Journal Club

Highlighting recently published papers selected by Academy members

Category Archives: Agriculture

Country-level assessment hides big variations in soy’s carbon footprint

Analysts usually estimate a crop’s carbon footprint based on country-level factors. But that formulation isn’t adequate, according to a new analysis of soy exports from Brazil. Published in Global Environmental Change, the study tracked soy from specific production sites in … Continue reading

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Variation in a single gene increases plant yield in groups but not in pairs

Groups of diverse plant species often produce more seeds than monocultures. But whether plants ramp up yield in response to genetically distinct, direct neighbors, as opposed to a broader neighborhood of diverse plants, remains an open question in ecology. “It’s … Continue reading

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Rice gene could make “green revolution” plants greener by cutting back on fertilizer

The green revolution was launched, in large part, with rather squat plants. In the 1960s, farmers began using semidwarf varieties of wheat and rice that produced many grain-bearing branches known as tillers. When farmers added nitrogen fertilizer, the plants gained … Continue reading

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Potentially key gene has big role in natural variation of chloroplast size

Worldwide populations of Arabidopsis thaliana all have the same genes, but they vary in many traits, including the size of their chloroplasts. A recent study in Plant Physiology identified one of the genes, FtsZ2-2, contributing to the natural variation in … Continue reading

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Intensive agriculture changes the soil microbiome

California rice farms dot the Sacramento Valley, converting native swampland into flooded paddies. The farms change California’s landscape both above ground and below it. A recent study shows in detail how rice plants shape the soil microbiome into a distinctive … Continue reading

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Common features of domestic animals suggest caveats to evolutionary theory

White patches on fur coats, floppy ears, and curly tails are some of the traits frequently seen in domesticated animals. A group of researchers has now put forth a theory as to why these traits so often evolve in association … Continue reading

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Unlocking a mystery of seed development promises fatter, oilier oilseeds

The canola cooking oil lining supermarket shelves comes from the seeds of Brassica napus, a weedy-looking plant in the mustard family. Farmers of this crop understandably want varieties that yield big, oily seeds. A recent study in The Plant Cell … Continue reading

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Nitrogen-fixing bacteria talk to soybean roots via tiny RNAs, suggesting new avenue to improve yields

In order for soybean plants to get their necessary dose of nitrogen, they partner with bacteria called rhizobia, which can convert atmospheric nitrogen into organic forms the plant can use. But scientists don’t have the full picture of what facilitates … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Understanding how a plant makes a hook could someday improve crops

This spring, as the first shoots of new plants emerge from the soil, many are bent over in a hook. This simple act protects the fragile stem tip and leaves as the sprout pokes up through the dirt. But how … Continue reading

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Journal club: A simple model to help identify which species might become invasive

Invasive species are a major driver of global biodiversity loss. Now researchers have developed a simple model that can quickly predict which species are likely to become established outside their native environment. The team recently reported in the Proceedings of … Continue reading

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Journal Club: Seedbanks, meant to safeguard key plant species, need to enhance their diversity

Humanity’s last hope could someday rest on a humble seed, tucked away in the cool and dark of a collection. Seed collections, called seedbanks or seed genebanks, store millions of grains, nuts, and kernels in baggies and plastic bins, meant … Continue reading

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