Our friend Nora Castañeda attended the State of the World’s Plants Symposium a couple of weeks back and was kind enough to send us some of her impressions. We’ll publish them in instalments over the next few days.
A couple of meta-resources today. First, a handy database of botanical illustrations, with thanks to Mark Nesbitt of Kew for the tip: Plantillustrations.org is a non-commercial website and will not trouble you with irritating advertisements or ask you for donations. It provides a searchable index so that you can easily find plant illustrations by using […]
It was inevitable, I suppose. There’s now a whole blog dedicated to the “Diffusion of xylella in Italian olive trees.” The latest post comments on an article in Nature which seems to suggest things are beginning to move in normally sleepy Puglia, epicenter of the apocalypse. Here’s hoping. But I still think they should have […]
A paradigm shift is needed to overcome these serious shortcomings in biosecurity. Risk assessments should target the genes of pathogens rather than their names. Genomic research over the last decade has paved the way towards gene-based biosecurity. Detailed information about fungal genomes can help predict risks posed by undescribed pathogens through (i) prediction of lifestyle, e.g., biotrophic and saprotrophic fungi can be distinguished from nectrotrophic and hemibiotrophic fungi, and saprotrophic fungi can be distinguished from pathogens. In time, protein families that exist in effective pathogens will be discovered and may be predictive for organisms that have an unknown ecology or life strategy. Software for rapid analysis of bacterial genomic data to screen for pathogenic proteins has been designed, and similar tools and databases will be developed for fungal pathogens. (ii) Identification of potential pathogenicity factors, i.e., factors necessary for disease development that suppress or manipulate host-cell physiology to the advantage of a pathogen, but which are not essential for a pathogen to complete its life cycle. One example is disease effector proteins, which are likely expressed by all plant pathogens and may target similar defensive proteins in their hosts . Effector genes do not have conserved motifs in fungi, and identifiers in the genome, such as diversifying selection, will be crucial to identify these genes that may be a clue to pathogenicity. (iii) Identification of transposable elements or high mutation rates, which are implicated in the evolution of pathogenicity genes in fungi.
Is anyone looking for resistant material? That’s what we asked back in August last year, at the height of the Italian Xylella olive plague panic. Then in March this year there was news of some 10 cultivars being tested. Now comes this: An experimental olive plot with almost twenty different olive cultivars (24 replicates for […]
Scientists at The Genome Analysis Centre (TGAC) have released the first web repository for Brassica (mustard plants) trait data to tackle reproducibility, user controlled data sharing and analysis worldwide. Scoring the versatile crop’s beneficial traits will assist Brassica breeders in improving their crop yields, increased nutritional benefits and reduce our carbon footprint through biofuel production. […]
There’s a website called Plants Map which lets you manage and share information about the precise location and characteristics of the plants you grow, including photos, and even print out nice labels, complete with QR codes. The target audience seems to be gardens (including botanical gardens), nurseries, and the like. But it could be field […]
As part of the International Year of Pulses, we are working on a global database on the composition of pulses, starting with the collection of analytical data. We have found many scientific articles on pulses, which we are compiling.
You may have seen the press reports about the disease wheat blast, previously restricted to South America, reaching Bangladesh. The more technical news pieces in the likes of Nature make the point that the source was Brazil, but do not always make it as clear as they might what a veritable tour-de-force of international collaboration […]
In which our friend Nora Castañeda summarizes the first day of the State of the World’s Plants Symposium. The first day of the Kew symposium was divided in three sessions: climate change, protected areas and extinction risk.
Had a nice afternoon out at the Real Jardín Botánico in Madrid last week, offspring in tow (who thankfully didn’t complain too much). It goes back to the late 18th century, and it’s beautifully laid out, and indeed located, though a cool and wet afternoon in early May did not show it off at its […]
Speaking of botanical gardens maintaining collections of crop diversity, this just in: A large collection of Teosinte seed was recently transferred from Duke University to the Missouri Botanical Garden Seed Bank. Teosinte is the wild ancestor to modern corn and the preservation of its genetic material is important to corn research and supports the long […]
When news of xylella hit in 2013, I immediately thought: Scam. In Puglia, ancient olive trees are protected by law from being cut down or otherwise removed. As you can imagine, this law has been unpopular with certain businesses, like real estate developers and road-builders. The areas affected by xylella were, by strange chance, extraordinarily beautiful landscapes – ripe for posh new hotels. The emergency plan which a handful of authorities drew up shortly after the announcement of the xylella epidemic in Puglia was trenchant: cut down all the infected trees, along with a goodly number of their neighbors in case they too had been blighted. Ecco fatto: suddenly there would be more elbow (or hotel) room in several lovely seaside locales in Puglia.
Which of course is only one interpretation of the facts. On the other hand, I'm no agronomist, and as reports of the seriousness of the xylella infection echoed in the press, I began to think I'd jumped to a hasty and cynical conclusion. (For more views on the xylella story, see this independent blog.) Developments over the last few months, however, suggest I may have been right all along. A 2015 report on mafia infiltration of Italian agriculture, written by a team led by the renowned anti-mafia prosecutor Gian Carlo Caselli, dedicated a 9-page sub-chapter to what it called “The Strange Case of Xylella Fastidiosa,” echoing Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella of Jekyll and Hyde. The report noted that xylella broke out shortly after an international agronomy conference had been held in Bari in 2010, though the infection appeared not in olive trees near Bari, but in the Gallipoli area – precisely where hordes of troublesome grandfather trees were holding up plans for a perfectly lovely new mega-resort. Cue yet another criminal investigation: in mid-December, prosecutors led by Cataldo Motta, chief magistrate in Lecce, charged ten agronomists and other public “experts” who’d launched the xylella jihad with a range of misdeeds, among which are spreading plant disease, making false official statements, and destroying and disfiguring natural landscapes. (Italian and English.) The Lecce prosecutors also blocked further eradication of ancient olive trees, at least for the time being.
If the recent post on the UC Davis Strawberry Wars whetted your appetite, the Talking Biotech podcast can help with a leisurely run-through the history of the crop and efforts to breed it from Kevin Folta and his guest, Dr
To coincide with the State of the World’s Plants Symposium, which starts today, Kew have just dropped a monumental report of the same name, complete with fancy website. Nice to see crop wild relatives get a decent amount of space (p. 21) in the section on useful plants. Oh, and the report and symposium come […]
Åsmund Bjørnstad, a plant breeder and professor at the Norwegian University of Life Sciences at Ås, recently published a stimulating article on plant patents. We asked Daniele Manzella, a policy and legal consultant, to comment. Below are his thoughts. Interested readers may also want to read another recent post on seed IP issues. Åsmund Bjørnstad […]
Announcements such as this from UC Davis, of the launch of the Global Tea Initiative, make me wish there was a market for roving agrobiodiversity bloggers and tweeters. Alas, I’m reduced to the usual ploy of asking participants if they’d like to blog the thing for us. Will genebanks be discussed? There aren’t that many […]
When we last checked on the cut-throat world of Californian strawberries in 2014, the Strawberry Commission, a grower’s association, was suing UC Davis for control of the content of the university’s vaunted breeding programme. The whole thing was precipitated, you’ll remember, by the breeders involved wanting to move on, and take their material with them. […]
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