Recent Posts

Nanoscale movements of cellulose microfibrils in primary cell walls ($)

/
Cell walls are complex mixtures of cellulose microfibrils, proteins and other materials. Their mechanical properties can be measured and modeled, but it is not always simple to translate these measurements to changes at the molecular level. Zhang et al. used atomic force microscopy to provide an unprecedented…

Opinion. We have been in lockdown, but deforestation has not (Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. USA)

Douglas Daly is the B. A. Krukoff Curator of Amazonian Botany, Institute of Systematic Botany at the New York Botanic Garden, and a specialist in tropical tree systematics and the flora of the Amazon region. In this Opinion article, he reflects on how he and other field-based botanists have kept their…

Letter. Planting equity: Using what we know to cultivate growth as a plant biology community (Plant Cell)

COVID-19 has derailed everyone’s lives and plans; 2020 is truly an “annus horribilis.” Yet clearly this pandemic has hit some harder than others. Note for example the greatly disproportionate mortality in Black and Indigenous populations, which surely contributed to the outpouring of outrage following…

Perspective: What is replication? (PLOS Biol)

This is an interesting paper and certainly one to share with students. Nosek and Errington argue that how we usually think of as “replication”, repeating a study and observing the same results, is incorrect. Instead, they argue for abroader definition of replication, as something that supports the…

Introducing plant biology graduate students to a culture of mental well‐being (Plant Direct)

Graduate studies are challenging times, fraught with uncertainty and stress. Dewa et al. addressed this problem head on by developing a required, credited course for first-year graduate students, “Tools for Becoming a Successful Professional and for Enhancing Your Well‐Being and Work Environment”.…

Review. Flowering plants in the Anthropocene: A political agenda (Trends Plant Sci)

For the past 100 million years, flowering plants have been the main producers of land biomass. They also are indirectly responsible for the origin of agriculture, setting the ball rolling for the onset of the Anthropocene. Negrutiu et al. argue that the accompanying rapid global changes require a reconsideration…

Assessing the sustainability of post-Green Revolution cereals in India ($) (PNAS)

The major objectives of sustainable agriculture are to fulfill food requirements, maintain a safe environment and profitable economy, and withstand climate change. Here, Davis et al. discuss a multidimensional approach to achieve sustainable agriculture in India by transitioning some areas from growing…

The greenhouse gas impacts of converting food production in England and Wales to organic methods (Nature Comms)

Many discussions about organic food production are dominated by dogma rather than pragmatism. Nevertheless, here’s a useful report that examines the impact of organic farming methods in England and Wales on greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions. Are the well-documented lower yields offset by differences in…

Review: The challenges of delivering genetically modified crops with nutritional enhancement traits (Nature Plants) ($)

Despite the widespread success of genetically modified (GM) crops resistant to herbicides and insect herbivory, GM food crops with nutritional enhancement traits remain on the fringes of commercial agriculture. In this review, Napier et al. examine the current state of GM food crops and the obstacles…

EU regulatory approach to directed mutagenesis: consequences for international trade and potential steps forward (New Phytol)

The seed sector, and particularly plant breeders, are responsible for providing farmers with new plant varieties able to overcome challenges such as climate change, water restrictions or plant pests. In order to do their job, breeders have a collection of tools at their disposal. Among these are traditional…