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Introducing The Week in Botany

We get complaints, and when we identify the problem we try to fix them. Sometimes it takes longer than others. We’ve had complaints about our paper.li email / posts on Twitter.

The way it works is simple. We follow lots of people. If someone shares a link, it could be anything, but when a lot of people share a link then it’s something that interests a lot of Botanists. And paper.li would automatically share it. This worked pretty well till last year. Around the summer of last year something that wasn’t botany was causing a lot of comment among botanists. After that was the American Presidential election.

We’re not interested in posting purely political material. There’s lots of places doing that, we’re thinking you’re coming here for Botany. However the climate means automatic sharing is not likely to be viable for a while. Instead we’re trying a new system that still uses Twitter to identify key links, but sift through them so it’s the botanical material we share. We’re finding quite a lot of material. More than we can sensibly share on Facebook, and it can be a pain to catch it all on Twitter, so we’re now starting a weekly email digest. It’s scheduled to be sent on a Monday, but we’ll also be posting the catch-up on Fridays afterwards too.

Here’s one of the test emails from last week. If you’d like to get the email on the Monday, then you can sign-up here, otherwise there’ll be another round-up next Friday.

Monday, 10 July 2017

Welcome to The Week in Botany. This is release candidate one. If all goes well we’ll make the newsletter open to the public this week. This isn’t a comprehensive digest of what we share on our Twitter stream @annbot, but it’s close. It means we can share to our Facebook page without spamming people, and be more active on Twitter. When our revised Instagram/Tumblr blog comes online, it will appear here too. The biggest surprise this week is that a paper from a couple of years ago in Annals of Botany has been a big hit this week, but you’ll have to go to the end to see which one.

From AoBBlog

Genetic diversity and evolution of arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi in Arachnitis uniflora
Renny et al. identified fungal taxa associated with A. uniflora over 25 sites across its geographic range. High genetic diversity was associated with temperature, rainfall and soil features. Molecular tools reveal phylogenetic and phylogeographic fungal structures, uncovering associations with three Glomeromycotan families, with Glomeraceae emerging as the dominant symbiont.

JD Hooker Bicentenary
We have a soft spot for JD Hooker as he’s responsible for the name Annals of Botany, or at least part of it. Here we interview Francesca Mackenzie of Kew Library, Art, and Archives.

Hooray for the hydathode!
There’s more than one way for a pathogen to gain access to healthy leaf.

Eastern expansions of itinerant olive (Olea europaea)
Mapping a new direction for the origin and distribution of olive (Olea europaea), Mousavi et al. measure genetic diversity levels and population genetic structure of a representative set of Iranian ecotypes and varieties of olives screened by chloroplast and nuclear markers.

MELiSSA delivers AstroPlant
We have an interest in plant biology in space here on the blog, so naturally we’re excited about MELiSSA’s AstroPlant desktop greenhouse.

Antibiotics impact plant traits
In a recent study published in AoB PLANTS, Minden et al. show that antibiotics, even at low concentrations, significantly affect plant traits.

Rhizobial communities do not explain differential invasiveness of Australian acacias
Questioning the widely held belief that generalism in mutualistic interactions between legumes and nitrogen-fixing bacteria (rhizobia) will benefit introduced plants, Keet et al. compared community richness and structures of rhizobial mutualists associated with widespread and localised Acacia species (Fabaceae) in South Africa.


Scientists make accidental breakthrough that could lead to drought-proof crops
A group of Australian National University (ANU) scientists has made a major breakthrough that could improve Australia’s food security during drought.

Jennifer Doudna: ‘I have to be true to who I am as a scientist’
Crispr inventor Jennifer Doudna talks about discovering the gene-editing tool, the split with her collaborator and the complex ethics of genetic manipulation

Meadow Sounds soundscape created for National Meadows Day.
People Need Nature celebrated National Meadow Day by releasing a specially created soundscape evoking the lost Wildflower Meadows of England.

The Flora of Middle Earth
Matt Candeias of In Defense of Plants interviews Dr Walter Judd on his new book.

‘It is strange to see the British struggling with the beaver’: why is rewilding so controversial?
In barely a decade, nature has reconquered a West Sussex estate – but conservationists, farmers and even broadcasters are divided over the R word

“Bloomin’ Algae!” A new app to help reduce public health risks from harmful algal blooms
Citizen scientists across the UK are being urged to help the Centre for Ecology & Hydrology (CEH) monitor harmful algal blooms which can threaten public health as well as the lives of dogs, cattle, birds and fish.

The Taxonomic Name Resolution Service (TNRS) is six years old. Is it still useful? 40,000 users and counting.
Back in 2010 we prepared to release a tool to assist ecologists and botanists in the standardization of their plant names. The tool is the Taxonomic Name Resolution Service – and since that time we have come to depend on it almost every day in the lab and in our various collaborations. In short, the TNRS can resolve many forms of taxonomic semantic heterogeneity, correct spelling errors and eliminate spurious names. As a result, we released the TNRS with the hope that it could aid in the integration of disparate biological datasets.

China breaks ground on world’s first ‘forest city’
Work has started on an ambitious project in southern China’s Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region to create the world’s first “forest city” in Liuzhou.

Our obsession with eminence warps research
Many decisions about whose work is recognized are at least partially arbitrary, and we should acknowledge that, argues Simine Vazire.

Andean orchids – not so ancient
Thousands of orchid species in the American tropics formed more recently than expected. Kew scientist, Oscar Alejandro Pérez-Escobar explains more.

Illegal activities threaten natural World Heritage, pushing the vaquita to the brink and depleting forests – IUCN
Illegal fishing, logging and poaching are impacting two-thirds of the 57 natural World Heritage sites monitored by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) this year, putting some of the world’s most precious and unique ecosystems and species at risk.

Endangered Monkey Puzzles Planted In Perthshire
A glen of iconic monkey puzzle trees has been planted in the Tay Forest Park in Perthshire as part of a global conservation effort.

My Rescue Bananas
I was in a local grocery store looking for a green pepper. I was planning a dish to bring to a party later that night. Single ones were $2.29 a pound and a bag of six was $2.99, so I had to pause and do the math, along with the calculus of what I’d do with six green peppers.
As I stood working the numbers I heard a THUMP… THUMP… THUMP… right behind me. I turned and could not believe what I was seeing. The guy working in the produce section was grabbing bunches of bananas and throwing them into a bin of trash.

Where to Publish?
Advice from KamounLab at TSL.

International consortia tackle the global challenge to increase wheat yields at the APPF
Two international consortia of scientists from the United States, Great Britain, Mexico and Australia are currently carrying out research projects of global importance at the Australian Plant Phenomics Facility’s (APPF) Adelaide node for the International Wheat Yield Partnership (IWYP).

The day I broke some twitter feeds: insights into sexism in academia, Part 1
This is a guest post from my colleague Gina Baucom about her experience asking on twitter about sexist comments made about women in academia. It got quite a discussion going on twitter! This is the first of two posts on the topic. In this post, she summarizes (and categorizes) the variety of sexist comments that occur regularly in academia. Next week, she’ll follow up with a post with thoughts and tips related to how to respond to these comments when they occur.

Damage From Wayward Weedkiller Keeps Growing
Two weeks ago, in a remarkable move, the State Plant Board of Arkansas voted to ban the sale and use of a weedkiller called dicamba. It took that action after a wave of complaints about dicamba drifting into neighboring fields and damaging other crops, especially soybeans.

Baker’s Yeast Can Help Plants Cope With Soil Contamination
Most plant species, including crops, cannot tolerate the toxic effects of soil pollutants, which dramatically impair their growth and development. In a study now published in Scientific Reports, a research team led by Paula Duquefrom the Instituto Gulbenkian de Ciencia (IGC; Portugal) discovered that two genes from baker’s yeast can increase plant resistance to a broad range of toxic substances, enabling their growth in contaminated soils.

Oberle: Three basic life lessons from plants
Whether your last interaction with plants was a stroll down Selby Gardens’ paths or a daily dig into Southwest Florida’s sandy soil, our relationship with plants is complicated, sometimes onerous, and often plentiful, with visible cooperation and partnership between our two worlds.

Plants That Bite Back
Somewhere along the evolutionary timeline of bog-dwelling angiosperms, the plants gathered together and decided they wouldn’t take it any longer. No more would insects see plants as the ultimate salad bar. The time had come to fight back. The time had come for the plants to start eating the bugs.

Scientific Papers

Academic practice in ecology and evolution: Soliciting a new category of manuscript
As ecologists and evolutionary biologists, we apply scholarly approaches to the myriad roles we have undertaken in our professions. Publishing about such new knowledge and advances in our ‘roles’ (e.g., teaching, service, outreach, professional development, and change) typically occurs in a range of transdisciplinary journals. Tracking down this literature, in what can be disparate fields of research, is time-consuming and can prevent groundbreaking ideas from being more generally acknowledged and ultimately implemented in the day-to-day. Our new category “Academic Practice” is intended to remedy this situation and bring high-quality studies in the following broad categories to the attention of our readers. Ecology & Evolution

MicroRNAs in crop improvement: fine-tuners for complex traits
We herein highlight the current understanding of the biological role of miRNAs in orchestrating distinct agriculturally important traits by summarizing recent functional analyses of 65 miRNAs in 9 major crops worldwide. The integration of current miRNA knowledge with conventional and modern crop improvement strategies is also discussed. Nature Plants

Natural Genetic Variation Shapes Root System Responses to Phytohormones in Arabidopsis
Here we assess variation of root traits in response to perturbations of the auxin, cytokinin, and abscisic acid pathways in 192 Arabidopsis accessions. We identify common response patterns, uncover the extent of their modulation by specific genotypes, and find that the Col-0 reference accession is not a good representative of the species in this regard. bioRxiv

Two new species of Begonia sect. Erminea (Begoniaceae) from Nosy Mangabe in Madagascar
Begonia nosymangabensis Scherber. & Duruiss. and Begonia pteridoides Scherber. & Duruiss. are described and illustrated. Both new species belong to Begonia sect. Erminea A. DC. bioOne

Live tracking of moving samples in confocal microscopy for vertically grown roots
We present TipTracker – a custom software for automatic tracking of diverse moving objects usable on various microscope setups. Combined, this enables observation of root tips growing along the natural gravity vector over prolonged periods of time, as well as the ability to induce rapid gravity or light stimulation. eLife
(We also have a blog post of the preprint)

BIG BROTHER uncouples cell proliferation from elongation in the Arabidopsis primary root
Here we describe a novel bballele, which carries a P235L point mutation in the BB RING finger domain. This allele behaves similar to described bb loss-of-function alleles and displays increased root meristem size due to a higher number of dividing, meristematic cells. By contrast, mature cell length is unaffected. Plant & Cell Physiology

Common garden test of range limits as predicted by a species distribution model in the annual plant Mimulus bicolor
Direct tests of a species distribution model (SDM) were used to evaluate the hypothesis that the northern and southern edges of Mimulus bicolor’s geographical range are limited by temperature and precipitation. AmJBot

Priority effects are interactively regulated by top-down and bottom-up forces: evidence from wood decomposer communities
Both top-down (grazing) and bottom-up (resource availability) forces can determine the strength of priority effects, or the effects of species arrival history on the structure and function of ecological communities, but their combined influences remain unresolved. To test for such influences, we assembled experimental communities of wood-decomposing fungi using a factorial manipulation of fungivore (Folsomia candida) presence, nitrogen availability, and fungal assembly history. Ecology Letters

Origin and emergence of the sweet dessert watermelon, Citrullus lanatus
The familiar sweet dessert watermelons, C. lanatus, featuring non-bitter, tender, well-coloured flesh, have a narrow genetic base, suggesting that they originated from a series of selection events in a single ancestral population. The objective of the present investigation was to determine where dessert watermelons originated and the time frame during which sweet dessert watermelons emerged. Annals of Botany

That wraps up the email for this week. Thanks to all the people we follow on Twitter for helping to identify the key links to share this week. We should be back next week and most weeks, unless Alun is out on location somewhere. Bye for now.

Alun Salt

Alun (he/him) is the Producer for Botany One. It's his job to keep the server running. He's not a botanist, but started running into them on a regular basis while working on writing modules for an Interdisciplinary Science course and, later, helping teach mathematics to Biologists. His degrees are in archaeology and ancient history.

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The Week in Botany

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