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  • November 1, 2016
  • 11:00 AM
  • 224 views

Giant pumpkins and other massive fruits

by Alice Breda in la-Plumeria

In the form of a creepy Jack-o’-lantern frightening kids who seek for treats, or of a creamy soup in a cold fall night, pumpkins are the most distinctive fruits we find on the market stands in this season. But this fruit, in its larger variants, is also at the center of a special type of competition that takes place every year. A group of fierce farmers equipped with large scales and the heaviest products of their fields meet up to determine who among them was able to grow the largest pump........ Read more »

  • September 9, 2016
  • 09:55 AM
  • 376 views

The deep history of barley breeding

by Luigi in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

A recent paper reported on the discovery of a bit of the barley genome where an allele from the wild relative, when homozygous, confers a 30% yield advantage over a popular German variety under saline conditions.1 That of course is very interesting in its own right, but I want here to delve a bit into the methods, rather than the results.... Read more »

  • September 7, 2016
  • 03:16 AM
  • 330 views

The recent history of summer squashes

by Jeremy in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

So you’re telling me that sixteenth century Italian gardeners selected long, thin squashes from among those brought back to Europe from the Americas (actually two different places in the Americas) in conscious imitation of the bottle gourds they had used for centuries? And somehow kept them separate from other cucurbits so that they bred true? […]... Read more »

  • September 6, 2016
  • 03:30 AM
  • 282 views

Home is where conservation begins

by Jeremy in Agricultural Biodiversity Weblog

Thanks to Jade Philips (see her on fieldwork below) and Åsmund Asdal, two of the authors, for contributing this post on their recent paper on the conservation of crop wild relatives in Norway. Norway may be an unlikely spot in which to look for agrobiodiversity, but seek and ye shall find. A recent paper discusses […]... Read more »

Phillips, J., Asdal, A., Magos Brehm, J., Rasmussen, M., & Maxted, N. (2016) In situ and ex situ diversity analysis of priority crop wild relatives in Norway. Diversity and Distributions. DOI: 10.1111/ddi.12470  

  • July 21, 2016
  • 10:08 AM
  • 661 views

The decline of biodiversity: Past the point of no return?

by gdw in FictionalFieldwork

Mohi looks up at her mother. Confused. Afraid. Mother had always said that she had to keep her filtration veil on when they left their housedome. But now, here stood her mother, unveiled. The woman gifted an encouraging nod to her young daughter. Mohi removed her veil. Air! Light! The freshness of the breeze and […]... Read more »

Steffen W, Richardson K, Rockström J, Cornell SE, Fetzer I, Bennett EM, Biggs R, Carpenter SR, de Vries W, de Wit CA.... (2015) Sustainability. Planetary boundaries: guiding human development on a changing planet. Science, 347(6223). PMID: 25592418  

Newbold T, Hudson LN, Arnell AP, Contu S, De Palma A, Ferrier S, Hill SL, Hoskins AJ, Lysenko I, Phillips HR.... (2016) Has land use pushed terrestrial biodiversity beyond the planetary boundary? A global assessment. Science, 353(6296), 288-91. PMID: 27418509  

Oliver TH. (2016) How much biodiversity loss is too much?. Science, 353(6296), 220-1. PMID: 27418489  

  • April 28, 2016
  • 09:33 AM
  • 747 views

Breathing Bordeaux is entirely different from drinking it!

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

It was the summer of 1882, and grape farmers in the Médoc region of southwest France (north of Bordeaux, on the Atlantic coast) had a problem.Schoolchildren (or university students, or just anyone travelling the roads along which the grapevines grew, depending on what source you're reading) were pilfering their grapes. To try and ward them off, some farmers decided to dissolve some slaked lime and copper sulfate in water and spray it on their grapevines closest to the roads. The idea was... Read more »

  • February 25, 2016
  • 11:21 AM
  • 323 views

Why we may lose bananas, again

by Alice Breda in la-Plumeria

Bananas are yellow, smiling and fluorescent, they are used as a unit to measure low doses of radioactivity and over a hundred million tons of them are eaten in the world every year. However, a rapidly spreading disease is threatening the existence of this beloved fruit that might completely from the market. And it’s not the first time.

The history of bananas began in South East Asia, where highest diversity of wild species and cultivated varieties is still present. Some of them are red,........ Read more »

Ordonez, N., Seidl, M., Waalwijk, C., Drenth, A., Kilian, A., Thomma, B., Ploetz, R., & Kema, G. (2015) Worse Comes to Worst: Bananas and Panama Disease—When Plant and Pathogen Clones Meet. PLOS Pathogens, 11(11). DOI: 10.1371/journal.ppat.1005197  

  • December 18, 2015
  • 08:28 AM
  • 714 views

Kiss Me Under the Parasitic Angiosperm

by Stephanie Swift in mmmbitesizescience

Mistletoe is held in high regard at this time of year. No Christmas decorations are complete without a garland of cheerful mistletoe hanging on the door, or suspended prettily from the rafters as an incentive for festive romance. In nature, … Continue reading →... Read more »

Petersen G, Cuenca A, Møller IM, & Seberg O. (2015) Massive gene loss in mistletoe (Viscum, Viscaceae) mitochondria. Scientific Reports, 17588. PMID: 26625950  

  • November 12, 2015
  • 12:47 PM
  • 1,074 views

Savin juniper likes mountains and dislikes diabetes

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

In mountainous regions throughout much of Europe and Asia there grows an evergreen shrub by the name of Juniperus sabina (savin juniper). Being a juniper, it produces berry-like cones and is occasionally infected by members of everyone's favourite genus of sinister orange tentacled fungi, Gymnosporangium.This shrub takes no prisoners (Source)Crushing the leaves of J. sabina produces a strong unpleasant odour, a harbinger of the ability of the plant to poison many of the creatures who consume it......... Read more »

  • November 5, 2015
  • 05:27 PM
  • 761 views

The wonderful yields of crop buddies

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Ever since we stopped roaming and started farming, we've been looking for ways to improve our harvests. One old school approach is to grow plants close to one another, otherwise known as polyculture. Whether it's two crops, three crops, or a crop and a beneficial but not otherwise harvestable plant, farmers have long realized the botanical buddy system results in larger plants producing more seeds (read: more food).Compared to monoculture (growing a single crop over a large area, e.g. your typic........ Read more »

  • September 4, 2015
  • 11:59 AM
  • 1,001 views

Bacteria from tobacco plant roots provide protection against sudden-wilt disease

by Betty Zou in Eat, Read, Science

A new study from the Max Planck Institute shows how root-associated bacteria can rescue plants from sudden-wilt disease. The authors conducted laboratory and field testing to show that treating seeds with a mixture of six native bacterial species significantly reduces plant mortality.... Read more »

Berendsen, R., Pieterse, C., & Bakker, P. (2012) The rhizosphere microbiome and plant health. Trends in Plant Science, 17(8), 478-486. DOI: 10.1016/j.tplants.2012.04.001  

Santhanam R, Luu VT, Weinhold A, Goldberg J, Oh Y, & Baldwin IT. (2015) Native root-associated bacteria rescue a plant from a sudden-wilt disease that emerged during continuous cropping. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 26305938  

  • August 24, 2015
  • 04:05 PM
  • 1,136 views

Argania spinosa has goat ornaments and makes a useful oil

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

Argania spinosa (argan) is a tough little tree endemic to a limited area in southwestern Morocco and a bit of very western Algeria (Tindouf). Patchy forests of the tree cover about 800,000 hectares of the semi-arid Sous valley. These represent a unique biotope and have been designated a fancy UNESCO biosphere reserve. The presence of the forests slows desertification, as the drought-resistant trees act to stabilize the soil. Argan trees can live up to 250 years and are able to make do ........ Read more »

Monfalouti HE, Guillaume D, Denhez C, & Charrouf Z. (2010) Therapeutic potential of argan oil: A review. The Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology, 62(12), 1669-75. PMID: 21054392  

Paris C, Herin F, Reboux G, Penven E, Barrera C, Guidat C, & Thaon I. (2015) Working with argan cake: A new etiology for hypersensitivity pneumonitis. BMC Pulmonary Medicine, 18. PMID: 25888313  

  • July 31, 2015
  • 10:00 AM
  • 1,217 views

How to make rice healthier for you and the environment

by Betty Zou in Eat, Read, Science

An innovative way of cooking rice that removes more arsenic than the conventional method and a new strain of high-starch, low-methane rice are discussed.... Read more »

  • July 8, 2015
  • 11:35 AM
  • 1,303 views

Colour changing fruits and veggies

by Rosin Cerate in Rosin Cerate

The fleshy parts of plants we eat tend to change colour. This can be due to ripening (e.g. various berries turning red as they mature), intentional injury (e.g. apple slices turning brown after being cut), or changing external pH (e.g. red cabbage turning pink in vinegar). Let's look a bit at how and why this happens using a couple of examples.Strawberry fruit develops through green, white, and red stages. These correspond to changing levels of chlorophyll, anthocyanins, flavonoids, tannins, and........ Read more »

  • May 6, 2015
  • 08:00 AM
  • 1,246 views

Plants Aren’t Just Male Or Female

by Mark Lasbury in As Many Exceptions As Rules

It’s hard enough to believe that flowering plants have different sexes, but how about plants that have three sexes? One trioecious plant varies it sex ratio depending on how much water is around, while another only shows three sexes when it lives near a particular bat. But most amazing, man made the papaya into a three-sex plant. Your tropical fruit salad is made with a hermaphrodite.... Read more »

VanBuren R, Zeng F, Chen C, Zhang J, Wai CM, Han J, Aryal R, Gschwend AR, Wang J, Na JK.... (2015) Origin and domestication of papaya Yh chromosome. Genome research, 25(4), 524-33. PMID: 25762551  

  • February 5, 2015
  • 09:10 AM
  • 1,221 views

Climate Change: Heatwaves and Poverty in Pakistan

by Jalees Rehman in Fragments of Truth

The 2010 floods were among the worst that Pakistan has experienced in recent decades. Sadly, the country is prone to recurrent flooding which means that in any given year, Pakistani farmers hope and pray that the floods will not be as bad as those in 2010. It would be natural to assume that recurring flood disasters force Pakistani farmers to give up farming and migrate to the cities in order to make ends meet. But a recent study published in the journal Nature Climate Change by Valerie Mueller ........ Read more »

  • December 10, 2014
  • 07:39 AM
  • 765 views

The genome sequence of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and evidence for independent domestication

by Alice Breda in genome ecology evolution etc

Oryza glaberrima is an African species of rice that is not of the same origin as the Asian rice (Oryza sativa) and was independently domesticated from the progenitor Oryza barthii about 3,000 years ago.In this study recently published by Nature … Continue reading →... Read more »

Wang, M., Yu, Y., Haberer, G., Marri, P., Fan, C., Goicoechea, J., Zuccolo, A., Song, X., Kudrna, D., Ammiraju, J.... (2014) The genome sequence of African rice (Oryza glaberrima) and evidence for independent domestication. Nature Genetics, 46(9), 982-988. DOI: 10.1038/ng.3044  

  • December 8, 2014
  • 08:02 AM
  • 1,885 views

Climate Change: Heatwaves and Poverty in Pakistan

by Jalees Rehman in The Next Regeneration

In the summer of 2010, over 20 million people were affected by the summer floods in Pakistan. Millions lost access to shelter and clean water, and became dependent on aid in the form of food, drinking water, tents, clothes and medical supplies in order to survive this humanitarian disaster. It is estimated that at least $1.5 billion to $2 billion were provided as aid by governments, NGOs, charity organizations and private individuals from all around the world, and helped contain the devastating ........ Read more »

  • December 1, 2014
  • 04:24 PM
  • 1,186 views

Feeding the Buzzards

by Denise O'Meara in Denise O'Meara

Eimear Rooney and colleagues from Queen’s University Belfast aimed to investigate that very question in a new study examining the effects of supplementary feeding on the common buzzard population in Northern Ireland. The study has recently been published in the international ornithology journal, Ibis.

Rooney and colleagues focused on mainly agricultural land consisting of improved grassland, but they also included areas of lower productivity such as bogs, rough grazing areas, woodlands and ........ Read more »

  • November 21, 2014
  • 01:58 PM
  • 1,583 views

Genome, Evolution, and Domestication of the Cat

by Daniel Koboldt in Massgenomics

Even though most of my posts on MassGenomics concern human genetics and genomics, today I’d like to highlight a milestone in another species, one that many humans care fiercely about. This guy: Cat lovers, rejoice! This month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciencs, Mike Montague, Wes Warren, and colleagues published the first complete […]... Read more »

Montague MJ, Li G, Gandolfi B, Khan R, Aken BL, Searle SM, Minx P, Hillier LW, Koboldt DC, Davis BW.... (2014) Comparative analysis of the domestic cat genome reveals genetic signatures underlying feline biology and domestication. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. PMID: 25385592  

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