May 23, 2014

For 'greener' control measures Termite genome shows roadmap

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - A team of international researchers has sequenced the genome of the Nevada dampwood termite, providing an inside look into the biology of the social insect and uncovering new genetic targets for pest control.
Michael Scharf, a Purdue University professor of entomology who participated in the collaborative study, said the genome could help researchers develop control strategies that are more specific than the broad-spectrum chemicals conventionally used to treat termite infestations.
"The termite genome reveals many unique genetic targets that can be disrupted for better termite control," said Scharf, who is the O. Wayne Rollins/Orkin Chair in Molecular Physiology and Urban Entomology. "Depending on which gene or protein that is targeted, we could disrupt termites' neurological processes, molting, digestive factors or cuticle formation. We're just limited by our imagination."

May 20, 2014

Shrub growth decreases as winter temperatures fluctuate up

Many have assumed that warmer winters as a result of climate change would increase the growth of trees and shrubs because the growing season would be longer. But shrubs achieve less yearly growth when cold winter temperatures are interrupted by temperatures warm enough to trigger growth.
“When winter temperatures fluctuate between being cold and warm enough for growth, plants deplete their resources trying to photosynthesize and end the winter with fewer reserves than they initially had. In the summer they have to play catch up,” said Melanie Harsch, a University of Washington postdoctoral researcher in biology and applied mathematics. She is lead author of a paper on the subject recently published in PLOS One.

Southern plants do better than Northern locals With climate changing

Can plants and animals evolve to keep pace with climate change? A study published May 19 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences shows that for at least one widely-studied plant, the European climate is changing fast enough that strains from Southern Europe already grow better in the north than established local varieties.
Small and fast-growing, Arabidopsis thaliana is widely used as the “lab mouse” of plant biology. The plant grows in Europe from Spain to Scandinavia and because Arabidopsis is so well-studied, there is a reference collection of seeds derived from wild stocks across its native range. Originally collected from 20 to 50 years ago, these plants have since been maintained under controlled conditions in the seed bank.

February 8, 2014

Newly Discovered Receptors in Plants Help Them Recover from Environmental Changes, Pests, and Plant Wounds, MU Study Shows

Discovery could lead to herbicides, fertilizers and pesticides that naturally work with plants to make them stronger

COLUMBIA, Mo. – ATP (adenosine triphosphate) is the main energy source inside a cell and is considered to be the high energy molecule that drives all life processes in animals and humans. Outside the cell, membrane receptors that attract ATP drive muscle control, neurotransmission, inflammation and development.  Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found the same receptor in plants and believe it to be a vital component in the way plants respond to dangers, including pests, environmental changes and plant wounds. This discovery could lead to herbicides, fertilizers and insect repellants that naturally work with plants to make them stronger.

May 24, 2013

More emphasis needed on recycling and reuse of Li-ion batteries

The discovery of potential environmental and human health effects from disposal of millions of rechargeable lithium-ion batteries each year has led scientists to recommend stronger government policies to encourage recovery, recycling and reuse of lithium-ion (Li-ion) battery materials. That's the conclusion of a new paper in the ACS journal Environmental Science & Technology.
Oladele A. Ogunseitan and colleagues point out that Li-ion batteries have become mainstays for powering everything from smart phones to components in new jetliners, with global sales approaching $8 billion annually. They realized that the short life span (2-4 years) of Li-ion batteries in portable electronic devices would make a huge contribution to the electronic waste problem, which already is the fastest growing form of solid waste. So they decided to see whether potentially toxic materials leach out and become a health and environmental threat after disposal.
Using standardized leaching tests, hazard assessment models and other methods for evaluating hazardous waste, the scientists showed that Li-ion batteries from cell phones would meet federal government definitions of hazardous waste because of lead content. California standards would classify them as hazardous due to cobalt, copper and nickel content. "These findings support the need for stronger government policy at the local, national, and international levels to encourage recovery, recycling, and reuse of lithium battery materials," their report states.

March 25, 2013

Global nitrogen availability consistent for past 500 years, linked to carbon levels

A Kansas State University research team has found that despite humans increasing nitrogen production through industrialization, nitrogen availability in many ecosystems has remained steady for the past 500 years. Their work appears in the journal Nature.
"People have been really interested in nitrogen in current times because it's a major pollutant," said Kendra McLauchlan, assistant professor of geography and director of the university's Paleoenvironmental Laboratory. "Humans are producing a lot more nitrogen than in the past for use as crop fertilizer, and there is concern because excess levels can cause damage. The mystery, though, is whether the biosphere is able to soak up this extra nitrogen and what that means for the future."
Nitrogen is a key component of the ecosystem and the largest regulator of plant growth. It determines how much food, fuel and fiber the land can produce. It also determines how much carbon dioxide plants remove from the atmosphere, and it interacts with several components of the climate system. Excessive amounts of nitrogen in ecosystems contribute to global warming and impairment of downstream ecosystems.