Discovery of new plant switch could boost crops, biofuel production

A team of Michigan State University researchers has discovered a switch that regulates plant photosynthesis -- the process that lets plants store solar energy and use it to grow and produce food.

Photosynthesis stores energy in two forms that are used to power plants' metabolism. The amount of energy flowing into each of these must be perfectly balanced to match the needs of plants' metabolism or the plant will self-destruct.

Plants can take up nicotine from contaminated soils and from smoke

Passive smoking isn't only something that people have to cope with, but plants too. This is because some plants are actually able to take up nicotine from cigarette smoke, while others that grow in contaminated soil absorb it via the roots as well. This might explain why high concentrations of nicotine are often found in spices, herbal teas and medicinal plants, despite the fact that this alkaloid is no longer permitted in insecticides. These findings¹,² by Dirk Selmar and colleagues at the Technical University of Braunschweig, Germany.

Why flowers bloom earlier in a warming climate

Scientists at the John Innes Centre have discovered why the first buds of spring come increasingly earlier as the climate changes.

Dr Steven Penfield at the JIC found that plants have an ideal temperature for seed set and flower at a particular time of year to make sure their seed develops just as the weather has warmed to this 'sweet spot' temperature.

Air pollutants could boost potency of common airborne allergens

A pair of air pollutants linked to climate change could also be a major contributor to the unparalleled rise in the number of people sneezing, sniffling and wheezing during allergy season. The gases, nitrogen dioxide and ground-level ozone, appear to provoke chemical changes in certain airborne allergens that could increase their potency. That, in combination with changes in global climate, could help explain why airborne allergies are becoming more common.

Secret of how plants regulate their vitamin C production revealed

Professor Roger Hellens, working with Dr William Laing from New Zealand's Plant and Food Research, has discovered the mechanism plants use to regulate the levels of Vitamin C in each of their cells in response to the environment.

"Understanding these mechanisms may help in plant breeding programs to produce hardier plant crops and improve human health because iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of malnutrition worldwide," Professor Hellens said.