In the news / Plant

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Tropical forests may be more resilient to predicted temperature increases under global climate change than previously thought, a study published in the journal Nature Plants suggests. The group led by Dr. Scott Saleska, UArizona professor in the Department of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology, studied data from the rainforest habitat at UArizona's Biosphere 2 and compared them to measurements taken at natural tropical forest sites. The results could help make climate prediction models more accurate.
 
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The quest to protect Arizona’s quality of life under the scorch of record breaking heat, drought, and increasing wildfires is a constant chore. A slate of experts in Tucson, including Biosphere 2 director and BIO5 member Dr. Joaquin Ruiz, offered up recommendations on how Arizona can rise above the heat to keep the economy and the environment thriving.
 
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While many of us have been working from home this summer, several species of insects and plants have been acting out fascinating plays of interactions and mutual interdependence across campus. Dr. Judith Bronstein, UArizona Distinguished Professor of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology and BIO5 member, discusses what we can learn from these mutualistic interactions and how she studies insect dynamics.
 
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Dr. Judith Brown, UArizona evolutionary ecologist and BIO5 member, shares the importance of the partnership between ants and wildflowers in preserving ecosystems, especially forests that could be disturbed by human activity. This relationship was reported during the annual meeting of the Ecological Society of America, where researchers discussed the seed dispersion that ants complete.
 
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A new paper, co-authored by UArizona associate professor of Molecular & Cellular Biology and BIO5 member Dr. Solange Duhamel, reports that salamander eggs compete with the algae that lives inside its eggs to assimilate carbon from their surroundings – a finding that could inform similar processes in the dark ocean.
 
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Plants and animals often engage in symbiotic relationships that benefit both organisms. Scientists used to believe that the salamander eggs and algae may be helping one another by exchanging sugar molecules produced through photosynthesis – but a series of laboratory experiments by Dr. Solange Duhamel and others showed that this was not the case. Instead, salamander embryos may be able to develop without the need for this exchange. 
 
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Nicknamed the “billion-dollar beetle” for its enormous economic costs to growers in the United States each year, the western corn rootworm is one of the most devastating pests farmers face. BIO5 members Drs. Bruce Tabashnik & Yves Carriere share their research on how crop rotation and diversification can help combat the rootworm’s resistance toward certain crops.
 
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The Arizona Board of Regents today confirmed the appointments of five UArizona faculty members, including BIO5 members Drs. Roberta Diaz Brinton and Judith Brown, as Regents Professors. The title of 'Regents Professor' is reserved for full professors whose exceptional achievements merit national and international distinction.
 
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When your tomato plants won’t bear fruit during the dog days of summer, a team of Wake Forest researchers led by Dr. Gloria Muday and including Dr. Ravishankar Palanivelu of the University of Arizona will be in the lab, trying to find a plant that thrives despite the heat. A $3 million grant from the National Science Foundation will help determine why most tomato plants fail to pollinate with the goal of producing more heat-tolerant crops.
 
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As the human population grows to more than 10 billion in the next 30 years, plant breeders must do everything possible to create crops that are highly productive and nutritious with minimal environmental footprints. Rice will play a critical role in meeting this demand to feed the growing population, so understanding the genetic diversity of these crops is essential. To meet this demand, Drs. David Kudrna and Rod Wing examined the genomes from representatives of 12 of 15 subpopulations of cultivated Asian rice to detect virtually all variation that exists in the pan-genome of cultivated Asian rice.
 
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NASA recently funded two UArizona teams to search for water and grow food in space.  Led by researchers in the College of Engineering and College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the missions focus on harvesting water from the lunar surface and improving techniques for microgravity crop producti

 
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As climate change calls the future of the world’s forests into question, UArizona researchers are in a race against the clock to preserve and characterize thousands of species of endangered fungi, which they believe may hold the key to understanding how forests will survive and adapt to a hotter, drier future. Dr. Jana U’Ren, a UArizona professor of ecosystem genomics and BIO5 member, spoke about this issue and the role her research plays in these characterizations.
 
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There is an outbreak killing California’s citrus trees that has caused the state’s orange growers to expand a quarantine zone to cover more than 1,000 square miles of infected land in four counties. Dr. Judy Brown, a UArizona professor of plant sciences and BIO5 member, is working to figure out how to cut off this disease before it affects ever-valuable citrus crops in Arizona.
 
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Ben Yang, a first year doctoral student in the Department of Environmental Science, works in the lab of Dr. Albert Barberan. Originall from China, Ben received his bachelor’s degree of Environmental Biology at the University of Toronto. He is currently investigating how the soil microbial community changes during ecological restoration. He is fascinated by how microbes and plants build their special relationship, and how such relationship benefits both sides.
 
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Dr. Barry Pryor, a UArizona plant sciences professor and BIO5 faculty member, discusses how the market demand for gourmet and medicinal mushrooms is increasing substantially as a part of a growing movement towards planting alternative crops in greenhouses. Such crops could easily become the next big thing in greenhouse gardening and could bring growers the opportunity to capitalize on new markets.
 
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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.