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New leaf shapes for thale cress

Arabidopsis thaliana (stock image). Credit: © lenswideopen / Adobe Stock Anyone who looks at their bowl of salad or at their garden can see how different the shapes of leaves can be. Spinach leaves, for example, have smooth edges and are comparatively simple in form, while parsley leaves are deeply notched and complex, apparently composed…

Farmers have less leisure time than hunter-gatherers

Rice farm, Philippines (stock image). Credit: © raksyBH / Adobe Stock Hunter-gatherers in the Philippines who adopt farming work around ten hours a week longer than their forager neighbours, a new study suggests, complicating the idea that agriculture represents progress. The research also shows that a shift to agriculture impacts most on the lives of…

Earliest evidence of the cooking and eating of starch

Fire in hearth (stock image). Credit: © Alexander / Adobe Stock New discoveries made at the Klasies River Cave in South Africa's southern Cape, where charred food remains from hearths were found, provide the first archaeological evidence that anatomically modern humans were roasting and eating plant starches, such as those from tubers and rhizomes, as…

As bumblebee diets narrow, ours could too

Bumblebee on flower. Credit: © chas53 / Adobe Stock There has been a lot of buzz about honeybees' failing health because they pollinate our produce. Less well known is how critical bumblebees are for some of our favorite foods. And their numbers are also rapidly declining. A new study from the University of California, Riverside,…

New strain of canine distemper in wild animals in NH, VT

The new strain of canine distemper virus was found in two gray foxes similar to these foxes. Credit: Vermont Fish and Wildlife Department A distinct strain of canine distemper virus, which is a widespread virus of importance to wildlife and domesticated dogs, has been identified in wild animals in New Hampshire and Vermont, according to…

Close relatives can coexist: two flower species show us how

Figure 1: Commelina communis (Cc) and Commelina communis forma ciliata (Ccfc) blooming in the same spot. Credit: Kobe University Scientists have discovered how two closely-related species of Asiatic dayflower can coexist in the wild despite their competitive relationship. Through a combination of field surveys and artificial pollination experiments, the new study shows that while reproductive…

Cryptic mutation is cautionary tale for crop gene editing

Without the nubby joints that are normally present on the stems of tomato plants, the fruit is much easier to harvest. However, researchers have discovered how a cryptic mutation can get in the way of this otherwise desirable trait. Credit: Lippman lab/CSHL Even in this "age of the genome," much about genes remains shrouded in…

Researchers crack the peanut genome

Soroya Bertioli inspects peanut plants at the UGA Institute for Plant Breeding, Genetics and Genomics greenhouse. Credit: UGA Working to understand the genetics of peanut disease resistance and yield, researchers led by scientists at the University of Georgia have uncovered the peanut's unlikely and complicated evolution. Researchers working as part of the International Peanut Genome…

Pesticide exposure causes bumblebee flight to fall short

This is a bee attached to the arm of a flight mill by magnet. Credit: Danny Kenna / Imperial College London Bees exposed to a neonicotinoid pesticide fly only a third of the distance that unexposed bees are able to achieve. Flight behaviour is crucial for determining how bees forage, so reduced flight performance from…

‘Exotic’ genes may improve cotton yield and quality

Cotton fiber length comparison of several varieties. Fiber properties such as fiber length shown here is quantitatively inherited. Credit: Peng Chee Cotton breeders face a "Catch-22." Yield from cotton crops is inversely related to fiber quality. In general, as yield improves, fiber quality decreases, and vice-versa. "This is one of the most significant challenges for…

‘Right’ cover-crop mix good for both Chesapeake and bottom lines

Researchers tested mixed-species cover crop stands such as this one to see if they could balance the nitrogen-fixing and nitrogen-scavenging capabilities of individual species. Individually, cover crop species excel at either reducing nitrogen leaching or increasing nitrogen supply to cash crops. But they fail to excel at both simultaneously. Credit: Catalina Mejia / Penn State…

Tomato, tomat-oh! — understanding evolution to reduce pesticide use

Dan Lybrand and Bryan Leong, MSU graduate students and study co-authors, examine glandular trichomes on the Solanaceae plant's leaf surface. Credit: Michigan State University Although pesticides are a standard part of crop production, Michigan State University researchers believe pesticide use could be reduced by taking cues from wild plants. The team recently identified an evolutionary…

Field trial with neonicotinoids: Honeybees are much more robust than bumblebees

Checking the colony strength of honey bees next to a rape field. The initially 96 colonies were provided by a professional beekeeper and then always inspected by the same person. Credit: Maj Rundlöf The insecticide clothianidin affects different species of bees in different ways. While it has no demonstrably negative effect on honeybees, it disrupts…

With flower preferences, bees have a big gap between the sexes

A male Agapostemon virescens, also called the bicolored striped-sweat bee, on spotted knapweed in the Rutgers-owned Hutcheson Memorial Forest in Franklin Township, Somerset County. Credit: Michael Roswell/Rutgers University-New Brunswick For scores of wild bee species, females and males visit very different flowers for food -- a discovery that could be important for conservation efforts, according…

Genomic features that make plants good candidates for domestication

Left: highly branched plants of teosinte, a wild relative of corn. Right: tiny pods on the vine of Glycine soja, wild relative of soybean. New research sheds light on how domestication affects the genomes of corn and soybeans. Credit: Sherry Flint-Garcia (teosinte) and Scott Jackson (Glycine soja) New research published this week identifies the genomic…

The buzz about bumble bees isn’t good

While many scientists are focused on the decline of honey bees, relatively few study bumble bees. The good news is that a new study provides an estimate on bumble bee population and distributions across Michigan in the past century. The bad news is that these results are dramatically low, and they mirror what's happening across…

Neonics hinder bees’ ability to fend off deadly mites

The self-grooming behavior of wild honey bees like these can be affected by pesticides. Credit: University of Guelph A University of Guelph study is the first to uncover the impact of neonicotinoid pesticides on honey bees' ability to groom and rid themselves of deadly mites. The research comes as Health Canada places new limits on…

Switch from hunting to herding recorded in ancient urine

Students working on the western section of the Aşıklı Höyük archaeological site. Credit: Güneş Duru The transition from hunting and gathering to farming and herding is considered a crucial turning point in the history of humanity. Scholars think the intensive food production that came along with the Neolithic Revolution, starting around 10,000 B.C., allowed cities…

To protect stem cells, plants have diverse genetic backup plans

When the maintenance of stem cells is disrupted, the consequences are often very visual. In the case of this tomato plant, the cells driving flower growth have over-proliferated, creating a disorganized mass of petals. Credit: Lippman Lab/CSHL, 2019 Despite evolution driving a wide variety of differences, many plants function the same way. Now a new…

Solving the mystery of fertilizer loss from Midwest cropland

Basso's team compared satellite data against 10 years of high-resolution yield data collected by sensors mounted on combine harvesters from more than 1,000 farms. Credit: Bruno Basso Farmers can't predict their annual corn harvest with certainty, but with the help of new research from Michigan State University, they can now pinpoint specific parts of their…

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