Plant-bacteria relationships a-maize scientists

The seedlings of cultivated Zea mays. Credit Bff.

Many of us have seen the adverts trying to convince us that there are ‘good bacteria’ that we should be making the most of in yogurty, pro-biotic drinks to help keep our guts healthy. Now it turns out that plants like maize are already one step ahead of us – not only making the most of beneficial soil (or rhizo-) bacteria, but having also learnt to draw the good bacteria towards their root system. Once they’ve done that, the plants just sit back, relax, and let the hardworking bacteria do all the work for them.

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Aphids Run Scared from GM Wheat

Wheat fields have just become a lot scarier (Source: RaeAllen, Flickr)

Genetically Modified wheat, gifted with the ability to fight off plant pest attacks, is being grown in England. In a situation similar to the film The Happening, wheat crops are now able to defend themselves against aphids. In the barely-believable movie, plants gained the ability to release chemicals that affected people’s behaviour in order to defend themselves from the polluting ways of humanity. Whilst we are not quite at that stage yet, the ability to produce plants that can defend themselves is an important step in reducing the use of chemical insecticides. Some plants naturally evolve defences against herbivores, but in this case, the wheat crop’s chemical defences have been specifically chosen by scientists.

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Update: Plant Health News (25 Apr 12)

Coconuts by Joyonweb

Here’s a taste of some of the latest stories about plant health, including the development of a new scab-resistant apple, how temperature and rainfall affect crop pest and disease interactions, and the Tanzanian research hoping to combat coconut troubles.

Click on the link to read more of the latest plant health news!

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Mining technology can help find nutritional crop varieties

Millet grains can be analysed for nutritional content using X-ray fluorescence © ICRISAT HOPE/Peter Casier (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0 license)

Farmers face difficult challenges in deciding which crop variety to continue growing. They need to choose crop varieties that have a high likelihood of survival and that will have a high yield. The communities that these farmers provide crops for also have needs. Their need is focused on the access to nutritious crops that contain high concentrations of minerals such as zinc and iron. It is easy for farmers to see which crop varieties with the largest vegetative organs and those that survive longest, but how do farmers discover which crops are the most nutritious? They can’t simply look at each plant to find their nutritional content. Now agricultural scientists believe that they may have solved this problem by using X-Ray Fluorescence technology to analyse crop seeds. Continue reading

Plantwise launched in Uganda

SANY0098Plantwise has officially been launched in Uganda as of 16th April 2012. The ceremony was held at Nkokonjeru in Buikwe district central Uganda and was attended by over 300 people made up of Plantwise plant doctors local dignitaries and farmers who have been helped by the local plant clinic. The honoured guests were the local MP (himself a part-time farmer) Mr Komayombi and Dr Karyeija the Commissioner and Deputy Commissioner of crop protection within MAAIF (Ministry of Agriculture, Animal Industries and Fisheries). Continue reading

Update: New Pest & Disease Records (19 Apr 12)

Bidens mottle virus on lettuce © Jeffrey W. Lotz, Florida Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services,

We’ve selected a few of the latest new geographic, host and species records for plant pests and diseases from CAB Abstracts. Records this fortnight include target leaf spot (Corynespora) appearing for the first time in India, new records of Colletotrichum species on apple in Uruguay, and the first appearance of Bidens mottle virus in Taiwan.

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Tanzanian farmers keeping peckish elephants at bay

African elephants are wreaking havoc on farms in Tanzania © Gerard D. Hertel, West Chester University,

It’s good news for the savanna ecosystem that the elephant population of East Africa has increased in recent years, but bad news for farmers whose crops are being devoured by these giant pests. Wildlife services’ successful anti-poaching campaigns and an increased designation of land to national parks has helped elephant population numbers to recover. However, with the concurrent expansion of farmland, there are now more frequent encounters between man and beast. Continue reading