Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets

If you travel into deep space and look back at Earth through a sophisticated telescope, you could measure what’s called the vegetation red edge (VRE). The vegetation red edge is a mixture of red and infrared light that is reflected by plants on Earth’s surface. Because of clouds, ice masses, and large oceans, the vegetation red edge on Earth is actually fairly small and difficult … Continue reading Signs of Life: Searching for Plants on Other Planets

The Perks of Being a Wallflower: How tomato plants cause cannibalism

by Katherine Wu Herbivores, beware: the humble tomato plant has a trick up its sleeve. When under attack by pests such as caterpillars, plants can goad their predators into selecting another meal: each other. In a study published in July 2017 in Nature Ecology & Evolution, a team of scientists led by Dr. John Orrock at the University of Wisconsin-Madison demonstrated for the first time … Continue reading The Perks of Being a Wallflower: How tomato plants cause cannibalism

How to Talk to Your Plants: Using LEDs to grow better crops

by Andrew McAllister Plants are terrible listeners. I’ve told the plants on my windowsill, “Grow taller, grow faster! Make more delicious leaves for me to put in my food!”, but they just grow in the same slow way they’ve been doing since I bought them. Farmers and florists share my pain, but on a larger scale. Sometimes, no matter what you do the squash isn’t … Continue reading How to Talk to Your Plants: Using LEDs to grow better crops

A picture of the underside of a leaf

Thirsty Plants: Can plants be genetically modified to need less water?

In order to feed every human being on the planet by 2050, the world will need to produce far more food. One difficulty farmers face is finding enough fresh water. A group of scientists led by Katarzyna Glowacka, from the University of Illinois, Urbana, may have found a potential way to save farmers water. The group’s technique hinges on the stomata of plants. Stomata are … Continue reading Thirsty Plants: Can plants be genetically modified to need less water?

Vines

Plants grow in interesting ways. You may have noticed that your houseplants “lean” towards the window, seeking the sunlight. This movement towards light is called phototropism. Tropism is a general term referring to any instance of growth or movement of an organism in response to the environment. Vines display another kind of tropism known as thigmotropism, meaning they respond to touch. In this set of … Continue reading Vines

Plant Viruses: An oft-forgotten threat to food security

by Fernanda Ferreira figures by Shannon McArdel Semper augustus was once the most coveted flower in Holland . The Dutch were used to single-hued tulips, collectively called Couleren, but Semper augustus was something else. With its splashes of red on white, this bi-colored or variegated tulip became the symbol of tulipomania, a brief period during the Dutch Golden Age when a single tulip bulb could … Continue reading Plant Viruses: An oft-forgotten threat to food security