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Plants Can Soon Grow on the Moon!

26 May 2022
Scientists from the University of Florida have germinated seeds in the Moon's soil! 3 different samples of lunar soils or lunar regolith, collected during Apollo 11, 12 and 17 missions were used and Arabidopsis thaliana seeds were successfully germinated. However, it was observed that seedlings exhibited greater stress at the physical and genetic level, when grown on mature soils - Mature and young lunar soils have differerent compositions as the former is exposed to more cosmic winds. Although promising, further studies are required on how the addition of water and the presence of plants affect lunar soil minerology and importantly how to optimize lunar soils in order for plants to truly grow in situ on the moon.

Pollen-paper - An alternative and environmentally sustainable paper

04 May 2022
Conventional paper is made using wood pulp in an energy intensive process, researchers at Nanyang Technological University (NTU) have developed a new type of paper using sunflower pollen grains. This patented pollen paper has been rendered non-allergenic, is recyclable and is less energy intensive to produce. High resolution colour images can be printed on pollen paper and “erased” in a much simpler process using a common alkaline reagent. This method is less damaging to the quality of the paper and has less negative impacts on the environment and human health. Pollen paper is also more versatile with potential uses in soft electronics, green sensors, and generators. While there are still issues such as scalability to explore, this study holds promise of a more environmentally sustainable paper.

9,200 undiscovered tree species worldwide

06 April 2022
A recent study on the forests of the world estimated that there are 73,000 tree species in the world. Of this, 9,200 tree species are new to science. This is 14 percent higher than the total known tree species worldwide. These undiscovered species likely have small populations and are limited in where they can be found in nature, making them vulnerable to climate change and deforestation. Approximately 40% of these undiscovered species are believed to be in South America, with the greatest diversity in the Amazon Basin and Andes-Amazon interface. In the face of our climate crisis, forest conservation should increasingly become an important priority especially for vulnerable and diversity hotspots around the world.

The Potential of Enset in Food Security

01 March 2022
The impacts of climate change continue to pose a threat to our food systems. Alternative food crops like the drought resistant Enset (Ensete ventricosum) are more important than ever as they could potentially support our food security under climate change. The Enset, a relative of the Banana (Musa species), is a staple crop in Ethiopia cultivated for human food and medicine, animal feed and fiber. They are starchy in nature and are fermented before making into porridge or bread. Currently, Enset is an important part of the diet for about 20 million Ethiopians. Scientists predict that it can be successfully grown over a wider range of environmental and climate conditions in Africa, potentially supporting over 100 million Africans in the future. However, adoption of Enset as a crop outside of Africa has its hurdles, especially with other competing staple crops that are faster to harvest, have higher nutritional value and are less labour-intensive to process.

Tallest Begonia species discovered in Tibet

07 February 2022
Begonias are known for their striking and attractive foliage and are often small to medium in size, growing close to the ground and cultivated in pots and terrariums. Researchers surveying wild Begonias in Tibet discovered a huge Begonia flowering on the forest slopes next to a stream bank - Begonia giganticaulis was confirmed as a new species in December 2021. Distinctive for its tall height, dioecious flowers with late and longer flowering time, one of the specimens collected was 3.6 metres tall with the thickest part of the stem close to 12 cm wide, these dimensions are record breaking for the genera! Due to the fragmented distribution of Begonia giganticaulis with less than 5 known populations under 1000 individuals each, it is classified as Endangered under the IUCN Red list.