SPPS Newsletter March 2012

Index of Issue II 2012

The deadline for registration to the 7th SPPS PhD Student Conference has been extended to 11 June 2012. Graphics by Gorm Palmgren.

The deadline for registration to the 7th SPPS PhD Student Conference has been extended to 11 June 2012; to register, please visit the the conference webpage. The extended deadline also includes applications for SPPS travel grants. To apply for a travel grant, please read the requirements and then login to apply.

Registration fees to the conference are as follows (SPPS members/non-members):

Double room 350 € / 450 €
Single room 480 € / 580 €
Without accommodation     225 € / 325 €


Laulasmaa, the conference venue, is locted midway between Stockholm and Sankt-Petersburg – and very close to Helsinki. From maps.google.com

Several esteemed plant scientists are attending the 7th SPPS PhD Student Conference that will take place 12-15 September 2012 in the Estonian city of Laulasmaa. Among the invited speakers for keynote lectures are:

  • Claudia Köhler – Epigenetics
    SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Uppsala, Sweden
  • Francesco Loreto – Volatile compounds
    Institute for Plant Protection (CNR-IPP), Firenze, Italy
  • Ülo Niinemets – Volatile compounds
    Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia
  • Thorsten Nürnberger – Pathogen receptors
    Universität Tübingen, Germany
  • Silke Robatzek – Plant pathogen interactions
    Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, England
  • Julian Schroeder – Environmental stress
    University of California San Diego, USA
  • Mark Tester – Abiotic stress
    University of Adelaide, Australia

There will be eight scientific sessions:

  • Molecular signalling
  • Plant development
  • Photosynthesis
  • Abiotic stress responses
  • Biotic stress responses
  • Plant ecophysiology
  • Atmosphere-biosphere interactions
  • Applied plant biology

The 7th SPPS PhD Student Conference is a wonderful opportunity to meet leading plant scientists and other PhD students from the field, to share knowledge and make plans for the future.

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Nominates of the four SPPS Prizes can now be proposed. From silentstoryteller.typepad.com

SPPS has traditionally awarded the SPPS Popularization Prize on its biannual congress, but in August last year it was decided to establish three additional awards. Members of SPPS are invited to propose nominates for all four prizes before 31 August 2012. The nomination and decision procedures are described in detail below, but first we would like to introduce the four prizes. Please note that all prizes are awarded biannually at the SPPS Congress and that membership of the Society is not a requirement.

  • SPPS Early Career Award
    A monetary award to an early career scientist based in Scandinavia. The award is granted to a young, highly talented scientist, who has shown good progress and made significant, independent contributions to Scandinavian plant biology. Nominates must have achieved their doctoral degree less than 10 years before the start of the SPPS Congress.
  • SPPS Award
    A monetary award given to a scientist based in Scandinavia in recognition of his/her outstanding, meritorious contribution to the science of plant biology in Scandinavia.
  • Physiologia Plantarum Award
    A monetary award to a scientist that has made outstanding contributions to plant science in the areas that are covered by Physiologia Plantarum. This could be either lifetime contributions or recent breakthrough-type of contributions.
  • SPPS Popularisation Prize
    A monetary award of honor to encourage plant biologists to bring their research results to the public. The Prize can be awarded to an author who has clearly popularized plant biology in newspapers, journal articles or books, in TV or radio, or by other public forms.

The Popularisation Prize has existed for many years but has not been awarded since 2005, when it went to Anna Haldrup from University of Copenhagen in Denmark.

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Renew or sign up now. Graphic by Gorm Palmgren.

We are well into 2012, so you should have renewed your SPPS membership by now. If you didn’t do it yet – or if you want to sign up as a new member – do it right now, so you don’t miss out on any of the benefits included in a SPPS membership. The price haven’t changed, so we won’t charge you more than the same small fee you paid last year. And moreover we now offer you three possibilities for additional savings:

  • Save 33% by signing up for a 5 year membership
  • Save 50% if you are a student
  • Add a print subscription to Physiologia Plantarum for just 120 € per year

You can easily renew right now through a safe connection on our homepage or sign up for SPPS membership if you are not already a member.

You can read more about the benefits of being member of SPPS at the Members section on our homepage.

The Fascination of Plants Day now includes the event “Plants – symbol on graves” in Kassel, Germany. From www.steve-thorpe.co.uk

Already more than 275 institutions from 37 countries have signed up to make local events at the first Fascination of Plants Day on 18 May 2012. In Europe alone, 28 countries participate, and among them Poland made a blast on 14 March when 27 organisations, research units and botanical gardens announced their participation. The last two countries to enroll were India and Israel. They are now represented by a local National Coordinator, who will guide plant science institutions, universities, botanical gardens, museums, farmers and companies to open their doors for a variety of plant-based events for all the family.

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GPC hopes plants can become the solution to five of the worlds most critical problems. From 2.bp.blogspot.com

The Global Plant Council (GPC) has now been granted status as a non-for-profit organization by the Swiss authorities. The good news came om Valentine’s Day and was followed up just four days later, when GPC held its first major event by convening a symposium at the AAAS Annual Meeting in Vancouver, Canada on 18 February 2012. The symposium, entitled The Global Plant Council: Bringing a Global Plant Science Perspective to Major Issues that Threaten Mankind aimed to highlight the five critical problems the world faces:

  • World Hunger
  • Health and Well-being
  • Climate Change
  • Energy and Biomaterials
  • Sustainability and Environmental Protection

These five global problems have been selected as priority problem statements that should be addressed by a Working Group under GPC, and each of them was highlighted by a speaker from the member organizations.

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Global warming is a challenge for both crops and farmers. From www.metrolic.com

Global climate changes are posing major challenges on future agricultural production. Annual temperatures are expected to increase by 2.5°C by the end of the century, and to make things worse the major part of this increase is going to hit the growing season. Add to this, that the weather is going to be more extreme with more frequent heat waves, longer periods of drought and more intense floods – and it seems obvious that not just our crops, but also the farmers, have to adapt to the new climatic reality very fast.

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MTT Agrifood Research Finland is a research centre operated by the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. From portal.mtt.fi

MTT Agrifood Research Finland – or simply MTT – is a governmental research institute under the Finnish Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry. With its headquarter in Jokioinen 100 km northwest of Helsinki and research groups spread around the country at 15 different locations, it employs approximately 750 people. Research activities cover all aspects of agriculture and forestry and are grouped into 8 thematic research programmes and 6 research areas covering key expertises:

Research programmes / Objectives

Research areas / Expertises   
Rural Future  
Tomorrow’s Farm Biotechnology and Food Research
Responsible Food Economy Animals
Well-being through Food Plants
From Fossils to Renewables Economics
Changing Climate and Agriculture Technology
Water-friendly Agriculture Environment
Sustainable Use of Genetic Resources  

As can be seen from the overview, plants make up just a small part of the research areas (marked in bold) but is integrated into most of the research programmes.

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Increased CO2 emissions and subsequent global warming is expected to cause more frequent episodes of drought in the US and many other parts of the world where maize is an important crop. Since drought is a primary limiting factor for maize yield, increases in atmospheric CO2 might lead to reductions in yield. But it turns out that the greenhouse gas to some extent actually counteracts the effects of drought and reduces the harmful effects of water stress. Richard Sicher and Jinyoung Barnaby from USDA in Beltsville, Maryland, USA tested the effect of ambient (38 Pa) and elevated (70 Pa) CO2 on maize subjected to drought 17 days after sowing. While drought altered the concentrations of 28 out of 33 tested metabolites and transcripts of 14 stress-related genes, the drought response was delayed by elevated CO2. Most of the responsive genes and metabolites were related to stress and overall the greenhouse gas delayed physiological drought responses by 2 days.

Read full article here: Sicher & Barnaby (March 2012) Physiologia Plantarum 144: 238

Many ferns disperse their spores by an extremely effective catapult structure, capable of ejecting them at a velocity of 10 meters per second into the wind and air current so they can be taken large distances. It has long been known that the catapults are let off when a row of about a dozen cells, the annulus, encapsulating the spores dries out and snaps forward. But the forward motion must be stopped abruptly in order to launch the spores. In a man-made catapult this is taken care of by a crossbar that stops the motion of the arm midway. How the ferns manage without such a crossbar has now been elucidated by Xavier Noblin and co-workers from Université de Nice Sophia Antipolis at Nice, France. It turns out that the movement causes water to flow in the annulus cell walls and this displacement induces strong viscous forces that brakes the forward motion. While the first inertial recoil of the annulus takes only a few microseconds, the poroelastic forces dissipate the energy in a matter of milliseconds. These two distinct time scales result in a sudden braking of the catapult midway in the snapping process, thus allowing the spores to be ejected.

Source: Noblin et al (16 March 2012) Science 335: 1322