SPPS Newsletter June 2012

Index of Issue III 2012

Typical scenery from Estonia, where the PhD conference takes place 12-15 September 2012. From www.phd-spps.com

We are happy to report that by the end of May, 77 participants from 18 countries have registered to the 7th SPPS PhD Student Conference. Registration is now closed for the conference that takes place 12-15 September 2012. We have many participants from the Scandinavian countries, especially from Denmark, but unfortunately none from Norway. In addition to Scandinavian countries we have participants from all over Europe.

Eight highly esteemed plant scientists from all over the world will attend the conference as invited speakers:

  • Abiotic stress responses session – Julian Schroeder
    University of California San Diego, USA
  • Applied plant biology session – Mark Tester
    University of Adelaide, Australia
  • Atmosphere-biosphere interactions session – Ülo Niinemets
    Estonian University of Life Sciences, Tartu, Estonia
  • Biotic stress responses session – Thorsten Nürnberger
    Universität Tübingen, Germany
  • Molecular signalling session – Silke Robatzek
    Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich, England
  • Photosynthesis session – Francesco Loreto
    Institute for Plant Protection (CNR-IPP), Firenze, Italy
  • Plant development session – Claudia Köhler
    SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences), Uppsala, Sweden
  • Plant ecophysiology session – David Ellsworth
    University of Western Sydney, Australia

In addition to the scientific sessions there will be two panel discussions. In the Life after a PhD session all the invited speakers will share their experience. In the How to get public session Audrie van Veen (expert in popularizing science) and Vaughan Hurry (editor in chief of Physiologia Plantarum) will share their expertise in popular and scientific publishing.

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The monetary SPPS Awards will be accompanied by a certificate. Modified from www-bcf.usc.edu by Gorm Palmgren

The Society invites all members to propose nominees for the four SPPS awards, that will be granted at the XXV SPPS Congress in Denmark next year. The SPPS awards are biannual and come in four flavors: the SPPS Early Career Award, the SPPS Award, the Physiologia Plantarum Award, and the SPPS Popularisation Prize. While the latter prize has been awarded since several years, the three other awards are new. You can read more about the criteria for being honored by each of the prizes below.

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Stomata nearly always make for a good shot! From www.sciencephoto.com

How would you like to help promote plant science with your photos? Or to have YOUR photo on the cover of Physiologia Plantarum? The SPPS Education Committee announces that we are organizing a photo competition, where the winning photo has the chance to be on the cover of Physiologia Plantarum. So do you have any extra photos over from your experimental plants? How about that great looking photomicrograph that didn’t get published? Or are you one of the many talented hobby photographers in the SPPS? Then we look forward to seeing your submission.

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The next SPPS Congress will be in Denmark in 2013. Graphic by Tom Hamborg Nielsen

The next SPPS Congress will be in Denmark in 2013. The meeting will be held at the beautiful venue of LO-skolen in Elsinore. LO-skolen, a medium size conference center (up to about 300 participants) is situated in beautiful green surroundings about 50 km north of Copenhagen, and with easy access and regular train connection directly to both central Copenhagen and Copenhagen airport. The meeting is scheduled to take place during 11th -15th August (week 33). So, put a mark in your calendar.

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The lady bug beetle, Rodolia cardinalis, has been used for more than 100 years to control scale insects. From cisr.ucr.edu

Biological control for the management of pests in agriculture has been practiced for centuries and probably dates back to ancient China. Defined as the use of natural enemies – insects, mites, parasites, pathogens or weeds – to reduce pest populations, biological control is widespread and continues to gain momentum both in the controlled environment of greenhouses and in the open field. Biological control can be viewed as an alternative to chemical pesticides and the two methods each have their benefits.

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The new Plant Science buildings are scheduled to be completed in 2015. From www.cpsc.ku.dk

Plant biology and plant biotechnology are top priorities at University of Copenhagen, but until now research in the area has been divided into two faculties (LIFE and SCIENCE) and four departments (Plant Biology and Biotechnology, Agriculture and Ecology, Forest & Landscape, and Biology) in buildings scattered around the city. Though each of the departments already have a very strong research profile, it was decided in 2010 to further strengthen the field by establishing a new unifying research centre, Copenhagen Plant Science Centre (CPSC). A number of brand new buildings are under construction to house the centre in 2015, but already from the end of 2012 the centre will be inaugurated by fusion of the partner’s activities.

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The chemical compound 2-methoxy-3-isobutylpyrazine (MIBP) is an important component in wine that adds a vegetal, bell pepper flavor and aroma with a very low sensory threshold. Since this contribution can be valued either positively or negatively depending on the particular wine, winemakers are interested in controlling the concentration of MIBP in the wine – and accordingly in the grapes, which is where it originates. MIBP has been found to be photolabile in the wine, but it has been unclear how sunlight affects MIBP concentration in grapes while growing on the field. Now research by Mark Matthews from University of California Davis, USA shows that the effect depends on the growing season. Their results indicate that the effect of sunlight on MIBP concentration in the harvested fruit is only important at an early stage even before the grapes start to ripen. This was observed both in natural fields during years with the appropriate weather conditions as well as in controlled environment experiments. The results might help winemakers to control quality by providing shade at the right time of the season.

Read full article here: Koch et al (June 2012) Physiologia Plantarum 145: 275

Transgenic crops producing the Bt (Bacillus thuringiensis) protein are less dependent on insecticide sprays, but new research shows that they might also reduce the need for insecticides on neighboring fields with conventional crops. This conclusion was reached by Kongming Wu from the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences in Beijing, China after 20 years of observations of the biodiversity in 36 Bt cotton fields in six provinces of Northern China. The study found a marked increase in the numbers of ladybirds, lacewings and spiders, that are natural enemies of cotton bollworm (Helicoverpa armigera) and several other pests, as well as a decreased abundance of aphids. While these results were obtained in the transgenic fields, similar observations were made in adjacent fields with non-transgenic maize, soybean and peanut crops. Taken together, the results suggest that Bt cotton promotes biological control in agricultural ecosystems because decreased insecticide use leads to an increase in predator populations that spill-over to the neighboring fields.

Source: Lu et al (13 June 2012) Nature doi:10.1038/nature11153

It is well known that meat from stressed cattle, pigs and poultry are tough to the palate but things are more complicated when it comes to grasshoppers. These insects get stressed by predator spiders and that leads to marked metabolic and chemical changes in their body composition like a higher carbon-to-nitrogen ratio. While this does not affect the rate by which they decompose after death it does, however, slow the decomposition of dead plant material by soil microbes and thereby affect the rate of nutrient cycling. This was found in a study where Dror Hawlena from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in Israel reared grasshoppers in the presence of frightening but harmless spiders that had their mouth parts glued together. After their death, the grasshoppers were allowed to decompose for 40 days before adding dead plant material to the soil. The conversion of organic carbon to inorganic carbon was subsequently measured by laser techniques. It turned out that carbon mineralization of the plant material was reduced by approximately 20% in samples with grasshoppers stressed by predators as compared to unstressed grasshoppers. The authors suggest that the lower protein content of stressed grasshoppers reduces the availability of nitrogen for microbes that need this element to produce extracellular enzymes for degradation of complex carbohydrates found in the plant material.

Source: Hawlena et al (15 June 2012) Science 336: 1434