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July 28, 2014

Scientists analyse effects of global warming, atmospheric ozone on crops

Scientists analyse effects of global warming, atmospheric ozone on crops

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Monday, July 28, 2014

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A research team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Colorado State University of the US and the University of Sheffield of the UK has analysed effects of global warming and ozone pollution over 2000–2050 on the worldwide production of wheat, rice, maize and soybean. The study was published in journal Nature Climate Change yesterday.

The scientists found reduction of crop yields by 2050 exceeded 10% of 2000 levels, substantially decreasing food security, in all cases examined. Several scenarios were considered because of uncertainty of future levels of ozone pollution. They estimated by 2050, increasing population and changing diet would increase world food needs by 50 percent. As coauthor Colette Heald told The Huffington Post, “The climate projections are quite consistent […] the future of ozone pollution is very different […] leading to either offsetting or reinforcing effects [of climate change] on crops”. By 2050, undernourishment would increase by either 49 percent or by 27 percent, depending on the scenario.

The study focuses on ozone–temperature covariation: ground-level ozone increases with temperatures. Heald said although temperature and ozone are separately known to impact crop yields, “nobody has looked at these together”. Depending on region and crops, the yields may be primarily sensitive to ozone —in the case of wheat— or heat —in the case of maize— alone, providing a local estimation of relative benefits of climate change adaptation versus ozone regulation.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture notes, “Ground-level ozone causes more damage to plants than all other air pollutants combined”, highlighting the importance of air quality for agriculture. Results of NCLAN studies, published in a paper by AS Heagle in 1989, show dicot species, such as soybean, cotton, and peanut, lose more yield from ozone than do monocot species such as sorghum, field corn, and winter wheat. The researchers found that ozone pollution caused 46 percent of previously heat-attributed damage to soybean crops.

The model does not include the effect of rising carbon dioxide concentration, which has complex and potentially offsetting impacts on global food supply. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says some crops may have higher yields with increased levels of carbon dioxide. However, global warming also increases probability of extreme crops-damaging weather events such as floods, droughts, and extreme temperatures. Climate change affects distribution of weeds, pests, and diseases. Heald noted the findings show pollution reduction is also important. “An air-quality cleanup would improve crop yields […] Ozone is something that we understand the causes of, and the steps that need to be taken to improve air quality.”

As Heald told The Huffington Post, US surface ozone has dropped partly due to the Clean Air Act. “Despite an increase in vehicle miles driven and energy consumption, surface ozone has declined by 25 percent on average across the U.S. from 1980 to 2012 […] However, the future of ozone air quality in the U.S. and around the world will depend on local emissions, the use of pollution control technology, regulations, and air quality policy.”

The study was supported by the Croucher Foundation, US National Science Foundation, and US National Park Service.



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June 15, 2013

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo comments on North Colorado proposal

Gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo comments on North Colorado proposal

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Saturday, June 15, 2013

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Wikinews reached out earlier this week to former U.S. Congressman and 2014 Colorado gubernatorial candidate Tom Tancredo for his response to the secessionist proposal of eight Northern Colorado counties. Tancredo maintains he is better suited to repair the geopolitical gulf at the root of the proposal than Governor John Hickenlooper.

Congressman Tom Tancredo.
Image: United States Congress.

The secession idea came about last week as the commissioners from the northeastern Colorado counties of Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma, and Kit Carson expressed interest in withdrawing from Colorado due to differences with the state government over gun control and the perceived overregulation of agriculture and the oil and gas industries. The commissioners proposed the formation of a new state named, “North Colorado”.

In response to the proposal, Governor Hickenlooper’s spokesman Eric Brown conceded that “[n]ot everyone agrees” with the administration’s policies, but declared “background checks on gun sales, increasing renewable energy and supporting responsible development of oil and gas are popular with rural and urban voters”.

Hickenlooper, a Democrat, was elected governor in 2010 over Tancredo, the then-Constitution Party gubernatorial candidate. Tancredo has since switched back to the Republican Party, under which he served as Congressman for Colorado’s 6th congressional district from 1999 to 2009. Tancredo officially announced his 2014 candidacy last month.

According to Tancredo, Hickenlooper’s policies impose barriers on rural Coloradans that he plans to remove if elected governor. In addition, Tancredo feels he can better address the rural-urban rift because, “I do not believe that rural Coloradans are, as Governor Hickenlooper has called them, ‘backward thinkers’.”

Tancredo refers to Hickenlooper’s 2010 comments, which accused rural Coloradans and other westerners of “backwards thinking” for their views on LGBT issues.

Wikinews requested, but did not immediately receive, response to Tancredo’s comments from Governor Hickenlooper’s spokesman.



Related news

  • “Colorado counties consider forming new U.S. state” — Wikinews, June 11, 2013
  • “Interview with U.S. Republican Presidential candidate Tom Tancredo” — Wikinews, September 25, 2007

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January 11, 2013

New report suggests world loses half of all food to waste

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Friday, January 11, 2013

Wheat harvest in Idaho, USA

A study published Thursday by the UK-based Institution of Mechanical Engineers claims up to half of all food produced in the world is never eaten. The study asserts that out of four billion tonnes of food created annually, between 1.2 billion to 2 billion tonnes ends up as garbage because of inadequate storage, rigid sell-by dates, fussy customers and bulk purchase offers by retailers.

The report quotes UN predictions that the world is on track to grow to a population of 9.5 billion people around the year 2075. Having enough food to support such a population will involve serious challenges according to the report. Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is quoted in the institution’s news release as saying, “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.” According to Dr Fox, the reasons behind this wastage range from “poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one free offers.”

The authors of the report distinguish between the different issues causing food wastage in developed countries such as the UK and the United States compared with developing countries such as some African and Asian nations.

First world countries have advanced farming and mature transportation infrastructure, enabling more food to reach the consumer market . However, modern retail practices and consumer fastidiousness sees waste occur at this end of the supply chain. The report claims that 30% of crops are not harvested in the UK because of retailers’ strict rules on the aesthetic appearance of vegetables, and that in the US and Europe, 50% of the food purchased by consumers ends up in the garbage.

Developing countries have more issues at the farm and primary producer end of the chain because of inadequate harvesting technology, transportation and storage. The report points out that 21 million tonnes of wheat is lost every year in India because of poor storage and transportation. This amount equals the total wheat produced by Australia, where grain loss is recorded at 0.75%, but is still only barely acceptable according to the report.

Recommendations made by the institution’s report include:

  • UN and international engineering organisations help developed nations transfer knowledge to developing nations.
  • Developing countries consider waste into infrastructure planning
  • Developed countries change consumer and retailer behaviour via policies designed to encourage less wasteful practices.

Entitled “Global Food Waste Not Want Not”, the report is available online from the Institute of Mechanical Engineer’s website.



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World loses half of all food to waste in new report

From Wikinews, the free news source you can write!
Jump to: navigation, search

Friday, January 11, 2013

Wheat harvest in Idaho, USA

A study published on Thursday by UK organisation, Institution of Mechanical Engineers, claims up to half of all food produced in the world is never eaten. The study asserts that of the 4 billion tonnes of food the world creates every year, between 1.2 billion to 2 billion tons ends up as garbage because of inadequate storage, rigid sell-by dates, fussy customers and bulk purchase programs offered by retailers.

The report quotes UN predictions that the world is on track to grow to a population of 9.5 billion people around the year 2075. Having enough food to support such a population will involve serious challenges according to the report. Dr Tim Fox, Head of Energy and Environment at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers is quoted in the institutions news release as saying “The amount of food wasted and lost around the world is staggering. This is food that could be used to feed the world’s growing population – as well as those in hunger today.” According to Dr Fox the reasons behind this wastage range from “poor engineering and agricultural practices, inadequate transport and storage infrastructure through to supermarkets demanding cosmetically perfect foodstuffs and encouraging consumers to overbuy through buy-one-get-one free offers.”

The authors of the report distinguish between the different issues causing food wastage in developed countries such as the UK and the United States compared with developing countries such as some African and Asian nations.

First world countries have advanced farming and mature transportation infrastructure enabling more food to reach the consumer market but modern retail practices and consumer fastidiousness sees waste occur at this end of the supply chain. The report claims that 30% of crops are not harvested in the UK because of retailers strict rules on the aesthetic appearance of vegetables and in the US and Europe 50% of the food purchased by consumers ends up in the garbage.

Developing countries have more issues at the farm and primary producer end of the chain due to inadequate harvesting technology, transportation and storage. The report points out 21 million tonnes of wheat is lost every year in India because of poor storage and transportation – This amount equals the total wheat produced by Australia where grain loss is recorded at 0.75% but is still only barely acceptable according to the report.

Recommendations made by the institutions report include:

  • UN and international engineering organisations help developed nations transfer knowledge to developing nations.
  • Developing countries consider waste into infrastructure planning
  • Developed countries change consumer and retailer behaviour via policies designed to encourage less wasteful practices.

Entitled “Global Food Waste Not Want Not” the report is available online from the Institute of Mechanical Engineers website.



Sources

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July 9, 2012

Drought conditions hit much of US again in 2012

Drought conditions hit much of US again in 2012

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National Weather Service graphic showing drought outlook for most of the continental United States

Monday, July 9, 2012

Over half of the contiguous United States is experiencing drought conditions, according to a report released Thursday by the National Weather Service. The report, addressing the period through this coming September, predicted many states will see these conditions persist, or worsen.

Further government reports indicate that high temperatures have played a role in the drought. Additionally, food supplies are being negatively impacted. 22 percent of the corn and soybean crop in key states is reported in “poor or very poor condition”; other crops have also been reduced in the wake of the conditions.

Only days ago, over one million residences in the greater Washington D.C. area were without air-conditioning following a rash of storms and high winds. Reports indicate that temperatures reached at least 100 degrees Fahrenheit (about 38C) during that period. Overall, 18 deaths were attributed to those conditions which extended to several states. Two Tennessee brothers, ages 3 and 5 died after playing outside, according to one report. When asked about weather conditions, a Texas woman told Wikinews, “This heat has been dreadful. I can hardly stand to be outside for more than 10 minutes.”

The National Weather Service’s report noted that, in the southeastern US, some weather improvements are expected across certain portions of Georgia and South Carolina. An Arkansas woman told Wikinews, “…it’s horrible. We’re not used to these kinds of temperatures. It’s so miserable outside right now. It doesn’t normally get this hot here…this is unbelievable.” Sources are referring to this drought as the worst since 1988.


Related news

  • “Report indicates Texas state parks still suffering following worst drought on record” — Wikinews, January 27, 2012
  • Drought conditions and high winds lead to wildfires in Texas” — Wikinews, September 7, 2011
  • “Freshwater lakes in Texas show signs of extreme drought” — Wikinews, August 29, 2011
  • “Texas continues to suffer record-breaking drought” — Wikinews, August 14, 2011

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November 25, 2011

Scientists sequence small genome of a pest: spider mite

Scientists sequence small genome of a pest: spider mite

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Friday, November 25, 2011

Science and technology
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A spider mite, roughly 0.5mm long
Image: Giles San Martin.

A team of 55 researchers led by University of Western Ontario biologist Miodrag Grbic has sequenced the genome of the spider mite Tetranychus urticae, a pest that costs over USD 1 billion to control annually. Their results were published in the journal Nature yesterday. The genome is the smallest arthropod genome sequenced so far.

The study was funded by the US Depeartment of Energy Joint Genome Institute programme, Genome Canada, and the European Union.

The pest is resistant to major plant toxins, and it takes a spider mite from two to four years to become resistant to new pesticides. University of Utah assistant professor of biology Richard M. Clark, a study co-author, said, “One key thing that makes spider mites unique is they can eat many, many different plant species… These mites are … a major cause of people’s house plants turning yellow and getting sick. They also are a major problem for agricultural nurseries and greenhouses, and for field crops. … [the spider mite] has been found to rapidly develop resistance to multiple types of pesticides, often within a couple of years after a pesticide is introduced.”

The study found the mite’s genome includes a variety of genes responsible for digestion and toxin degradation, possibly including some genes from bacteria and fungi. Because these bacterial/fungal genes are peculiar to spider mites, they appear to be a rare example of lateral gene transfer — gene transfer between distant species.

The study also found 17 web-production genes. The spider mite’s webs provide weather- and predator-protection and are somewhat stronger than webs of other species.



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November 19, 2011

EU increases 2012 budget by two per cent

EU increases 2012 budget by two per cent

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Saturday, November 19, 2011

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The European Union budget for 2012 has been increased by two per cent, despite European authorities targeting a budget increase of approximately five per cent for next year. The budget will now stand at 129,000,000,000 (US$174,000,000,000 or £110,000,000,000).

Negotiators at the EU reached this decision after fifteen hours of discussions on the matter. The European Commission had wished for a budget increase of 4.9% for 2012. At the same time, the European Parliament was aiming to achieve an increase of 5.2%. Such targets were objected to by the governments of various EU member countries; they were considered “unrealistic”.

Cquote1.svg We have stopped the … inflation-busting proposals and have delivered on the [UK] government’s promise to freeze the EU budget in real terms Cquote2.svg

Mark Hoban, UK Financial Secretary to the Treasury

The UK government welcomed the result, describing it as “excellent”. British Financial Secretary to the Treasury Mark Hoban explained: “We have stopped the European Commission and European Parliament’s inflation-busting proposals and have delivered on the government’s promise to freeze the EU budget in real terms”. One argument the British government has maintained for objecting to the European Commission and European Parliament’s requests is, “with member states facing tough decisions on spending at home, we could not afford these unrealistic demands”, according to Hoban.

Janusz Lewandowski, EU Budget Commissioner, has described the outcome as “clearly an austerity budget” and has expressed concern about the “serious risk that the European Commission will run out of funds in the course of next year, and will therefore not be able to honour all its financial obligations towards beneficiaries of EU funds”.

Now, concern should be given towards the discussions about the long-term budget of the EU between the years 2014 and 2020, Hoban believes. BBC News Online has reported that the British government is anticipated to reject proposals from the European Commission to raise the long-term budget by five per cent. According to the Press Association, the Commission wants to increase the budget by eleven per cent in comparison to the seven years prior.



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August 14, 2011

Texas continues to suffer record-breaking drought

Texas continues to suffer record-breaking drought

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

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Experts state that the lengthy drought conditions seen all over Texas this summer will effect the state’s economy and ecosystems for years. Climatologist John Nielson-Gammon told reporters that July was the hottest month ever on record in the state and that the 12-month period ending July 31st represented the worst drought year in Texas in at least 116 years. He was also quoted as saying that Texas has entered a “vicious cycle” where drought and heat aggravate each other.

According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, 94 percent of Texas is suffering either extreme or exceptional drought. Travis Miller, professor of soil and crop sciences at Texas A&M University, has estimated that this year farmers and ranchers in the state will lose $8 billion, “the largest agriculture loss we have ever experienced.” Miller also suggested that the worse outcomes may not even be here yet. “Climatic models show there is another La Nina system, which is blamed for this drought, coming our way this fall,” Miller said. “That is not a good thing.”

Tom McAlley, a rancher in Tatum, stated, “It’s a big problem. People don’t understand—this drought effects domestic and wild animals, the economy, everything.” Texas ranchers complain of feeding their cattle this summer, which is extremely rare as cattle normally consume natural grasses and vegetation during summer months. Tim Jenkins, a rancher near Athens, stated during an interview, “I have three ponds on my [ranch] — they’re all dry now. They should be teeming with frogs, insects. Small animals would normally go there to drink. I’ve got hundreds of dead fish in those ponds. I’ve paid huge sums of money just to feed my cattle this summer. If my parents were alive, they wouldn’t believe what we’re going through right now. I may see the effects of this for the remainder of my life.”



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March 31, 2011

British haulage managing director Edward Stobart dies at age 56

British haulage managing director Edward Stobart dies at age 56

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Thursday, March 31, 2011

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Edward Stobart, famed for his construction of the Eddie Stobart truck empire and being its chief executive officer for over thirty years, has died at the age of 56. In a statement, the Stobart Group commented: “It is with great sadness and regret that Stobart Group shares the news that Edward Stobart, son of Eddie Stobart, passed away at 8:10 AM this morning at University Hospital Coventry, after heart problems yesterday.”

When Eddie Stobart — Edward’s father, who is aged over eighty — created the company during the 1950s in Cumbria in northern England, it originally involved itself in the business of agriculture. In the 1970s, the business was given the name Eddie Stobart Limited and became a haulage service. Eddie Stobart then handed over the company to his son. The enterprise subsequently became the most popular of that industry within the United Kingdom, according to BBC News Online; it extended to include transportation by air and railways, as well as warehousing and management of logistics.

Due to the cult following that they had achieved via a fanbase of ‘Stobart spotters’, which involves the observation of their company’s uniquely named vehicles, the Stobart Group decided to create an official followers’ group, which now has in excess of twenty-five thousand members. Eddie Stobart-branded merchandise has also been released.

William Stobert — the brother of Edward Stobart — and Andrew Tinkler purchased the business from Edward in 2004. Edward subsequently relocated to the Midlands and took over what was to become an unsuccessful truck trailer building firm in 2009.

Edward Stobart experienced his death in Coventry, England at 0810 BST (0710 UTC) on Thursday. The Stobart Group have expressed their condolences to “Edward’s wife Mandy, his children and family at this difficult time.”

Haulage firm Preston’s of Potto’s chairwoman Ann Preston described Edward as “the most iconic figure that has ever been in this industry” and that the death of a man who “was very passionate about road transport” and “didn’t want to do anything else” since he was a child was “a massive loss”. The Stobart Members’ Club have stated: “The club’s members will certainly have fond memories of the man who started the phenomenon off, created the iconic Eddie Stobart brand and made it cool to spot lorries. Stobart Spotting will continue and the legacy of Edward Stobart will live on.”



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August 30, 2010

Tobacco attracts predators with chemicals in response to caterpillars, a study finds

Tobacco attracts predators with chemicals in response to caterpillars, a study finds

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Monday, August 30, 2010

Tobacco hornworm (Manduca sexta) on a bell pepper plant.

Ian Baldwin, of the Max Planck Institute for Chemical Ecology in Jena, Germany, and colleagues have discovered a multi-step protective mechanism of tobacco plants against Manduca sexta caterpillars. In response to a chemical in the caterpillars’ larvae, the plants release an odorous substance into air to attract another species of insects, called “big-eyed bugs” (Geocoris). These carnivores come to the scene and attack the caterpillars. The response is triggered within 24 hours, which is a relatively short period of time. The discovery occurred as a result of field studies in a nature preserve in southwestern Utah.

The phenomenon starts with the recognition of the caterpillars by the plant. As a PhD student in the Department of Molecular Ecology Silke Allmann explained, “The plant cannot see its attacker, but plants can sense the digestive substances that attacking larvae have in their oral secretions when these substances come into contact with the leaves.” To test that, the scientists coated some of caterpillars’ eggs on two groups of tobacco plants and glued them. On one of the groups, the glue was mixed with caterpillars’ split. The latter got more attention of the attackers, getting 25% of eggs destroyed against 8% for the other group.

Allmann supposed that “The simplest assumption is that the larval oral secretions contain a special enzyme, probably an isomerase, which rearranges the Z:E ratio of the aldehyde in favor of (E)-2-hexenal.” The researchers heated the oral secretion to destroy the enzyme, and applied it to wounded leaves. No plant response related to the studied process was observed, confirming the hypothesis.

(E)-2-hexenal is a strong antibiotic agent. The food consumed by a caterpillar typically includes hundreds of microorganisms together with leaf tissue, which are mostly unneeded and killed by the above-mentioned substance quickly. Because of this important role of this substance, the caterpillars can’t change their metabolism easily enough to prevent the subsequent events from happening.

A big-eyed bug
Image: Jack Dykinga.

To find out what happens after a caterpillar’s presence is noted by the plant, Silke Allmann, a graduate student in Baldwin’s group, examined the green leafy volatiles (GLVs), the substances responsible for the smell of fresh-cut plant parts. These substances are released into air if a plant is damaged. As the study released, the tobacco plant GLVs typically have a major share of Z isomers with very small amount of E isomers present. But the shares are distributed equally during a caterpillar attack. In a study with varying amount of different isomers present, E isomers turned out to be the ones attracting the predators to come to the scene and to attack the caterpillars.

What is surprising, Silke Allmann found that the caterpillars are the direct stimulus of this change: caterpillar saliva converts the Z-isomers of the GLV molecules to E-isomers. Prof. Ian Baldwin commented, “That’s where it got really weird. Why would a caterpillar do this to itself?” He suggested that the E-GLVs could have anti-biotic effect in the caterpillar’s digestive system.

The speed of the triggered reaction is relatively fast, it taking about one hour for the GLV isomers ratio change, and about 24 hours for the predators to be attracted by the substance released into the air. As Prof. Ian Baldwin, who was leading the research, said, “Other indirect defense mechanisms of plants require the activation of new metabolic pathways for the release of odorant signals, and these responses are much slower.”

The multi-step intricate approach involved is attracting the attention of scientists, who are looking forward to its application in agriculture. Baldwin noted that “in effect, the caterpillar calls the police on itself”, and suggested to genetically modify crops to release similar signals to defend themselves against pests.



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