Rogue Space Tomato, Zombie fires, and other stories

Another round-up of the stories we’ve shared on social media over the past day.

Tomato Space Scandal Resolved As ISS Fruit Found After 8 Months Missing

This is Ground Control to errant tom, you’ve really caused a scene.

Zombie fires’ in the Arctic: Canada’s extreme wildfire season offers a glimpse of new risks in a warmer, drier future

The blanket of wildfire smoke that spread across large parts of the U.S. and Canada in 2023 was a wake-up call, showing what climate change could feel like in the near future for millions of people. Apocalyptic orange skies and air pollution levels that force people indoors only tell part of the story, though.

Alleged tree thief claims protection by England’s Charter of the Forest

An 800-year-old English charter that was hugely consequential for establishing rights of people to use public lands also protects a rural northwest Iowa man accused of illegally cutting down and stealing dozens of trees from a wildlife management area, the man’s attorney argues.

17 Flowers Poisonous to Cats (Spoiler: No Poinsettias)

It’s possible that poinsettias get the bummest rap in the plant world. They have a reputation as deadly beauties, but is the ubiquitous holiday plant actually one of the flowers poisonous to cats? About 70 percent of the population will answer yes, but in reality, ingestion of excessive poinsettia may produce only mild to moderate gastrointestinal tract irritation, which can include drooling and vomiting. These 17 other plants, however, would provide a major cause for concern.

Stunning rural garden sprouts from a bare paddock in record time

The design and creation of a grand country garden is usually described as a lifelong labour of love, but Deanna and Steve Robinson don’t dilly-dally.

Camellias don’t deserve their reputation as garden divas

Camellias, known as “the queens of the winter flowers,” have for some reason been saddled with an unfair reputation as being difficult.


Crop rotation and native microbiome inoculation restore soil capacity to suppress a root disease (OA)

It is widely known that some soils have strong levels of disease suppression and prevent the establishment of pathogens in the rhizosphere of plants. However, what soils are better suppressing disease, and how management can help us to boost disease suppression remain unclear. Zhou et al. used field, greenhouse and laboratory experiments to investigate the effect of management (monocropping and rotation) on the capacity of rhizosphere microbiomes in suppressing peanut root rot disease. Compared with crop rotations, monocropping resulted in microbial assemblies that were less effective in suppressing root rot diseases.

Warm temperature and mild water stress cooperatively promote root elongation (OA)

Roots develop in darkness and so it is a reasonable assumption that root temperature signalling is not through modulation of light signalling. It was recently speculated that due to the close correlation between warm temperature and soil moisture content, root temperature signalling could feasibly be related to water availability signals. Hayes et al. tested the interaction between temperature and water availability signalling in plant roots. They found that these environmental factors co-operatively enhance main root elongation.

DNA methylation in the wild: epigenetic transgenerational inheritance can mediate adaptation in clones of wild strawberry (Fragaria vesca) (OA)

Due to the accelerating climate change, it is crucial to understand how plants adapt to rapid environmental changes. Such adaptation may be mediated by epigenetic mechanisms like DNA methylation, which could heritably alter phenotypes without changing the DNA sequence, especially across clonal generations. However, we are still missing robust evidence of the adaptive potential of DNA methylation in wild clonal populations. Sammarco et al. studied genetic, epigenetic and transcriptomic variation of Fragaria vesca, a predominantly clonally reproducing herb. They examined samples from 21 natural populations across three climatically distinct geographic regions, as well as clones of the same individuals grown in a common garden.

Apoplastic barrier establishment in roots and nodules of Lotus japonicus is essential for root-shoot signaling and N-fixation (OA)

The molecular framework underlying apoplastic root barrier formation has been unveiled in the model species Arabidopsis thaliana where establishment of Casparian strips occurs at an early stage of root development. In legumes, this region overlaps with the area where nitrogen-fixing bacteria can induce nodule formation, termed the susceptible zone. Moreover, while nodules themselves also contain an endodermis spanning their vascular bundles, it is current unknown if Casparian strips serve as a filter for transport across this specialized organ. Shen et al. establish barrier mutants in the symbiosis model Lotus japonicus. They find that the while genetic network controlling Casparian strip formation is conserved in this legume species, formation of functional barriers is crucial for establishment of N-fixing nodules.

Seed treatment with clothianidin induces changes in plant metabolism and alters pollinator foraging preferences (OA)

Neonicotinoids, systemic insecticides that are distributed into all plant tissues and protect against pests, have become a common part of crop production, but can unintentionally also affect non-target organisms, including pollinators. Such effects can be direct effects from insecticide exposure, but neonicotinoids can affect plant physiology, and effects could therefore also be indirectly mediated by changes in plant phenology, attractiveness and nutritional value. Under controlled greenhouse conditions, Klatt et al. tested if seed treatment with the neonicotinoid clothianidin affected oilseed rape’s production of flower resources for bees and the content of the secondary plant products glucosinolates that provide defense against herbivores. Additionally, they tested if seed treatment affected the attractiveness of oilseed rape to flower visiting bumblebees, using outdoor mesocosms.

Does ash dieback affect the reproductive ecology of Fraxinus excelsior L.? (OA)

Forest tree species reproduction is a key factor in maintaining the genetic diversity of future generations and the stability of forest ecosystems. The ongoing ash dieback disease could affect the reproductive ecology of Fraxinus excelsior L. and have a major impact on the quantity and quality of pollen and seeds. Eisen et al. investigated pollen production and viability of pollen and seeds of ash trees with different health status from 2018 to 2022. Inflorescences were collected from 105 trees (pollen production), pollen from 125 trees (pollen viability), and seeds from 53 trees (seed quality) in two seed orchards and in one floodplain forest in southern Germany.


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