A newly-discovered fungus could also assist in the battle against plastic pollution

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By —— Bio and Archives--November 17, 2018

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A newly-discovered fungus could also assist in the battle against plastic pollution
When you graduated in horticulture from college you believed the world is your oyster plant, Tradescantia spathacea. Better to have heeded the words of wisdom from your supervisor. In a decade or so everything you have learnt will have changed.

Horticulture, and its sister science agriculture, are among the fastest growing such studies. This is what makes its offshoo, gardening the fascinating hobby that it is. Better yet, you can take it or leave it and still have a flourishing home life. Would that it be with certain other segments of society.


Just like humans, plants also have an immune system that helps them fight off infections

A single grain of pollen arrives on a flower. Using lab-on-a-chip technology scientists from McGill and Concordia universities report in the journal Technology what happens next. The pollen extends a tube (which is between one-twenthieth and a fifth the width of a human hair) which has to navigate though a maze of tissue, no matter what obstacles it encounters. This travels down to the egg and fertilization takes place, causing excitement in the Brit tabloids.

Plants transmit signals to other parts when they come under attack. How do they do it, lacking nerves? According to new research published in the respected journal Science, plants use the same signalling molecules that animals use in their nervous system. Their defence systems can them swing into action perhaps, for example, releasing substances noxious to attack insects. Makes you wonder about plucking a lettuce leaf or tomato from a living plant.

Just like humans, plants also have an immune system that helps them fight off infections. Gitta Coaker and colleagues at University of California Davis have identified a key step in how plant cells respond to pathogens—a family of kinase enzymes that activate the enzymes that reactivate oxygen. They reported the findings of their study recently in the journal Cell Host & Microbe.

Plants may resemble people in still other ways. Complimentary as in ‘cool as a cucumber.’ Insultingly as being called a ‘cabbage head.’ How about ‘rooted to the ground,’ as in overly affected by anaesthetic? A team of Japanese and European researchers reported in Annals of Botany the results of such exposure on the rapid movement of some well-known plants. The sensitive plant (Mimosa pudica) exposed to diethyl ether became motionless. In a separate experiment, lidocaine solution also immobilized the leaves. Similarly, carnivorous plants Venus flytrap (Dionaea muscipula) and Cape sundew (Drosera capensis) were immobilized by the ether.

A Rutgers University-led team reported in the journal Microorganisms how less subdued plants harness microbes in soil to get nutrients, a process that could be exploited to boost crop growth, fight weeds and slash the use of polluting fertilizers and herbicides, suggest the scientists. Certainly should prove useful in the garden.


Fungi are in a kingdom of their own

Fungi are in a kingdom of their own. True, they are closer to animals than plants. Their profound affect on plants, pro and con, warrants the concern of gardeners though. DNA studies show that there are thousands of different fungi in a single sample of soil, many of which are unknown and are being identified at an ever-rapid rate. Over two hundred species of fungus are thought to be hallucinogenic. Others are consumed in foods such as cheese and that beloved Brit product, Marmite—also, if you can afford them, truffles. Yeasts, a diverse form of fungi, are also essential in producing our daily bread, along with beer and wine.

A newly-discovered fungus could also assist in the battle against plastic pollution. Aspergillus tubingensis breaks down bonds between plastic molecules and then splits them using its mycelia. The process takes a matter of weeks rather than the decades it usually requires of plastic to naturally disintegrate. The fungus was found last year by a team of Chinese scientists on a rubbish dump in Pakistan.

All this and more of science reports from a single recent month. Wonderful what you may be sharing your garden with.


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Wes Porter -- Bio and Archives | Comments

Wes Porter is a horticultural consultant and writer based in Toronto. Wes has over 40 years of experience in both temperate and tropical horticulture from three continents.

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