a new University of Florida study shows.

While 16 cents may not seem like much, researchers see any willingness to pay more to help the ornamental plants industry and the environment as good news.

Previous research has investigated the effects of perceived long-term consequences on people’s environmental behavior, including recycling or using public transportation. So UF food and resource economics assistant professor Hayk Khachatryan wanted to understand how differences in people’s perceptions of long- and short-term consequences affect plant preferences and purchase decisions.

For the study, 159 people bought plants at experimental auctions at Texas A&M University, the University of Minnesota and the Vineland Research and Innovation Centre in Ontario, Canada. The participants were recruited through Craigslist and community newsletters. Researchers studied differences in what’s called “consideration of future consequences” ─ the extent to which consumers consider potential outcomes of their actions ─ and how that affected their willingness to pay for edible and ornamental plants. Specifically, the study focused on their preferences for plant attributes related to sustainable production methods, container types and origin of production.

Eighty-eight of the 159 participants were deemed concerned about the consequences of their purchases. The study showed they were willing to pay up to 16 cents more for plants grown using energy-saving and sustainable production methods, sold in non-conventional containers as well as plants produced locally.

Some people recycle, exercise or diet, actions that take time to see results. Paying for long-term environmental conservation is a bit like working out or jogging, Khachatryan said.

“When you exercise, you don’t see the benefits right away,” he said.

Similarly, the benefits of pro-environmental production practices in the ornamental plants industry may not produce immediate impacts. Thus, consumers’ plant choices may depend on how much they consider future versus immediate consequences of their choices, said Khachatryan, a member of the Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences who conducts research at the Mid-Florida Research and Education Center in Apopka.

The price increase is relatively low, but even 16 cents can help retailers offset their costs, researchers said. Some larger retailers may go through thousands of plants in a short period, and that can add up quickly, said Ben Campbell, a University of Connecticut extension economist, and study co-author.

A garden center or retailer may have a thin margin between production cost and the sales price, Campbell said. By adding 16 cents per plant ─ the amount some say they’re willing to pay for eco-friendly plants ─ the margin can increase considerably, he said. That makes garden centers and other retailers more profitable and, perhaps more sustainable. The study is published online in the current issue of the Journal of Environmental Horticulture.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by University of Florida Institute of Food and Agricultural Sciences. The original article was written by Brad Buck. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

How steroid hormones enable plants to grow

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid hormones similar to human sex hormones play a key role here. In the current edition of Nature Communications, scientists describe a new signaling mode for the brassinosteroid class of hormones.

Plants are superior to humans and animals in a number of ways. They have an impressive ability to regenerate, which enables them to regrow entire organs. After being struck by lightning, for example, a tree can grow back its entire crown. But there is one major downside to life as a plant: They are quite literally rooted to the habitats in which they live and therefore completely at the mercy of the elements. In response to this dilemma, plants have developed mechanisms that enable them to rapidly adapt their growth and development to changes.

Plant hormones are important enablers of this flexibility. Brassinosteroids play a key role here. These hormones have an effect at the lowest concentrations; they regulate cell elongation and division and are active throughout the entire lifecycle of a plant. A team of researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna have now mapped a new signaling mode for brassinosteroids.

Meeting points for DNA-binding protein

When brassinosteroids bind to a receptor on a cell wall, they trigger a multi-level cascade of reactions that regulates the activity of the CESTA (CES) transcription factor. Transcription factors bind to the DNA in a cell’s nucleus and are capable of activating genes that change the protein composition in the cell.

A team of scientists — headed by Prof. Brigitte Poppenberger at TUM’s Institute of Biotechnology of Horticultural Crops — has been able to show for the first time that the concentration of CES protein increases in certain nuclear regions following brassinosteroid activation.

These structures occur as nuclear bodies in the cell nucleus. The scientists believe that the CES transcription factor collects in specific regions of the DNA in order to effectively control gene function. “The cell seems to bundle key resources to rapidly trigger the production of certain proteins. We can compare this to a construction site, for example, where workers temporarily gather at a certain location to unload building material,” explains Poppenberger.

New signal pathway

The scientists also mapped the mechanism that gives the CES molecules the signal to gather. The molecules have a binding site for SUMO protein. As soon as this attaches, CES moves to nuclear bodies. While this is happening, it is protected from being broken down by enzymes. “What is interesting here is that the SUMO marker seems to strengthen the effect of CES,” continues Poppenberger. “This is the opposite of what happens in the animal world, where the SUMO protein is known to repress effects conferred by transcription factors.”

The research findings are an important step towards understanding more about the functions of brassinosteroids. “We have been using other kinds of hormones to promote growth and increase crop yields in horticulture and agriculture for decades now,” says Poppenberger. “But we have never leveraged the potential of brassinosteroids. Understanding how they work will help us utilize them for plant production. This is what we are aiming for in our work.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

How steroid hormones enable plants to grow

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid hormones similar to human sex hormones play a key role here. In the current edition of Nature Communications, scientists describe a new signaling mode for the brassinosteroid class of hormones.

Plants are superior to humans and animals in a number of ways. They have an impressive ability to regenerate, which enables them to regrow entire organs. After being struck by lightning, for example, a tree can grow back its entire crown. But there is one major downside to life as a plant: They are quite literally rooted to the habitats in which they live and therefore completely at the mercy of the elements. In response to this dilemma, plants have developed mechanisms that enable them to rapidly adapt their growth and development to changes.

Plant hormones are important enablers of this flexibility. Brassinosteroids play a key role here. These hormones have an effect at the lowest concentrations; they regulate cell elongation and division and are active throughout the entire lifecycle of a plant. A team of researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna have now mapped a new signaling mode for brassinosteroids.

Meeting points for DNA-binding protein

When brassinosteroids bind to a receptor on a cell wall, they trigger a multi-level cascade of reactions that regulates the activity of the CESTA (CES) transcription factor. Transcription factors bind to the DNA in a cell’s nucleus and are capable of activating genes that change the protein composition in the cell.

A team of scientists — headed by Prof. Brigitte Poppenberger at TUM’s Institute of Biotechnology of Horticultural Crops — has been able to show for the first time that the concentration of CES protein increases in certain nuclear regions following brassinosteroid activation.

These structures occur as nuclear bodies in the cell nucleus. The scientists believe that the CES transcription factor collects in specific regions of the DNA in order to effectively control gene function. “The cell seems to bundle key resources to rapidly trigger the production of certain proteins. We can compare this to a construction site, for example, where workers temporarily gather at a certain location to unload building material,” explains Poppenberger.

New signal pathway

The scientists also mapped the mechanism that gives the CES molecules the signal to gather. The molecules have a binding site for SUMO protein. As soon as this attaches, CES moves to nuclear bodies. While this is happening, it is protected from being broken down by enzymes. “What is interesting here is that the SUMO marker seems to strengthen the effect of CES,” continues Poppenberger. “This is the opposite of what happens in the animal world, where the SUMO protein is known to repress effects conferred by transcription factors.”

The research findings are an important step towards understanding more about the functions of brassinosteroids. “We have been using other kinds of hormones to promote growth and increase crop yields in horticulture and agriculture for decades now,” says Poppenberger. “But we have never leveraged the potential of brassinosteroids. Understanding how they work will help us utilize them for plant production. This is what we are aiming for in our work.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

How steroid hormones enable plants to grow

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid hormones similar to human sex hormones play a key role here. In the current edition of Nature Communications, scientists describe a new signaling mode for the brassinosteroid class of hormones.

Plants are superior to humans and animals in a number of ways. They have an impressive ability to regenerate, which enables them to regrow entire organs. After being struck by lightning, for example, a tree can grow back its entire crown. But there is one major downside to life as a plant: They are quite literally rooted to the habitats in which they live and therefore completely at the mercy of the elements. In response to this dilemma, plants have developed mechanisms that enable them to rapidly adapt their growth and development to changes.

Plant hormones are important enablers of this flexibility. Brassinosteroids play a key role here. These hormones have an effect at the lowest concentrations; they regulate cell elongation and division and are active throughout the entire lifecycle of a plant. A team of researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna have now mapped a new signaling mode for brassinosteroids.

Meeting points for DNA-binding protein

When brassinosteroids bind to a receptor on a cell wall, they trigger a multi-level cascade of reactions that regulates the activity of the CESTA (CES) transcription factor. Transcription factors bind to the DNA in a cell’s nucleus and are capable of activating genes that change the protein composition in the cell.

A team of scientists — headed by Prof. Brigitte Poppenberger at TUM’s Institute of Biotechnology of Horticultural Crops — has been able to show for the first time that the concentration of CES protein increases in certain nuclear regions following brassinosteroid activation.

These structures occur as nuclear bodies in the cell nucleus. The scientists believe that the CES transcription factor collects in specific regions of the DNA in order to effectively control gene function. “The cell seems to bundle key resources to rapidly trigger the production of certain proteins. We can compare this to a construction site, for example, where workers temporarily gather at a certain location to unload building material,” explains Poppenberger.

New signal pathway

The scientists also mapped the mechanism that gives the CES molecules the signal to gather. The molecules have a binding site for SUMO protein. As soon as this attaches, CES moves to nuclear bodies. While this is happening, it is protected from being broken down by enzymes. “What is interesting here is that the SUMO marker seems to strengthen the effect of CES,” continues Poppenberger. “This is the opposite of what happens in the animal world, where the SUMO protein is known to repress effects conferred by transcription factors.”

The research findings are an important step towards understanding more about the functions of brassinosteroids. “We have been using other kinds of hormones to promote growth and increase crop yields in horticulture and agriculture for decades now,” says Poppenberger. “But we have never leveraged the potential of brassinosteroids. Understanding how they work will help us utilize them for plant production. This is what we are aiming for in our work.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

How steroid hormones enable plants to grow

Plants can adapt extremely quickly to changes in their environment. Hormones, chemical messengers that are activated in direct response to light and temperature stimuli help them achieve this. Plant steroid hormones similar to human sex hormones play a key role here. In the current edition of Nature Communications, scientists describe a new signaling mode for the brassinosteroid class of hormones.

Plants are superior to humans and animals in a number of ways. They have an impressive ability to regenerate, which enables them to regrow entire organs. After being struck by lightning, for example, a tree can grow back its entire crown. But there is one major downside to life as a plant: They are quite literally rooted to the habitats in which they live and therefore completely at the mercy of the elements. In response to this dilemma, plants have developed mechanisms that enable them to rapidly adapt their growth and development to changes.

Plant hormones are important enablers of this flexibility. Brassinosteroids play a key role here. These hormones have an effect at the lowest concentrations; they regulate cell elongation and division and are active throughout the entire lifecycle of a plant. A team of researchers from Technische Universität München (TUM) and the University of Vienna have now mapped a new signaling mode for brassinosteroids.

Meeting points for DNA-binding protein

When brassinosteroids bind to a receptor on a cell wall, they trigger a multi-level cascade of reactions that regulates the activity of the CESTA (CES) transcription factor. Transcription factors bind to the DNA in a cell’s nucleus and are capable of activating genes that change the protein composition in the cell.

A team of scientists — headed by Prof. Brigitte Poppenberger at TUM’s Institute of Biotechnology of Horticultural Crops — has been able to show for the first time that the concentration of CES protein increases in certain nuclear regions following brassinosteroid activation.

These structures occur as nuclear bodies in the cell nucleus. The scientists believe that the CES transcription factor collects in specific regions of the DNA in order to effectively control gene function. “The cell seems to bundle key resources to rapidly trigger the production of certain proteins. We can compare this to a construction site, for example, where workers temporarily gather at a certain location to unload building material,” explains Poppenberger.

New signal pathway

The scientists also mapped the mechanism that gives the CES molecules the signal to gather. The molecules have a binding site for SUMO protein. As soon as this attaches, CES moves to nuclear bodies. While this is happening, it is protected from being broken down by enzymes. “What is interesting here is that the SUMO marker seems to strengthen the effect of CES,” continues Poppenberger. “This is the opposite of what happens in the animal world, where the SUMO protein is known to repress effects conferred by transcription factors.”

The research findings are an important step towards understanding more about the functions of brassinosteroids. “We have been using other kinds of hormones to promote growth and increase crop yields in horticulture and agriculture for decades now,” says Poppenberger. “But we have never leveraged the potential of brassinosteroids. Understanding how they work will help us utilize them for plant production. This is what we are aiming for in our work.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Technische Universitaet Muenchen. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Plants may use newly discovered molecular language to communicate

A Virginia Tech scientist has discovered a potentially new form of plant communication, one that allows them to share an extraordinary amount of genetic information with one another.

The finding by Jim Westwood, a professor of plant pathology, physiology, and weed science in the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, throws open the door to a new arena of science that explores how plants communicate with each other on a molecular level. It also gives scientists new insight into ways to fight parasitic weeds that wreak havoc on food crops in some of the poorest parts of the world.

His findings were published on Aug. 15 in the journal Science.

“The discovery of this novel form of inter-organism communication shows that this is happening a lot more than any one has previously realized,” said Westwood, who is an affiliated researcher with the Fralin Life Science Institute. “Now that we have found that they are sharing all this information, the next question is, ‘What exactly are they telling each other?’.”

Westwood examined the relationship between a parasitic plant, dodder, and two host plants, Arabidopsis and tomatoes. In order to suck the moisture and nutrients out of the host plants, dodder uses an appendage called a haustorium to penetrate the plant. Westwood has previously broken new ground when he found that during this parasitic interaction, there is a transport of RNA between the two species. RNA translates information passed down from DNA, which is an organism’s blueprint.

His new work expands this scope of this exchange and examines the mRNA, or messenger RNA, which sends messages within cells telling them which actions to take, such as which proteins to code. It was thought that mRNA was very fragile and short-lived, so transferring it between species was unimaginable.

But Westwood found that during this parasitic relationship, thousands upon thousands of mRNA molecules were being exchanged between both plants, creating this open dialogue between the species that allows them to freely communicate.

Through this exchange, the parasitic plants may be dictating what the host plant should do, such as lowering its defenses so that the parasitic plant can more easily attack it. Westwood’s next project is aimed at finding out exactly what the mRNA are saying.

Using this newfound information, scientists can now examine if other organisms such a bacteria and fungi also exchange information in a similar fashion. His finding could also help solve issues of food scarcity.

“Parasitic plants such as witchweed and broomrape are serious problems for legumes and other crops that help feed some of the poorest regions in Africa and elsewhere,” said Julie Scholes, a professor at the University of Sheffield, U.K., who is familiar with Westwood’s work but was not part of this project. “In addition to shedding new light on host-parasite communication, Westwood’s findings have exciting implications for the design of novel control strategies based on disrupting the mRNA information that the parasite uses to reprogram the host.”

Westwood said that while his finding is fascinating, how this is applied will be equally as interesting.

“The beauty of this discovery is that this mRNA could be the Achilles hill for parasites,” Westwood said. “This is all really exciting because there are so many potential implications surrounding this new information.”

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by Virginia Tech. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

US (VA): High-tech greenhouse in Dublin plants 30,000 tomatoes

US (VA): High-tech greenhouse in Dublin plants 30,000 tomatoes

After about a year, one of the largest high-tech greenhouses in North America is planting its first tomatoes in Dublin.

One of the first things noticeable about the sprawling property is the nearly million square feet of glass covering nearly 20 acres of tomatoes.

Just off Route 100 in Dublin is where Mexico-based Red Sun Farms is staking its claim in America. That starts with planting nearly 30,000 hydroponic tomato plants on some 12 acres.

“Fifteen thousand today and 15 thousand tomorrow,” said John Secker, is Red Sun Farms’ master grower. Secker and his ”for now” small crew are doing all that planting by hand.

“It’s very technical. All the systems here are automated other than the plant care, that has to be done with people,” Secker said. “But all my irrigation, heating, ventilation we’ll have energy screens in the winter, tried to reduce our energy costs. That’s all automated.”

Red Sun says its tomato plants, when ready, will supply customers in Virginia, North Carolina and Tennessee.

Jay Abbott is Director of Operations for Red Sun Farms.

“I think what makes this so different is that you don’t typically see a high-tech greenhouse in the Mid-Atlantic states. It can be very hot, high humidity area. But the New River Valley is really unique in its growing climate,” Abbott said.

Today, Red Sun Farms says there are fewer than 10 Latin American workers on the property. Brought in to show the newer, local employees how to get the process going.

Red Sun says the first harvest should be ready around October.

When asked about genetically modified foods, Abbott said, “Beyond being certified organic, (Red Sun Farms) will also be certified for the entire greenhouse as a non-GMO greenhouse. We as a company do not use GMO seed.”

Red Sun signed an agreement with several local governments, towns, cities and counties that it will hire as many as 205 full-time workers. The average hourly wage is about $ 12 an hour.

Source: www.wdbj7.com

Publication date: 8/1/2014


FreshPlaza.com

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily

Saving seeds the right way can save the world’s plants

Exotic pests, shrinking ranges and a changing climate threaten some of the world’s most rare and ecologically important plants, and so conservationists establish seed collections to save the seeds in banks or botanical gardens in hopes of preserving some genetic diversity.

For decades, these seed collections have been guided by simple models that offer a one-size-fits-all approach for how many seeds to gather, such as recommending saving 50 seed samples regardless of species’ pollination mode, growth habitat and population size.

A new study, however, has found that more careful tailoring of seed collections to specific species and situations is critical to preserving plant diversity. Once seeds are saved, they can be reintroduced for planting in suitable locations if conditions are favorable.

In the study, researchers from the National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis and the University of Tennessee used a novel approach called simulation-based planning to make several new sampling recommendations, confirming that a uniform approach to seed sampling is ineffective.

First, collectors must choose their plant populations from a wide area rather than a restricted one. Sampling widely can capture up to nearly 200 percent more rare genes than restricted sampling. In addition, in most situations, collecting from about 25 maternal plants per population versus 50 plants appears to capture the vast majority of genetic variation. The study also showed that for many species, collecting more than eight to ten seeds per plant leads to high overlap in genetic diversity and would thus be an excess of effort.

Increasing concerns over agriculture and food security as well as an increasing recognition of how fast biodiversity is disappearing has prompted seed banks to ramp up their collections. By the same token, botanic gardens that were once more focused on showcasing plants are now increasingly having a conservation mission too, according to the study’s lead author Sean Hoban, a postdoctoral fellow at NIMBioS.

“Our approach can be used to further refine seed collection guidelines, which could lead to much more efficient and effective collections, allowing us to preserve more diversity of the world’s plants. These collections could benefit future ecosystem restoration projects as well as improve agricultural and forestry efforts,” Hoban said.

Hoban and his colleagues are now working on ways to custom-tailor seed collections to particular species’ dispersal, mating system and biology.

The study was published in the journal Biological Conservation.

Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Institute for Mathematical and Biological Synthesis (NIMBioS). Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.

Agriculture and Food News — ScienceDaily