A possibly science-related weblog that probably focuses a bit on agriculture, plant science, gardening, and related bits.
I'm a freelance writer/editor with a focus on science and gardening--sometimes even both together.
The alluring odor cast by your enticing neighbor that lifts you up by the nose to float down the hall a la Pepé Le Pew seems to have parallels in the plant kingdom as well.
In Scientific American, a recent article describes how parasitic plants sniff their way toward their prey. I wonder whether certain plants, then, “smell” and grow toward (or away from) compost heaps or other rotting piles of stuff? Plant communication is a vibrant topic—it’d be great to have actual biochemical confirmation of the purported benefits of companion planting in vegetable gardens.
Four botanic gardens are teaming up to create a catalog of the world’s plants—or, at least 400,000 of them.
The New York Botanical Garden, the Missouri Botanic Garden, the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew, and the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh are going to develop World Flora in the next 8 years. From what I’ve read, it seems like a cross between The Plant List, which I already use to verify plant identities and which is run by Kew and Missouri, and the US Department of Agriculture’s PLANTS database, which includes information on plant ranges and photos.
Having previously been a part of an herbarium digitizing effort, I don’t really envy the interns who will be working day and night on this project. But it’ll be a nice resource when it’s finished.
My main hope with this database is that taxonomy becomes easier to keep track of—one could just create adaptive online content that autoupdates on your blog when a plant name is changed in the database, instead of forcing you to search and get confused about which species you blogged about three years ago. That’s my dream! It could also help botanical journals do the exact same thing with the digital editions of their publications, too, I guess.
It isn’t necessarily a logical assumption that more heat would help plants grow—it certainly depends on the plant. Researchers in New York City looked at red oaks and how their growth was impacted by temperature in the city, finding that because of the general increase in temperature within a city, the trees grew a ton more than those planted outside the city. The biggest correlation between temperature and tree growth was the increase in nighttime temperatures—the temperature doesn’t drop as much in the city as it does elsewhere, which allows trees to be more biochemically active at night to prepare for daytime photosynthesis and growth.
It’s an interesting point, but something we gardeners have always kind of known—straight-up tropical plants are often grown here in Washington DC, whereas just miles outside of town the attempt would be futile. The cherry blossom trees planted near light- and heat-reflective walls of buildings bloom the earliest each spring. Kale, however, freaks out and bolts earlier than it would were it not in a “heat island.” So, pros and cons—and the effect climate change will have on urban forestry will necessitate a change in the trees used to canopy a city.
When I write freelance news articles, sometimes they go up in news feeds pretty swiftly. Usually, however, they are put into a publishing vortex and appear weeks later, after I’ve already forgotten every single detail about them. And sometimes, I just get too busy between when they’re turned in and when they’re published to think about featuring my writing on here.
I have three other articles that I turned in in the past week, currently going through the editing cycle, and a profile of a scientist that will be turned in tomorrow. I should start drafting blog posts prior to turning these babies in—it’ll help me figure out why I thought they were interested when they get published weeks later!
After a long trip to the uninterneted South for a wedding last week, I’m back in action. While I was away, another JACS Spotlight I wrote was published about RNA’s role as pre-DNA genetic material and as pre-protein catalytic molecules. During the trip, I wrote another JACS Spotlight, which will be posted in the coming weeks, and a piece I wrote about a gene involved in inherited hypertension (high blood pressure) for Nature Middle East was posted, too. There are a few other projects I have in the wings, as well—everything from peptide friction to kamikaze cells!
I stumbled upon (not Stumbled, just came upon) some recent research about soybean domestication in China, Korea, and Japan. Although soybean (Glycine max) is a huge crop nowadays, the answers to what/where/when/by whom of its domestication hasn’t really been clarified satisfactorily. The researchers from the University of Toronto found that domestication of soybean started anywhere from 8,500 to 9,000 years ago, rather than the 3,000 to 5,000 years previously assumed. And not just in one place—although the earliest evidence of domestication is in northern China, Korea and Japan threw their hats in the race too, separately selecting different soybean varieties from the wild weeds growing around everywhere in East Asia.
Here’s my attempt at growing soybean in my studio apartment three years ago. The indoor gardening experiment was a series of mixed results, but the legumes grew admirably in horrid conditions—a testament to their previous life as weeds!
China’s original domesticated seeds were teeny tiny, the researchers say, and stayed that way for a few thousand years as other traits (perhaps dehiscence or bushiness) were selected before seed size started to increase.
One interesting thing that the researchers suggest—which seems pretty plausible and simple, but is not yet actually conclusively linked—is that the determinancy of domesticated soybean (growing to a low bushy plant rather than a stretching vine of wild soybean) could be a trait that allows for the larger seeds we like to eat—putting photosynthetic energy into seed formation rather than continued vegetative growth allows for a bigger snack on the dinner table.
Personally, I like a nice rambler growing wild over my fence, down my stairway railing, or even up the curtains in my apartment, which is why I’m planning on growing chayote this year. But I can see how it would be much easier to grow and harvest plants that had a more manageable shape and growth habit.