In the news / Plant

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Scientists are midway through a four-month long experiment on drought at Biosphere 2. The study began in September, when managers closed the Biosphere's iconic rainforest biome, and will continue for another five weeks. Researchers, including UArizona environmental researcher and BIO5 member Dr. Laura Meredith, are using instruments embedded among the trees and plants to measure the impact of drought. They plan to use the information from the experiment to improve computer models that predict changes due to drought conditions around the world.
 
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Swollen Shoot disease is affecting cacao trees in Ghana. UA Plant Sciences professor Dr. Judith Brown, notes that the disease is threatening to affect the supply of chocolate. Dr. Brown is using genome sequencing technology to look deeper into the viruses found to cause damage in cacao plant samples.
 
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After nine years of work, an international consortium of scientists, including UA Department of Ecology & Evolutionary Biology associate professor and BIO5 faculty member Dr. Mike Barker, has released gene sequences for more than 1100 plant species. The massive undertaking is part of the One Thousand Plant Transcriptomes Initiative (1KP), a global collaboration to examine plant species, genes and genomes diversification back to the ancestors of flowering plants and green algae.
 
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Coinciding with World Food Day, a team of plant scientists from King Abdullah University for Science and Technology (KAUST) established a major project to improve global date palm production and protection.
 
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Dr. Laura Meredith, rain forest science director for Biosphere 2 and BIO5 member, is one of the leaders of a four-month-long drought study. the aim of the research is to learn about how a hotter, drier future will alter tropical rain forest ecosystems. This European Research Council grant funded study will use Biosphere 2’s unique ability to control model ecosystems to collect data about multiple rain forest climates.
 
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The demand for potable and irrigation water has never been greater, and as such methods are being developed so new plant cultivars, farming technology, and irrigation can draw more out of arable land. UA Agriculture and Biosystems Engineering professor and BIO5 faculty member Dr. Joel Cuello, has developed the Vertical-Hive (V-Hive) Green Box, an indoor vertical modular growth system. The V-Hive reduces water consumption by 80 to 90 percent compared to traditional field farming.
 
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The deadly swollen shoot disease is ravaging cocoa trees across West Africa, where about three-quarters of the world’s cocoa is grown. The disease was identified nearly a century ago, yet scientists, including BIO5 researcher and professor in the UA School of Plant Sciences Dr. Judith Brown, say a cure is years away and early detection methods are only just being introduced. The severity of this devastating disease has been muted, as the Ivory Coast experienced a record cocoa crop year.
 
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Vice Chair of the Association for Vertical Farming, UA Biosystems Engineering professor, and BIO5 member Dr. Joel Cuello, looks at how U.S. fast food consumers' growing expectations for healthy, ethical, and sustainable options is transforming the status quo of the fast food industry, while also creating new opportunities in the Vertical Farming industry.
 
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New DNA analysis conducted by BIO5 faculty member and University of Arizona Plant Sciences professor Dr. Judith Brown, along with researchers at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, has found genetic diversity in predatory pest, Vampirovibrio chlorellavorus. This discovery complicates efforts to protect algae ponds used in the biofuels industry from destructive algae strains and pests.
 
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Horticultural technology has made some significant leaps over the last few years, and that trend has been accelerating in recent months. But other crops and production systems are driving innovation as well. Dr. Gene Giacomelli, UA Agricultural Biosystems Engineering professor and BIO5 faculty, says that automation is a must and that growers must match proper technology to respective needs.
 
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Several undergraduate students who won top prizes for presenting their research at the 2019 EarthWeek at the University of Arizona, a celebration of the environmental research across five departments at the University of Arizona.
 
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Dr. Marvin Slepian, clinician-scientist-engineer-inventor and founding Director of the Arizona Center for Accelerated Biomedical Innovation, and Dr. Rod Wing, Bud Antle Endowed Chair Professor for Excellence in Agriculture in the School of Plant Sciences and Director of the Arizona Genomics Institute, both BIO5 members, have been named UA Regents Professors by the Arizona Board of Regents.
 
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Dr. Patricia Stock, Interim Director of the UA School of Animal and Comparative Biomedical Sciences, BIO5 member, and UA Entomology Professor, has discovered compounds derived from Photorhabdus, an insect pathogenic bacterium, that have antimicrobial and nematicidal properties that can potentially replace chemical pesticides.
 
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At the end of 2018, BIO5 member Dr. David Galbraith, Professor in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' School of Plant Sciences, was appointed as Honorary Dean at Henan University in China. The Daily Wildcat talked to him about this new position and what it means for the UA.
 
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A colorful veggie garden does more than draw attention, a variety of colorful food in one’s diet adds nutritional value .“Colors imply certain bioactive compounds that are common,” says Registered Dietitian and Nutritionist Dr. Cynthia Thomson, BIO5 member and Director of the UA College of Public Health’s Canyon Ranch Center for Prevention and Health Promotion.
 
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A new study co-authored by Dr. Bruce Tabashnik, Regents’ Professor in the UA College of Agriculture and Life Sciences' Department of Entomology and member of the BIO5 Institute, identifies a dominantly inherited mutation that confers resistance to engineered cotton in caterpillars of the cotton bollworm, one of the world’s most destructive crop pests. The study will be invaluable in promoting more sustainable pest control.
 
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From the North Pole to the Amazon Jungle, BIO5 plant scientist Dr. Eliot Herman makes a point to travel to some of the most remote places on the globe. "It's not just in the classroom. Our lives should be inspiring to our students," says Herman.
 
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Contaminated food is an issue that affects nearly 1 in 10 people in the world every year. BIO5 Institute's Dr. Sadhana Ravishankar, and a group of UA researchers have been working for ten years to improve food safety using all-natural sanitizers to prevent outbreaks of E. Coli, salmonella and listeria.