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PLOS Genetics: The Genomic Signature of Crop-Wild Introgression in Maize

PLOS Genetics: The Genomic Signature of Crop-Wild Introgression in Maize | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

From the abstract... "We found evidence suggestive of the incorporation of adaptive Zea mays ssp mexicana [aka teosinte] alleles into maize during its expansion to the highlands of central Mexico. In contrast, very little evidence was found for adaptive introgression from maize to mexicana."

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Very nice study of gene flow between a domesticated crop and its wild, conspecific relative, and its evolutionary and ecological implications.

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Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education)
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The double-edged sword of plant defence — Roots and Shoots

The double-edged sword of plant defence - Roots and Shoots - Medium
The way that rice plants defend themselves against chewing herbivores actually makes them more susceptible to insects th…
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There’s a new sustainable ag technique in town, and it’s cleaning up

There’s a new sustainable ag technique in town, and it’s cleaning up | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
With the right "push-pull" planting combos, African farmers can ward off pests, fertilize crops, feed animals, and even withstand drought.
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Nice overview of climate-smart push-pull methods as describe here http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0378429015001884. Good science and good writing all round, cheers!

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An introduction to synthetic biology in plant systems - Carmichael - 2015 - New Phytologist - Wiley Online Library

...Plant synthetic biology is a burgeoning field that is attracting attention from both the synthetic biology and plant science communities (Osbourn et al., 2012; Cook et al., 2014), as illustrated by the recent funding of OpenPlant by the UK government through the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) and Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC), to develop foundational technologies for plant synthetic biology. The development of this new field is in part due to rapid technological advances allowing quick, easy and efficient manipulation of genomic and transgenic plant DNA, and therefore the summer school mainly focussed on these cutting-edge tools and applications, with the aim of encouraging their use by up-and-coming researchers.

The 20 summer school participants had a variety of research backgrounds and levels of experience, from theorists and computer scientists to molecular, plant and synthetic biologists, and from new PhD students to postdoctoral researchers. Some of the participants had no previous plant science knowledge, so the major challenge was to devise a programme that would be engaging and instructive. As a result, participants were trained through a diverse course of lectures, practical sessions and group projects, covering a wide range of theoretical, technical and ethical content in this expanding discipline.
Lectures: cutting-edge training from world-leading experts

The lecture programme was designed to teach the participants about synthetic biology concepts and new technologies both in theory and application, as well as introducing them to several model plant systems. In addition, technical talks provided practical details including plant transformation, bioinformatics and metabolite analysis. Discussion was encouraged following the talks, with participants taking the opportunity to meet and question world-leading experts.

Claes Gustafsson, from the San Francisco-based DNA synthesis company DNA2.0, set the scene by introducing the theory behind the application of engineering values to synthetic biology, including the experimental cycle of designing, building, testing and learning that underpins effective synthetic biology research. Consistent with recent developments in plant synthetic biology, DNA assembly and genome engineering techniques were at the forefront of the more technical talks, and, importantly, illustrated with recent applications. Golden Gate cloning, a newly developed technique for assembling multigene DNA constructs in a modular fashion, was highlighted by several speakers, including Aymeric Leveau (Osbourn Laboratory, John Innes Centre, UK), who discussed its use in his work in metabolic engineering of wheat, whilst Samantha Fox (Coen laboratory, John Innes Centre, UK) explained how she had used Golden Gate cloning to develop a modular Cre-Lox system for inducible expression of a gene of interest in Arabidopsis thaliana. The talks were compiled to introduce the participants to cutting-edge methodologies driving the development of the plant synthetic biology field – notably, Diego Orzaez (Technical University of Valencia, Spain) outlined the GoldenBraid cloning system he has developed, based on Golden Gate, for iterative modular DNA assembly for plant biotechnology applications (Sarrion-Perdigones et al., 2011), and Jim Haseloff (University of Cambridge/OpenPlant, UK) promoted the simple liverwort plant Marchantia polymorpha as a new, tractable model system for plant synthetic biology.

Genome editing in plants was also emphasized in the lectures as an increasingly invaluable and widespread synthetic biology tool, due to its relatively straightforward and efficient application. Sebastian Schornack (University of Cambridge, UK) described how the code for recognition of target DNA by TAL effectors was discovered (Boch et al., 2009) and how TAL effector proteins have been repurposed for genome engineering functions, while the extension of the ubiquitous CRISPR/Cas9 system to plants was outlined in a technical talk from Kate Caves (DNA2.0, USA), and exemplified in work described by Jen Sheen (Havard University, MA, USA) (Li et al., 2013)....


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Lights, camera, action! Prepare for a botanist to take center stage!

Lights, camera, action! Prepare for a botanist to take center stage! | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Maybe it's time to get your elevator pitch ready for all this excitement that's about to be unleashed thanks to the power of popular culture.

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Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought

Water and climate: Recognize anthropogenic drought | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
California's current extreme drought must be a lesson for managing water in a warmer, more densely populated world
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Research in Focus: Evolution and function of strigolactone / karrikin receptors

Research in Focus: Evolution and function of strigolactone / karrikin receptors | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

There are some surprising new findings in the strigolactone / karrikin receptor story - read a summary here.
http://blog.aspb.org/…/research-in-focus-evolution-and-fun…/

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A CRISPR/Cas9 toolbox for multiplexed plant genome editing and transcriptional regulation (OPEN)

A CRISPR/Cas9 toolbox for multiplexed plant genome editing and transcriptional regulation (OPEN) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

" we developed and implemented a comprehensive molecular toolbox for multifaceted CRISPR/Cas9 applications in plants. This toolbox provides researchers with a protocol and reagents to quickly and efficiently assemble functional CRISPR/Cas9 T-DNA constructs for monocots and dicots using Golden Gate and Gateway cloning methods. It comes with a full suite of capabilities, including multiplexed gene editing and transcriptional activation or repression of plant endogenous genes. We report the functionality and effectiveness of this toolbox in model plants such as tobacco, Arabidopsis and rice, demonstrating its utility for basic and applied plant research."

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Activation of Big Grain1 significantly improves grain size by regulating auxin transport in rice

Activation of Big Grain1 significantly improves grain size by regulating auxin transport in rice | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Here's an interesting OPEN paper in PNAS. The gene was identified by activation tagging, meaning that the mutant overexpresses a normal protein, resulting in big rice grains. The overexpressed gene encodes an uncharacterized membrane-localized protein that affects auxin transport. Lots more work to do, but an interesting and potentially useful phenotype!

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Scourge No More: Chefs Invite Corn Fungus To The Plate

Scourge No More: Chefs Invite Corn Fungus To The Plate | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
American and Canadian chefs are learning what Mexicans have long known: a bluish fungus that infects corn kernels is delicious. And now scientists want to figure out how to grow it on corn on purpose.
Mary Williams's insight:

It may taste good but it doesn't look very appetizing!

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All In the Touch Curriculum (ages 10 - 13) Free to download - colorful activities

All In the Touch Curriculum (ages 10 - 13) Free to download - colorful activities | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Another terrific set of activities from Peggy Lemaux and Barbara Alonso. Free to download. In lesson 2 - make a tasty plant cell using goodies for the different compartments. I love the idea for how to represent the energetic mitochondria!

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Video: Forest health in a changing world

"Today's forests have been greatly altered by human activity and face increasing threats from drought, insect infestations and fire. A Special Section in Science this week examines forest health from the tropics to the boreal forests of the north."

Introduction to the special issue

http://www.sciencemag.org/content/349/6250/800.short

Other than the video and the Introduction, the rest of the articles in this special issue require a subscription to Science.


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An interview with Caroline Dean - the Node

An interview with Caroline Dean - the Node | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

"Caroline Dean is a plant biologist based at the John Innes Centre in Norwich, UK. She helped to establish Arabidopsis as a model plant organism, and has worked for many years on the epigenetic mechanisms that regulate vernalisation, the process by which plants accelerate their flowering after periods of prolonged cold. We met Caroline at the recent Spring Meeting of the British Society for Developmental Biology. We asked her about her career, her thoughts on the plant field and being awarded this year's FEBS EMBO Women in Science Award."


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Host Biology in Light of the Microbiome: Ten Principles of Holobionts and Hologenomes

Host Biology in Light of the Microbiome: Ten Principles of Holobionts and Hologenomes | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
This Essay lays out ten principles that advance a unified theory of the evolution and ecology of host-associated microbiomes.
Mary Williams's insight:

Quite interesting essay. Redefining the unit of biological organization to include affiliated microbes - defining the holobiont and the hologenome.
http://journals.plos.org/plosbiology/article…
(Photo credit Tom Donald)

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Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production

Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Artificial leaf harnesses sunlight for efficient fuel production
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JCAP is amazing - Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. Read more about them here http://solarfuelshub.org/

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Plants in the News, August 28 2015 | Plant Science Today

Plants in the News, August 28 2015 | Plant Science Today | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Mary Williams's insight:

If you see a story would be interesting to students, send it to me and we'll try to include it in this feature!


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Blended Learning Improves Science Education: Cell

Blended Learning Improves Science Education: Cell | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

This article requires a subscription to Cell, but the data show that students who watched a video prior to class and then spent some class time working problems (interspersed with lectures) performed better on tests than students who spent time in a traditional lecture. But we all know that right? Actively engaging students, through problems, discussions etc., is the better use of class time than passively listening to a lecture.

The other interesting finding is that for their pre-class assignment, students who watched a video explaining the material on average did better and were more motivated than those who were provided with a reading assignment. That's the bit I find interesting. The article doesn't elaborate on the content of the videos. If the video used images, diagrams and animations effectively, I can see why they may have had a positive impact. On the other hand, videos used for pre-class assignments are often not well made and don't take advantage of video capabilities (for example, simply are a recorded lecture). Given a choice of a book or a even a poor quality video, my children would chose a video but I would prefer a book, partly because I read faster than most people speak. Maybe it's a generational thing.

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The troubling reasons why NASA is so focused on studying sea level rise

The troubling reasons why NASA is so focused on studying sea level rise | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
NASA isn’t saying — yet — that sea level will be worse than expected this century, but it’s certainly rushing to study the possibility.
Mary Williams's insight:

Bad news for coastal dwellers and particularly for crops - some of the most fertile farmlands are low-lying (previously underwater) and so in most danger of damage from rising sea (salty) water.

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Educational resources from Biointeractive - HHMI.org

Educational resources from Biointeractive -  HHMI.org | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

There are some great educational resources at http://www.hhmi.org/biointeractive, albeit with a very heavy bias towards animals. Two planty ones are the excellent "Popped Secret: The Mysterious Origin of Corn" (http://www.hhmi.org/bi…/popped-secret-mysterious-origin-corn) and there is an activity about distribution of fern spores and pollen grains across evolutionary time (http://www.hhmi.org/…/weighing-evidence-mass-extinction-land).
One feature I think is excellent and hope to see grow to include some plant material is the new series, Data Points, which are activities that involve data analysis - good educational approach!
Here's the first in the series http://www.hhmi.org/…/schooling-behavior-stickleback-fish-d…

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Teacher Guide: Math and Statistics | HHMI's BioInteractive

Teacher Guide: Math and Statistics | HHMI's BioInteractive | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
Topics include measures of average (mean, median, and mode), variability (range and standard deviation), uncertainty (standard error and 95% confidence interval), Chi-square analysis, student t-test, Hardy-Weinberg equation, frequency calculations, and more.
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Free download of this very useful primer on using statistics in biology, with examples.

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eLife: Structural basis of pathogen recognition by an integrated HMA domain in a plant NLR immune receptor (2015)

eLife: Structural basis of pathogen recognition by an integrated HMA domain in a plant NLR immune receptor (2015) | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Plants have evolved intracellular immune receptors to detect pathogen proteins known as effectors. How these immune receptors detect effectors remains poorly understood. Here we describe the structural basis for direct recognition of AVR-Pik, an effector from the rice blast pathogen, by the rice intracellular NLR immune receptor Pik. AVR-PikD binds a dimer of the Pikp-1 HMA integrated domain with nanomolar affinity. The crystal structure of the Pikp-HMA/AVR-PikD complex enabled design of mutations to alter protein interaction in yeast and in vitro, and perturb effector-mediated response both in a rice cultivar containing Pikp and upon expression of AVR-PikD and Pikp in the model plant Nicotiana benthamiana. These data reveal the molecular details of a recognition event, mediated by a novel integrated domain in an NLR, which initiates a plant immune response and resistance to rice blast disease. Such studies underpin novel opportunities for engineering disease resistance to plant pathogens in staple food crops.


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Wiley: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, 2nd Edition - Bob B. Buchanan, Wilhelm Gruissem, Russell L. Jones

Wiley: Biochemistry and Molecular Biology of Plants, 2nd Edition - Bob B. Buchanan, Wilhelm Gruissem, Russell L. Jones | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Yeah! The long-awaited second edition of "BMBP" is now out! I can't wait to get my copy, although I will miss my well-used (and well-annotated) first edition (from 2000).

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Invasive "Salt Cedar" trees are the perfect fuel for fire

Invasive "Salt Cedar" trees are the perfect fuel for fire | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
A non-native tree is taking over parts of Arizona and it's causing big problems for firefighters.
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Interesting - effect of salt cedar (Tamarisk) on ecology and wildfires in the American Southwest

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Plants in the News, August 21 2015 | Plant Science Today

Plants in the News, August 21 2015 | Plant Science Today | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it

Find live hyperlinks here http://blog.aspb.org/2015/08/21/plants-in-the-news-august-21-2015/

See a news story you think would be of interest to educators? Drop us a line!

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Are GMOs and organic foods compatible? - YouTube

In our pilot episode, we chat with Professor Ian Godwin from The University of Queensland about genetically modified food crops. Ian believes that GMO foods and organic agriculture are perfectly compatible. He explains that scientists are creating GMO plants to achieve a more sustainable agriculture. The idea is to create plants resistant to pests and diseases, that don’t require the use of chemicals, but provide the same productivity and food quality.
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Matthew Bauer's curator insight, August 20, 11:46 AM

Interesting information

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On progressing your career and communicating your science- Advice from the SDB meeting - the Node

On progressing your career and communicating your science- Advice from the SDB meeting - the Node | Plant Biology Teaching Resources (Higher Education) | Scoop.it
On progressing your career and communicating your science- Advice from the SDB meeting
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Some really excellent advice for scientists from successful researchers, educators and journalists

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