Recent Posts

KonMari for Maize - keeping genomes clutter-free during selfing ($) (Nature Plants)

Just like years of hoarding can end up cluttering our homes, years of self-fertilization or selfing can also accumulate harmful mutations in plant genomes. By removing such harmful alleles from the genome (i.e., purging) plants can reduce the mutational load and prevent fitness loss due to selfing. Roessler…

Review: Revolutions in agriculture chart a course for targeted breeding of old and new crops ($) (Science)

A few traits are associated with domestication across many species. Eshed and Lippman provide an overview of the changes to plant stature and flowering time that have been repeatedly selected by our ancestors. By comparing the molecular underpinnings of these traits across crops, it becomes clear that…

Natural selection on the Arabidopsis thaliana genome in present and future climates (Nature)

The rapidly changing climate will have profound effects on Earth’s ecosystems, but as yet it is difficult to determine exactly what these effects will be. Exposito-Alonso et al. have set up a large experiment to try to identify how a population’s genetic diversity will enable it to survive a future…

Large-effect flowering time mutations reveal conditionally adaptive paths through fitness landscapes in Arabidopsis thaliana (PNAS)

We have a tendency to think of genes carrying mutations as having a negative impact on fitness, which raises the question of why they might persist in a population. Taylor et al. tested whether large-effect mutations that affect flowering time might not be detrimental in all conditions, by comparing…

Update. GMO-free RNAi: exogenous application of RNA molecules in plants (Plant Physiol)

Criticism of transgenic plants and GMOs motivates research into effective GMO-free RNA delivery methods. In this review, Dalakouras et al. discuss different strategies for exogenous application of RNA molecules (dsRNAs, siRNAs) into plants to trigger RNA interference (RNAi) against various targets, such…

GmFT2a and GmFT5a collectively controls flowering of soybean (Plant Biotech. J)

Soybean [Glycine max (L.) Merr.] is a globally important high-protein crop, whose breeding is an ongoing, important objective for plant biologists. Since soybean is a short-day plant, controlling flowering time is a key step to influence its adaptation to diverse latitudes and farming system. Recently,…

Review: Engineered male sterility by early anther ablation (Frontiers Plant Sci)

Male sterility in seed production could be used to increase crop yields, eliminate pollen allergies or avoid gene flow between genetically modified plants and other species. Here, Roque et al. developed a system to produce engineered nuclear male sterile plants using the pea Pisum sativum ENDOTHECIUM…

Review: A series of fortunate events: Introducing Chlamydomonas as a reference organism (Plant Cell)

Clamydomonas reinhardtii is the most thoroughly characterized unicellular alga. Like yeast, it is a single-celled eukaryotic organism that is easy to culture, and it lives predominantly in its haploid form but is readily mated for genetic studies. Additionally, it is light-responsive,  photosynthetic,…

Review: Crop breeding technologies to feed the world (Nature Biotech)

The world demands food, plant scientists and breeders have the challenge of feeding a growing population. In a recent review Hickey et al. summarize the state-of-the-art technologies used for crop improvement. In use since 2003, ‘speed breeding’ is a set of improved methods for fast-tracking plant…