Tag Archives: research

Study says plants don’t like to be touched

Australian scientists say that plants don’t like to be touched: a discovery that could help to optimise future plant growth and productivity in agriculture and horticulture.

The research, which was led by Professor Jim Whelan, Research Director of the La Trobe Institute for Agriculture and Food at AgriBio in Melbourne, found that even the slightest touch can activate a genetic defence response which, if repeated, can slow down plant growth.

“The lightest touch from a human, animal, insect, or even plants touching each other in the wind, triggers a huge gene response in the plant,” according to Professor Whelan. “Within 30 minutes of being touched, 10 per cent of the plant’s genome is altered. This involves a huge expenditure of energy which is taken away from plant growth. If the touching is repeated, then plant growth is reduced by up to 30 per cent.”

The work, which was conducted on the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana, is thought to apply to most plant species. The next step will be to test this touch response in crop species and examine the potential consequences of breeding plants which are less touch sensitive.

“As we don’t understand why plants display such a strong defence response to touch, if we are to breed less touch-sensitive varieties, we need to first understand what some of the consequences might be,” added Professor Whelan. “For example, could touch-resistant plants be more susceptible to disease because a crucial defence mechanism has been removed?”

Photo caption: Professor Jim Whelan

Photo Credit: La Trobe University

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New glasshouse at STC

Stockbridge Technology Centre has added to its research facilities with a new 384 m2 three-zone glasshouse from Bom and Ebtech Glasshouses.

The new building forms part of the CHAP (Centre for Crop Health & Protection) Innovation Centre portfolio, funded by Innovate UK, and will create new facilities for evaluating biopesticides under semi-commercial conditions. It includes a suite of deep-water hydroponic units, allowing customized trials on a range of crops.

The 4 m high glasshouse (at the gutter) consists of three 12.8 m wide zones. The Bom group glasshouse is also fitted with aphid-proof netting on the roof vents, horizontal roof screens and a hot water piped heating system, with a Priva control system. “We can offer large or small scale projects to our clients, offering bespoke projects to the highest of standards required,” commented Ebtech managing director Tony Walker.

Photo Credit: Ebtech

The post New glasshouse at STC appeared first on Hort News on 12 July 2018.

Purple potatoes reduce colon cancer risk

Scientists at Pennsylvania State University have found that a diet rich in colourful fruits and vegetables, and in particular purple potatoes, may help to prevent or stop colon cancer and bowel diseases, following trials on pigs.

In the study, pigs that were served a high calorie diet supplemented with purple-fleshed potatoes had less colonic mucosal interleukin-6 — IL-6 — compared to a control group. IL-6 is a protein that is important in inflammation, and elevated IL-6 levels are correlated with proteins, such as Ki-67, that are linked to the spread and growth of cancer cells.

“What we are learning is that food is a double-edge sword — it may promote disease, but it may also help prevent chronic diseases, like colon cancer,” said Jairam K.P. Vanamala, associate professor of food sciences at Penn State University. “What we don’t know is, ‘how does this food work on the molecular level?’ This study is a step in that direction.”

While the researchers used purple potatoes in this study, Vanamala said other colourful fruits and vegetables could prompt similar effects. “For example, white potatoes may have helpful compounds, but the purple potatoes have much greater concentrations of these anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant compounds,” he said. “We use the purple potato as a model and hope to investigate how other plants can be used in the future.”

Photo Credit: Wikimedia Commons

The post Purple potatoes reduce colon cancer risk appeared first on Hort News on 5 March 2018.

Eating fruit and veg. combats depression

US scientists have said that a diet which emphasises the consumption of vegetables, fruit and whole grains may lead to a reduced risk of depression.

Researchers from Rush University Medical Centre in Chicago found that those who followed the so-called Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension (DASH) diet were less likely to develop depression than people who did not. The study evaluated a total of 964 participants with an average age of 81 annually for approximately six-and-a-half years.

Each participant was monitored for symptoms of depression and filled out questionnaires about how often they ate various foods. The researchers examined how closely the participants’ reported diets adhered to different diets such as the DASH diet, a Mediterranean diet and the traditional Western diet, which is high in saturated fats and red meats and low in fruits and vegetables.

“There is evidence linking healthy lifestyle changes to lower rates of depression and this study sought to examine the role that diet plays in preventing depression,” explained study author Dr Laurel Cherian of Rush University Medical Centre. “Future studies are now needed to confirm these results and to determine the best nutritional components of the DASH diet to prevent depression later in life and to best help people keep their brains healthy.”

Photo Credit: Flickr

The post Eating fruit and veg. combats depression appeared first on Hort News on 5 March 2018.

Light-splitting film could increase yields

Engineers at the University of Colorado at Boulder have received funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) to develop a scalable, cost-effective greenhouse material that splits sunlight into photosynthetically efficient light and repurposes inefficient infrared light to aid in water purification.

According to the University, under normal conditions, plants only use around 50 percent of incoming sunlight for photosynthesis while the remaining half goes unused.

“The new CU Boulder technology will take the form of a semi-translucent film that splits incoming light and converts the rays from less-desired green wavelengths into more desirable red wavelengths, thus increasing the amount of photosynthetically efficient light for the plant with no additional electricity consumption,” said Xiaobo Yin, an assistant professor of Mechanical Engineering and Materials Science and Engineering at CU Boulder. The thin engineered material can be applied directly to the surface of greenhouse panels.

The technology also makes use of the photosynthetically ineffective light by redirecting it to aid in solar-driven water purification. “The near-infrared wavelengths can help clean brackish wastewater, allowing it to be recirculated in an advanced humidification-dehumidification interface and further reducing the greenhouse’s energy footprint,” said Yang.

Photo Caption: Professor Ronggui Yang (left) and Assistant Professor Xiaobo Yin.

Photo Credit: Glenn J. Asakawa / University of Colorado Boulder

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Engineers make wearable sensors for plants

Scientists at Iowa State University in the United States are developing graphene-based, sensors-on-tape that can be attached to plants and can provide data to researchers and farmers about water use in crops.

The tool, dubbed a “plant tattoo sensor” by researchers, is a tiny graphene sensor that can be taped to plants. Graphene is a carbon honeycomb which is just an atom thick, and is great at conducting electricity and heat, as well as being strong and stable. The graphene-on-tape technology has also been used to produce wearable strain and pressure sensors, including sensors built into a “smart glove” that measures hand movements.

“This fabrication process is very simple,” says lead developer Liang Dong. “You just use tape to manufacture these sensors. The cost is just cents.” In the case of plant studies, the sensors are made with graphene oxide, a material very sensitive to water vapour. The presence of water vapour changes the conductivity of the material, and that can be quantified to accurately measure transpiration from a leaf.

The plant sensors have been successfully tested in lab and pilot field experiments, and a new three-year, $472,363 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Agriculture and Food Research Initiative will support more field testing.

Photo Caption: Iowa State University researchers have developed these “plant tattoo sensors” to take real-time, direct measurements of water use in crops.

Photo Credit: Liang Dong/Iowa State University

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Changing Climate Changes Soils

In a new study, Australian researchers have used digital techniques to predict how soil organic carbon may be altered by climate change.

“Soil organic carbon is a major determinant of soil health,” says Jonathan Gray, senior scientist at New South Wales Office of Environment & Heritage, who was the lead author of the study. “It influences many chemical, physical, and biological properties of the soil, such as fertility and water holding capacity.”

The researchers used 12 climate change models to predict how soil organic carbon levels vary with climate change. The models used in the study reflected a full range of projected global climate outcomes. Results were varied. “A majority of models showed a decline in soil organic carbon with climate change,” states Gray. “But a few of the models actually predicted an increase.”

The researchers also discovered that the extent to which soil organic carbon changes varied across soil types, current climate, and land use regimes. For example, the projected average decline of soil organic carbon was less than one ton per hectare for sandy, low-fertility soils in dry conditions under cropping regimes. It was 15 times as much for clay-rich, fertile soils in wet conditions under native vegetation regimes.

“This knowledge can help us to better understand and predict where the greatest potential losses or gains in soil carbon may occur,” says Gray. “It would allow us to better prepare for and adapt to altered soil conditions,” he says. “That would ultimately improve how we manage both agricultural and native ecosystems.”

Photo Caption: Jonathan Gray collecting soil carbon data in the field, Hawkesbury Region, NSW (D. King, OEH)

Photo Credit: D. King, Office of Environment and Heritage.

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AHDB Horticulture looking for panel members

AHDB Horticulture is looking for growers or their technical staff willing to become members of its Panels which help the levy body channel funds into research and development and knowledge transfer activities which are relevant and fully supported by growers.

Each Panel is made up of elected members (growers or technical staff within larger businesses) who directly represent the interests of the horticultural industry, together with scientific advisors who underpin the quality of project proposals brought to the Panels for funding.

To be eligible for election, candidates must belong to a horticultural levy paying business (either as the levy paying owner or an employee). Elected panel members will sit on the panel for a three year period starting on 1 January following their election. During their term of office, members must remain a levy payer (or a payroll employee of a levy payer) and members may stand for a maximum of two consecutive three year terms (i.e. six years in total).

The Panels cover the following crop sectors: Field Vegetables; Hardy Nursery Stock; Protected Ornamentals and Bulbs and Outdoor Flowers; Protected Edibles and Mushrooms; Soft Fruit and Tree Fruit (including stone fruit). Each Panel represent industry views and the interests of all growers and makes recommendations for project funding and provide a rapid response to urgent industry needs, as well as other activities.

To view the full eligibility criteria, learn more about the operations and code of conduct for panel members, or to apply, visit http://horticulture.ahdb.org.uk/panel.

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AHDB rebrand includes HDC and Potato Council

New branding and a proposed new way of working for the Agriculture and Horticulture Development Board (AHDB) have been formally launched at the Cereals event in Lincolnshire last week.

The move, which was first announced in January, will see AHDB’s sector-focused activity delivered under six brands: AHDB Beef and Lamb, AHDB Cereals and Oilseeds, AHDB Dairy, AHDB Horticulture, AHDB Pork and AHDB Potatoes. Cross sector projects will be delivered as AHDB.

Speaking at the launch, AHDB Chair Peter Kendall stressed that sector specialisms would continue as part of the new plan: “Key to our new way of functional working will be retaining sector expertise and the input of AHDB’s Sector Boards. We will also continue to ensure that levies raised in a sector will be spent for the benefit of that sector.

“Our role is to help put a number of building blocks in place to support the future growth of a competitive farming industry. By working together, sharing expertise and skills across our organisation, I know that AHDB can build on the excellent work it is already providing for all our levy payers.”

The main AHDB Board has also agreed to start a reorganisation of AHDB’s senior team into wider functional roles. This is to drive collective delivery of activity in five areas covering industry strategy, technical, communications and market development, finance and HR.

This post first appeared on HortNews.

Extending shelf life of leafy greens

A novel way to extend the shelf life of leafy crops including lettuce, cabbage, celery, spinach and parsley has been presented at the recent 19th Agritech Israel exhibition in Tel Aviv.

Invented by Dr. Rivka Elbaum of Hebrew University’s Faculty of Agricultural, Food and Environmental Quality Sciences in Rehovot and being brought to market by the University’s Yissum technology transfer company, they system uses a solution into which the produce is dipped, which then delays deterioration of the produce.

Yissum CEO Yaacov Michlin said, “The novel method invented by Dr. Elbaum is a simple, low-cost solution for delaying senescence in leafy greens, thereby increasing their shelf life. The method, which has been tested on lettuce, could considerably increase the profitability of leafy greens, which comprise a large fraction of the fresh vegetable market.”

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