Optimizing Crops for Biocontrol of Pests and Disease

This week we feature an article published by Stenberg et al in Trends in Plant Science that describes the potential benefits of optimizing crops for biocontrol of pests. It is difficult to estimate the true costs of herbivore damage to crop plants, but it is clearly in the billions of dollars; much more when pesticide … Read moreOptimizing Crops for Biocontrol of Pests and Disease

When a Tree Falls in the Woods: The Gravitropic Response in Poplar

This week’s Research in Focus is reprinted from an In Brief published by Science Editor Nancy Hofmann in The Plant Cell, which summarizes an article newly published by Gerttula et al. This study examines the formation of tension wood, a specialized tissue that forms on the upper side of a fallen woody angiosperm stem that … Read moreWhen a Tree Falls in the Woods: The Gravitropic Response in Poplar

“The Birth of a Black Rice Gene”: Empirical evidence for Emperor’s Rice

This week we feature an article that will be interesting to different people for different reasons. The main thrust is to uncover the genetic basis for the black rice trait, which the authors trace through an elegant and comprehensive analysis and by sidestepping a few red herrings. For those who are engaged by the broader … Read more“The Birth of a Black Rice Gene”: Empirical evidence for Emperor’s Rice

CRISPR here, CRISPR there, CRISPR CRISPR everywhere

Scientists have long dreamed of the ability to make targeted genomic changes: precise and specific alterations in an organism’s DNA to affect its phenotype. Recently, this dream has become a reality through the discovery and engineering of nucleases that can be targeted to precise genomic locations. Double-strand breaks produced by targeted nucleases can induce mutations … Read moreCRISPR here, CRISPR there, CRISPR CRISPR everywhere

Evolution and function of strigolactone / karrikin receptors

Karrikins are small molecules found in smoke that promote seed germination and have been associated with the activation of seeds following fire (Nelson et al., 2012). Strigolactones are structurally similar small molecules that act as endogenous hormones and as secreted signals that promote the germination of parasitic plants and branching responses in mycrorrhizal fungi (Brewer … Read moreEvolution and function of strigolactone / karrikin receptors

Recognizing pathogens, and recognizing errors

This week’s Research in Focus article has two take-home messages. The first is about how an important plant pathogen is recognized by its host: specifically, the role of a newly-identified tyrosine-sulfated bacterial protein. The second is about the process of science and the foundation of trust on which it rests: specifically, how to proceed when … Read moreRecognizing pathogens, and recognizing errors

Identification of inositol pyrophosphates and their functions in plants

Inositol phosphates are a family of small molecules in which one to eight phosphates are attached to an inositol ring. The number and positions of phosphates determine the molecules’ properties, which range from phosphate storage to vesicle trafficking, energy signaling and metabolism. Inositol hexakisphosphate (InsP6, also known as phytate) has a phosphate group attached to … Read moreIdentification of inositol pyrophosphates and their functions in plants