Sales and demand of organic food have been rising again after an uncertain 2014-15, buoyed on by stronger claims of benefits to health, a more natural way of production and an overall improvement in taste.
Increased farm yields could help to spare land from agriculture for natural habitats that benefit wildlife and store greenhouse gases, but only if the right policies are in place. Conservation scientists call on policymakers to learn from working examples across the globe and find better ways to protect habitats while producing food on less land.
Do existing plants represent all theoretically possible combinations of structure and function for growth, survival and reproduction? To answer this question an international team from 14 countries analyzed the most comprehensive global data set of essential plant functional traits ever compiled, containing plants ranging from Arabidopsis to Araucaria, from bramble to Brazil nut, from hemp to Hakea, from Sedum to Sequoia, from watercress to wattle.
Weeds are a major scourge for organic growers, who often must invest in multiple control methods to protect crop yields. A relatively new weed control method known as abrasive weeding, or 'weed blasting,' could give organic growers another tool. The method, recently field-tested, is surprisingly effective.
Dutch researchers have launched a crowdsourcing appeal for a project that will analyse the safety and nutrient content of food grown on Martian and lunar soil - and the findings could prove useful for life on Earth too, they say.
Back in 2009, a group of researchers in Germany and the US published a hotly debated study that said antioxidants may blunt the benefits of exercise. One of the researchers recently released a topical review of the subject, and he
Seagrasses colonized the sea on at least three independent occasions to form the basis of one of the most productive and widespread coastal ecosystems on the planet. Here we report the genome of Zostera marina (L.), the first, to our knowledge, marine angiosperm to be fully sequenced. This reveals unique insights into the genomic losses and gains involved in achieving the structural and physiological adaptations required for its marine lifestyle, arguably the most severe habitat shift ever accomplished by flowering plants. Key angiosperm innovations that were lost include the entire repertoire of stomatal genes, genes involved in the synthesis of terpenoids and ethylene signalling, and genes for ultraviolet protection and phytochromes for far-red sensing. Seagrasses have also regained functions enabling them to adjust to full salinity. Their cell walls contain all of the polysaccharides typical of land plants, but also contain polyanionic, low-methylated pectins and sulfated galactans, a feature shared with the cell walls of all macroalgae and that is important for ion homoeostasis, nutrient uptake and O2/CO2 exchange through leaf epidermal cells. The Z. marina genome resource will markedly advance a wide range of functional ecological studies from adaptation of marine ecosystems under climate warming, to unravelling the mechanisms of osmoregulation under high salinities that may further inform our understanding of the evolution of salt tolerance in crop plants.
When Scott Kelly tweeted a picture of moldy leaves on the current crop of zinnia flowers aboard the International Space Station, it could have looked like the science was doomed. In fact, science was blooming stronger than ever. What may seem like a failure in systems is actually an exceptional opportunity for scientists back on Earth to better understand how plants grow in microgravity, and for astronauts to practice doing what they'll be tasked with on a deep space mission: autonomous gardening.
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