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Headlines added December 2, 2008

Brown chemist finds gray mold's killer gene
Brown University chemist David Cane and international colleagues have identified the genetic sequence behind gray mold's killer arsenal. In an ACS Chemical Biology paper, the scientists report that deletion of a single, mastermind gene from gray mold's DNA shuts down its ability to produce toxins that kill cells in more than 200 species of garden and ornamental plants. 12/2/08
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Headlines added earlier

UF researchers develop ways to keep the bloom on the rose
University of Florida | EurekAlert!
They may not be able to make love last, but a team of University of Florida researchers has figured out how to at least make the flowers go the distance. 2/9/2006
Read whole storyGene thwarts some pathogens, gives access to others, could save crops
Purdue University | EurekAlert!
A single gene apparently thwarts a disease-causing invader that creates a fuzzy gray coating on flowers, fruits and vegetables. But the same gene provides access to a different type of pathogen. 2/2/2006
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Growing crops to cope with climate change
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council | EurekAlert!
Scientists at the UK's leading plant science centre have uncovered a gene that could help to develop new varieties of crop that will be able to cope with the changing world climate. Researchers have identified the gene in barley that controls how the plant responds to seasonal changes in the length of the day. This is key to understanding how plants have adapted their flowering behaviour to different environments.
The John Innes Centre researchers have discovered that the Ppd-H1 gene in barley controls the timing of the activity of another gene called CO. When the length of the day is long enough CO activates one of the key genes that triggers flowering. Naturally occurring variation in Ppd-H1 affects the time of day when CO is activated. This shifts the time of year that the plant flowers.    
1/18/2006
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New possibilities to fight pests with biological means
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft | EurekAlert!
Corn plants emit a cocktail of scents when they are attacked by certain pests, such as a caterpillar known as the Egyptian cotton leaf worm. Parasitic wasps use these plant scents to localize the caterpillar and deposit their eggs on it, so that their offspring can feed on the caterpillar. Soon after, the caterpillar dies and the plant is relieved from its attacker. In the case of corn, only one gene, TPS10, has to be activated to attract the parasitic wasps. This gene carries information for a terpene synthase, an enzyme forming the sesquiterpene scent compounds that are released by the plant and attract wasps toward the damaged corn plant. Since this mechanism is based only on a single gene, it might be useful for the development of crop plants with a better resistance to pests (PNAS, Early Edition, January 16-20, 2006).
1/16/2006
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Corn Farmers Smile as Ethanol Prices Rise, but Experts on Food Supplies Worry
Matthew L. Wald | New York Times
Early every winter here, farmers make their best guesses about how much food the world will demand in the coming year, and then decide how many acres of corn to plant, and how many of soybeans.
But this year is different. Now it is not just the demand for food that is driving the decision, it is also the demand for ethanol, the fuel that is made from corn.
Some states are requiring that ethanol be blended in small amounts with gasoline to comply with anti-pollution laws. High oil prices are dragging corn prices up with them, as the value of ethanol is pushed up by the value of the fuel it replaces.
1/15/2006
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Anti-adhesive layers leave no hope for insects
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Plants are able, using organic substances, to achieve effects that we otherwise mostly know only from technical materials. One example of this is the carnivorous pitcher plant, as researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Metals Research and the University of Hohenheim have shown. These plants catch insects and hold them using traps with a double layer of crystalline wax. The upper layer has crystalloids which contaminate the attachment organs that insects use to adhere themselves to surfaces. The lower layer additionally reduces the contact area between the insect feet and plant surface. The insects thus slip into the pitcher-shaped traps, where they are digested (The Journal of Experimental Biology, December 2005). These results provide ideas for further developments of technological anti-adhesive surfaces.   
1/12/2006
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Sun protection for plants
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council | EurekAlert!
Scientists working on the fundamental biological processes of plants could make significant difference to the lives of farmers in many parts of the world. Using model plant species, such as the tiny weed Arabidopsis, the researchers have uncovered one of the processes used by the plants to protect themselves from potentially lethal environmental conditions. Their discoveries are now being applied to improve the productivity of bean farmers in South America and rice producers in Asia.
Very high levels of sunlight can be hazardous to plants, overwhelming their ability to photosynthesise. This effect is exaggerated when there is a shortage of water or extreme temperatures. The resulting damage to the delicate photosynthetic membranes in the plant leads to impaired growth, cell destruction and, eventually, plant death. The scientists, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), have found that plants are able to turn unwanted absorbed light into heat by altering the structure of one of the proteins in these membranes. This unique nanoscale safety valve prevents plant damage by harmlessly dissipating the lethal excess radiation. This photoprotective process was found to be aided by a special carotenoid molecule called zeaxanthin and plants with higher levels of this molecule appear to be better protected.     1/11/2006
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Doomsday' seed bank to be built
Norway plans to build a seed bank inside a mountain on an Arctic island to hold samples of the world's crops. 1/12/2006
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The secret life of algae
Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council | EurekAlert!
A fundamental process that has puzzled researchers for many years has been explained by UK scientists. Some simple plants that are crucial in maintaining the balance of carbon in the Earth's atmosphere require vitamin B12 to grow properly but it has been a mystery to scientists why some types needed external sources and others did not. Now researchers at the Universities of Cambridge and Kent have discovered that half of all algae have a dependent but beneficial relationship with bacteria that make the vitamin for them.
The researchers, funded by the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC), found that no algae have the necessary genes to produce vitamin B12. Those that do not require a supply are like higher plants; they have an alternative metabolic process that does not need the vitamin. However, algae that need vitamin B12 cannot make it themselves and must get it from somewhere else.
The scientists realised that the amount of vitamin B12 required to grow the types of algae that do need the vitamin in the laboratory is much higher than natural levels in the seas and rivers. They discovered that in the natural environment were bacteria that could supply the necessary vitamin B12 the algae needed. However, the relationship between the bacteria and algae was not one-way. The scientists found that the algae supported the bacteria by providing them with carbon from their own photosynthesis.   1/10/2006
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The forgotten methane source
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft | EurekAlert!
In the last few years, more and more research has focused on the biosphere; particularly, on how gases which influence the climate are exchanged between the biosphere and atmosphere. Researchers from the Max Planck Institute for Nuclear Physics have now carefully analysed which organic gases are emitted from plants. They made the surprising discovery that plants release methane, a greenhouse gas - and this goes against all previous assumptions. Equally surprising was that methane formation is not hindered by the presence of oxygen. This discovery is important not just for plant researchers but also for understanding the connection between global warming and increased greenhouse gas production 1/10/2006
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Biotech crops mark first decade with wins and losses      1/1/2006   Read whole story

 

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