Long, bright days and high temperatures do not become the male flowers of the boreal sedge Carex flava. Under such environmental conditions in the spring, male flowers fail to be induced and all flowers in the inflorescence will be female. This is reported in the cover story of the August issue of Physiologia Plantarum by professor Ola Heide from the Agricultural University of Norway. The inflorescence of C. flava normally consits of a terminal spike with male flowers and three lateral spikes with female flowers. In controlled experiments, Heide showed that this floral arrangement requires full primary induction with short days and low temperatures. When primary induction was incomplete or marginal no male flowers developed. Since the arrangement of male and female flowers is the main criteria for taxonomic classification of the Carex genus, the effect of environmental conditions should be kept in mind when comparing Carex material from different regions.

Read full article here: Heide (August 2004) Physiologia Plantarum 121: 691-698

Jan Kofod Schjørring, President of SPPS, congratulates you with the first issue of SPPS Newsletter.

SPPS Newsletter is a new initiative of Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society, SPPS. It is an electronic newsletter distributed by e-mail and accessible online over the internet. It is sent to all members of SPPS but everybody with an interest in Scandinavian research in plant physiology can sign up to receive the newsletter. The newsletter is published monthly and informs about activities of SPPS and recent advances in plant physiology in Scandinavia and the rest of the world.

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The pollen tubes (blue) are shorter in the aca9 mutant without the Ca2+ pump (right) and can only fertilize ovules in the upper part of the pistil. Photo courtesy of Morten Schiøtt.

Forget about sildenafil citrate – Ca2+ pumps will boost both size and performance of the male reproductive organ and dramatically increase fertility. That is – if you are a plant.

In a recent paper in PNAS (Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences), Danish scientists at the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, KVL, in Copenhagen showed that Ca2+ pumps are required for growth of pollen tubes and for their ability to discharge their sperm cells. Consequently, pollination by mutants lacking this particular pump leads to greatly reduced seedset.

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A few species of trees might easily outcompete other species in the tropical rainforest if they were not under heavy attack of herbivory insects and mammals. American scientists studied seedlings of 20 species growing in different soil types in the peruvian rainforest either freely exposed or protected from herbivores under nylon netting. Trees that are normally limited to clay soil types thrived in white sand when they were protected from herbivory and grew significantly faster than species normally dominating this habitat. The authors suggest, that the nutrient-poor white sand only allows for slow growth and that plants in this habitat accordingly must invest heavily in anti-herbivore defenses. When herbivores are no longer present, however, these specialized species can not compete with species normally confined to richer clay soil types. The new study shows that herbivore pressure plays a major role in habitat specialization and maintenance of biodiversity.

Source: Fine et al (30 July 2004) Science 305: 663-665 + 619-621

After her postdoc at Salk Institute, La Jolla, USA Åsa Strand has got a position as Assistant Professor at Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden. Photo courtesy of Åsa Strand.

The young Swedish scientist Åsa Strand from Umeå Plant Science Centre in Sweden has been selected to receive the 2004 FESPB Award to Young European Scientists. FESPB is the Federation of European Societies of Plant Biology and the award is given to young scientists in the FESPB membership countries below the age of 35 for their outstanding scientific achievements. The award is intended to promote modern experimental research in plant biology.

Since Åsa started her PhD studies in 1995 and until now where she is Assistant Professor at Umeå Plant Science Centre, her research interest has been to understand how plants respond to environmental stress such as temperature or light. From initially focusing on physiological and biochemical aspects she has gradually taken a more molecular and genetic approach to the problem and her work has received extensive international attention.

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A special poster session gave all students a chance to present their posters on the III SPPS PhD Congress. Photo by Jan Kofod Schjørring.

For the third time SPPS has arranged a congress for PhD students. It took place very recently in Asker just southwest of Oslo during 5-8 August 2004. The congress attracted more than 30 PhD students from Norway, Sweden, Finland, Denmark – and one from Germany.

The PhD students presented their own work either in a poster or – for those who had the nerve – in a 20 minutes oral session, and in addition nine international speakers had been invited to give talks. The topic of the conference was predominantly ecophysiology and hormone interaction and many talks were related to woody species of the Nordic forests.

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The mutation that confers resistance to powdery mildew in most European spring barley varieties probably arose 10,000 years ago in Ethiopia shortly after man started to cultivate this important crop. Genetic evidence now suggests that the beneficial mutation was selected by prehistoric farmers and has survived in domesticated barley up till now. Scientists from several European countries (including Denmark) have used haplotype analysis to study the distribution of the commercially important mlo-11 resistance allele in wild and cultivated barley. The data indicate that the mutation only arose once in history and that it occurred shortly after domestication.

Source: Piffanelli et al (19 August 2004) Nature 430: 887-891

PlaCe had more than 36 peer-reviewed publications in the first six months of 2004. Illustration by Gorm Palmgren.

From its very beginning, PlaCe was intended to be a center of excellence and this has certainly come true. PlaCe – Center for Molecular Plant Physiology – provides research of the highest international standard and is highly competitive: more than 200 articles have been published in peer-reviewed journals since the launch six years ago.

PlaCe is physically located at KVL – the Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University – in Copenhagen and currently engages approximately 70 people, including 11 graduate students and 15 PhD students. It is a joint collaboration between two research groups at KVL, namely Plant Biochemistry Laboratory and Chemistry Department, as well as Biotechnology Group, which is part of Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, DIAS.

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Physiologia Plantarum is published on behalf of SPPS. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

Although Physiologia Plantarum already ranks as an impressive #8 among the 136 most cited international plant science journals, the editorial board aims even higher. During 2004 journal representatives have met several times and have formulated a strategic plan that will double the impact factor within three years and lead to a 25% increase in the number of submitted manuscripts.

Initiatives have already been taken to make the journal more attractive for both readers and authors. Physiologia Plantarum intends to publish four Special Issues per year, where manuscripts focusing on specific themes are invited. The Special Issues started in September 2003 and has so far covered senescence, photosynthesis, redox regulation and desiccation tolerance.

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Trollius europaeus – symbol of the congress – is common in the mountains of northern Scandinavia. Modified from Gun Löfdahl by Gorm Palmgren.

After touring the other Scandinavian countries for eight years, the biannual SPPS Congress is returning to Sweden. The venue for the upcoming XXII SPPS Congress has been set to Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) and will take place 16-19 June 2005.

And it is somehow a comeback. Last time the congress was held in Sweden was in 1997 at SLU (Swedish Agricultural University) in Uppsala, and now SLU is also among the hosts, since its Department of Forest Genetics and Plant Physiology in Umeå is part of UPSC (see article in this issue).

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