Recent Posts

Perspective: Multiplying the efficiency and impact of biofortification through metabolic engineering (Nature Comms.)

As heterotrophs, we are what we eat. One of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to end all forms of hunger, including the “hidden hunger” that results from nutrient deficiencies. Van Der Straeten et al. provide an overview of biofortification strategies. They review current successes from…

Review. The soil-borne identity and microbiome-assisted agriculture: Looking back to the future (Molecular Plant)

Bakker et al. begin their review of plant-soil microbiome concepts with a Lorentz Hiltner quote from 1904: “However, I am convinced that soil bacteriology will finally provide results that are not only of explanatory nature, but will also directly affect and determine agricultural practice… I would…

Combinatorial engineering of signaling networks for drought tolerance (Plant Biotechnol. J.)

Several potential targets have been suggested to improve drought tolerance and water-use efficiency of crops, but many genes when upregulated can cause negative growth trade-offs. Stress recognition and signaling proteins are attractive targets as they may exert control over multiple downstream pathways…

Wheat yield potential in controlled-environment vertical farms (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA)

When I think of vertical farms, I imagine baby lettuces and basil: small, leaf crops that benefit from growing close to the consumer. Here, Asseng et al. evaluate the potential to grow wheat, a staple seed crop, in a vertical farm system. Previous studies have demonstrated that wheat can be grown successfully…

Review: Potential applications of plant biotechnology against SARS-CoV-2 (Trends Plant Sci.)

For those of you about to start teaching again, here’s a great article to share with your plant science students, showcasing the ways that plant biologists are contributing to the international efforts to develop diagnostic reagents, vaccines, and antiviral drugs to combat the global COVID-19 pandemic.…

Modifying plant photosynthesis and growth via simultaneous chloroplast transformation of Rubisco large and small subunits (Plant Cell)

In an interesting evolutionary artifact, the genes encoding the small subunit of Rubisco, rbcS, reside in the nuclear genome, whilst those encoding RbcL persists in the chloroplast. The RbcS protein is translocated into the chloroplast where the holoenzyme forms. This complexity adds to the challenge…

Optimizing PollenCounter for high throughput phenotyping of pollen quality in tomatoes (MethodsX)

PollenCounter is an open source, ImageJ based macro that splits RGB images of stained pollen grains into the primary channels. The program estimates pollen viability in plants through analyzing red (total number of pollen grains) and green (only viable pollen grains) images, after which the particles…

Review: Banishing barberry: The history of Berberis vulgaris prevalence and wheat stem rust incidence across Britain (Plant Pathology)

Puccinia graminis f. sp. tritici (Pgt) has a strange life strategy in that it requires two hosts to complete its sexual life cycle; wheat and barberry. In the absence of barberry, it reproduces clonally; clonal reproduction limits its ability to generate diversity and therefore its ability to evade plant…

Identification of novel seed longevity genes by GWAS and reverse genetics (Plant Cell Environ.)

Seed longevity (i.e., the inherent lifespan of a seed) is a polygenic feature that demands the coordination of multiple biological processes, and that shapes the persistence of seeds in the soil and the time they can be stored ex situ. Recent studies on this trait highlight the role of the antioxidant…