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'Bee' thankful for the bumblebees

02 June 2020
Climate changes results in the disruption of timing between the plants and their pollinators. Researchers from ETH Zurich discovered that bumblebees may help to overcome these challenges by biting leaves of the plants that have not flowered yet, to stimulate the new flower production when pollen is scarce. Click here to read more.

Ancient date palm seeds found and grown after 2,000 years

25 May 2020
Seven date palms (Phoenix dactylifera) have been grown from among hundreds of seeds found in caves and in the ruins of an ancient palace built in the 1st century BC in the Judean desert near Jerusalem. The seeds were radiocarbon dated to be close to 2,000 years of age, making them the oldest seeds ever germinated. The ancient seeds were prepared by soaking them in water, adding hormones that encourage germination and rooting, then planting them in soil in a quarantined area. Click the title above to read more. Genetic analysis showed that several of them came from female date palms that were pollinated by male palms from different areas. This hints that the ancient Judean people cultivated the palms using sophisticated plant breeding techniques, producing the best tasting dates that are popular in the culture and religions of the Middle East and also symbolic of oasis agriculture.

Little Coffee Heroes

03 April 2020
Coffee leaf rust has been a significant challenge for coffee producers since 1980s. Recently, a field research in the lush central mountains of Puerto Rico found that the Asian tramps snails (Bradybaena similaris) prey on the rust. Ironically, these snails are labelled as notorious pests of many crops such as citrus, grapes, legumes and vegetables. However, the presence of the fungal parasite - Lecanicullium lecanii on the affected leaves creates competition, shifting the snails’ focus towards the rust. This preliminary finding is essential to develop a long term solution that manages the snail’s population while suppressing the rust damage on coffee.

How do mangroves get their nitrogen?

04 March 2020
Life is tough for mangroves. They are faced with muddy anaerobic soil and daily tidal inundation, resulting in very nutrient poor soil, especially nitrogen – one of the key element for growth. Scientists were curious how mangroves cope with this environmental challenge, and solved the mystery when they found diazotrophs living with the trees. Diazotrophs are soil-dwelling micro-organisms that convert atmospheric nitrogen into ammonia, which are deposited in the soil, for the tree to absorb. The researchers documented the mutualistic relationship that mangroves share with diazotrops, and how the roots influenced the development of the microbial community. Click the title above to read more.

The largest ever Rafflesia found in West Sumatra

03 February 2020
A recently bloomed specimen of Rafflesia tuan-mudae in a West Sumatran forest is the largest blooming flower ever recorded with the diameter of 111 cm! Curiously, it was found in the same location as the host plant that produced the previous largest Rafflesia with diameter of 107cm, in 2017. The Rafflesia plant is a parasitic plant without roots or leaves; it feeds on water and nutrients from its host plant to live. This is why the plant is often referred to as a "monster flower" for its parasitic properties and foul odour similar to rotting meat. Click the title above to read more.