Plants

Greenland to sprout new shades of green as planet warms, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: August 28, 2013   View Article

Scientists have long expected Greenland to get greener as the planet warms. Now they have a better idea of what trees will be able to take root on the Arctic island as the glaciers there retreat inland over the course of this century.

Newly published research shows that human assistance will be key to the spread of any trees over the coming decades.

Supergrapes could make good wine despite climate change

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 6, 2013   View Article

Experts say “terroir” — the geography, geology and climate of grapes’ native soils — defines the difference between good vintage and bad. But the plants’ sensitivity to their environment also means that climate change presents a massive threat to the industry and that delicate balance. However, new genetic research may stave off those worries, even as the planet warms.

Working with Corvina grapes, a team of Italian geneticists identified genes that help protect the fruit from the vagaries of the weather and could serve as a platform “for breeding new cultivars with improved adaptation to the environment,” the team reports Friday in the journal Genome Biology.

They’re alive! Harvested fruits and veggies respond to light cycles, study says

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 20, 2013   View Article

The fruits and vegetables lining grocery store shelves respond to light signals, according to a new finding that may have profound implications for how food is stored, when it is eaten and, ultimately, human health.

While biologists knew that certain cells in harvested crops keep living after they are picked from a tree, plucked from a vine, or pulled from the ground, the responsiveness of fruits and veggies to the daily cycle of light and dark is a surprise, said study co-author Janet Braam from Rice University.

“The idea that postharvest you could keep circadian rhythms going is new,” the cell biologist told NBC News. “And that it would have a consequence for the accumulation of certain types of metabolites, some of which may have relevance to human health” is also new.

Photosynthesis interrupted: Plant parts used to generate electricity

Publication: NBC News   Date: May 13, 2013   View Article

A decade from now, a recorder powered by plant parts and stashed in the woods may answer the age-old question: If a tree falls in the forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?

That’s one potential application for an energy conversion technology inspired by photosynthesis, the process plants use to convert sunlight into food.

Global greening, the other ‘greenhouse effect’, is underway

Publication: NBC News   Date: June 1, 2013   View Article

Large stretches of arid land have become greener since the 1980s due to rising concentrations of carbon dioxide, which fertilizes plant growth, a new study shows.

While this greening has long been noted in satellite imagery, its direct link to carbon dioxide (CO2) has been difficult to prove, explained study leader Randall Donohue, an environmental scientist at Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization.

“There are so many processes occurring simultaneously that affect plant behavior, it is very difficult to determine which process is responsible for any given change,” he told NBC News in an email. Teasing out a CO2 fertilization effect amongst the other processes “hasn’t been done before,” he added.

Plants to detox land, generate nanoparticles

Publication: NBC News   Date: March 5, 2013   View Article

Common garden plants such as alyssum will be used to soak up toxic metals from polluted lands and then used to produce high-value metal nanoparticles for car parts and medical research, according to an innovative project launched Monday.

The use of plants to clean up polluted sites, a process called phytoremediation, is well known. But until now, the harvested plants were either burned or buried. The new project promises to bring value to the harvested plants by recovering the metals and using engineered bacteria to form metal nanoparticles.

Warmest springs on record bring earliest flowers

Publication: NBC News   Date: January 16, 2013   View Article

During the exceptionally warm springs of 2010 and 2012, plants bloomed earlier in the eastern U.S. than they have since the American writer and naturalist Henry David Thoreau started keeping records near Walden Pond in 1852.

Many plants now flower several weeks earlier than they did in the 19th century, a response linked to increasingly warmer springs due to global climate change.

For example, in Massachusetts, plants are flowering 20 days earlier now than they were during Thoreau’s time. In Wisconsin, where data on flowering dates was recorded by environmentalist and writer Aldo Leopold in the 1930s, flowering dates are, on average, 24 days earlier.

© 2008-2010 Collected Writings By John Roach