In the lead up to climate meetings in Paris at the end of the year, countries will release draft targets - the framework of a possible global climate deal. Follow our interactive map as we track these targets.
Globally, humanity has reached “peak food,” according to a recent study by Ecology and Society. Peak rice was back in 1988, causing some worry about the long-term food security of this global staple crop. Peak chicken was in 2006. Peak milk and wheat were in 2004.
We surveyed 113 astronomers and 82 psychologists active in applying for federally funded research on their grant-writing history between January, 2009 and November, 2012. We collected demographic data, effort levels, success rates, and perceived non-financial benefits from writing grant proposals. We find that the average proposal takes 116 PI hours and 55 CI hours to write; although time spent writing was not related to whether the grant was funded. Effort did translate into success, however, as academics who wrote more grants received more funding. Participants indicated modest non-monetary benefits from grant writing, with psychologists reporting a somewhat greater benefit overall than astronomers. These perceptions of non-financial benefits were unrelated to how many grants investigators applied for, the number of grants they received, or the amount of time they devoted to writing their proposals. We also explored the number of years an investigator can afford to apply unsuccessfully for research grants and our analyses suggest that funding rates below approximately 20%, commensurate with current NIH and NSF funding, are likely to drive at least half of the active researchers away from federally funded research. We conclude with recommendations and suggestions for individual investigators and for department heads.
Plant-infecting viruses are transmitted by a diverse array of organisms including insects, mites, nematodes, fungi, and plasmodiophorids. Virus interactions with these vectors are diverse, but there are some commonalities. Generally the infection cycle begins with the vector encountering the virus in the plant and the virus is acquired by the vector. The virus must then persist in or on the vector long enough for the virus to be transported to a new host and delivered into the plant cell. Plant viruses rely on their vectors for breaching the plant cell wall to be delivered directly into the cytosol. In most cases, viral capsid or membrane glycoproteins are the specific viral proteins that are required for transmission and determinants of vector specificity. Specific molecules in vectors also interact with the virus and while there are few-identified to no-identified receptors, candidate recognition molecules are being further explored in these systems. Due to the specificity of virus transmission by vectors, there are defined steps that represent good targets for interdiction strategies to disrupt the disease cycle. This review focuses on new technologies that aim to disrupt the virus–vector interaction and focuses on a few of the well-characterized virus–vector interactions in the field. In closing, we discuss the importance of integration of these technologies with current methods for plant virus disease control.
FOR the past year or so genetic scientists at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in New York have been collaborating with a specialist from another universe: Daniel Kohn, a Brooklyn-based painter and conceptual artist.
A plant scientist from The Australian National University (ANU) has called for the United Nations to guarantee free and open access to plant DNA sequences to enable scientists to continue work to sustainably intensify world food production. Dr Norman Warthmann, a plant geneticist at the ANU Research School of Biology, has lodged a submission with the UN, which is currently considering issues to include in its 2015 Global Sustainable Development Report.
GMOs may be able to save chocolate. The bigger question is whether we want them to. Chocolate... is in trouble. The average American eats about 12 pounds of chocolate a year... But all that indulgence may be coming to an end. A chocolate shortage, to the tune of one million metric tons, is predicted to hit within the next five years, the result of climate change, disease, and the demands of rapidly growing populations of chocolate lovers in China and India.
The Nature Conservation Research Center based in Ghana – the world’s second-largest producer of chocolate after the Ivory Coast – predicts glumly that within the next 20 years, chocolate will be as rare and as expensive as caviar.
Chocolate comes from the seeds of the cacao tree, borne in football-sized pods that sprout directly out of the trunk. Dubbed... “food of the gods,” cacao is just what one might expect from an ancient, double-dealing deity: a delicious and addictive treat paired with a plant that is tricky, if not downright impossible, to grow. Cacao, believed to have originated in the steamy Amazon rainforest, is reluctant to adapt to conditions other than those of home: it now only grows in a belt 20 degrees north or south of the Equator...
Along with its geographical limitations, cacao is stunningly susceptible to disease – notably to witches’ broom, a fungus that wiped out the cacao trees of Ecuador in the 1920s, and devastated the chocolate plantations of Brazil... in a ten-year period... Worldwide today, cacao farmers lose an annual $750 million to disease.
Cacao trees are also painfully slow growers. It can take up to five years for a tree to produce fruit, and as long as ten before it becomes clear that the tree has desirable traits such as disease resistance or ultra-flavorful seeds... The conventional breeding process, given cacao’s tortoise-like growth rate, won’t be easy.
Conventional cacao breeding is also unpredictable. Take, for example, CCN-51... this is the cacao variety now generally acknowledged to be the world’s best bet to stave off chocolate disaster... is sturdy, disease-resistant, and prolific, producing four to ten times the yield of run-of-the-mill cacao trees. The bad news, however, is that its seeds taste lousy... Critics compare it to rusty nails, vinegar, wood shavings, and “acidic dirt.”
Despite the drawbacks, however, some large chocolate manufacturers have come around to CNN-51. About 95 percent of chocolate is made from “bulk beans,” generally inferior stuff which is heavily processed and beefed up with sugar and added flavors, such as vanilla. For such purposes, CNN-51 is just fine; and the belief is that most consumers won’t notice a difference.
For artisanal chocolate makers, however, who depend on delectable flavor beans for their high-end products, it’s a different story. “Artisan chocolate... is like a good bottle of wine,” carefully blended by master chocolatiers to contain just the right bouquet of flavor notes... These people aren’t likely to adopt a bean, no matter how prolific, that smacks of acidic dirt.
It may be time to turn to genetic engineering. The genome of the cacao plant has been sequenced as of 2011... From among chocolate’s approximately 30,000 genes (that is, about 10,000 more than us), scientists have identified gene sequences that govern disease resistance and direct the production of helpful metabolites and flavor components...
Some researchers point out that creating an ideal GMO chocolate isn’t going to be easy. Chocolate is a mind-bogglingly complex food, containing some 600 different flavor components. (Even red wine boasts a mere 200.) Cobbling together the right mix of flavors – along with disease-resistance, a rapid growth rate, and high productivity – may prove to be an heroic task. Still, given increasing world demand and the cacao tree’s environmentally dicey future, it may be our best chance to save chocolate as we all know and love it.
Giving access to sequence and annotation data for genome assemblies is important because, while facilitating research, it places both assembly and annotation quality under scrutiny, resulting in improvements to both. Therefore we announce Avianbase, a resource for bird genomics, which provides access to data released by the Avian Phylogenomics Consortium.
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