SPPS Newsletter June 2014

Index of Issue II 2014

The 8th SPPS PhD Conference will take place in beautiful Uppsala. From phd2014.spps.fi

The organization committee of the conference, which will take place in Uppsala, Sweden, from 16th to 19th June 2014 is currently finishing the last organizational details in hope to provide everyone a unique and memorable conference! We will have around 90 participants, coming mostly from Europe and including 8 distinguished invited speakers. The conference will cover a broad range of topics in Plant Biology and hopefully encourage communication and exchange between the participants.

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Boats on Saltsjön in Stockholm. Photo by Erik G Svensson

Mark August 9-13, 2015 in your calendar for the 26th Congress of SPPS in Stockholm, Sweden that we have dubbed Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015! The Congress will offer an interesting program in a beautiful setting. The scientific program covers the major areas of experimental plant biology. The program also contains a session on science outreach and plant biology education and there will be attractive excursions and visits. The Congress venue is the magnificent Aula Magna at Stockholm University. Read more at the Congress website.

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66 years of SPPS history have now been documented in a book. From the cover of SPPS history book

In 2008, the SPPS Council decided to start a project to document the history of SPPS since its foundation in 1947. A documentation of the history of SPPS is seen as valuable to evaluate the role of SPPS for plant science in the Nordic Countries and it will be important in order to develop SPPS in the future and present the Society for present and new members. It started as a project to fill up gaps in the archives, which were not complete and developed into a project to produce a history booklet, preliminary planned for the Society’s 65th anniversary in 2012. Information was collected from documents present in the SPPS archives and from Physiologia Plantarum and other published sources. The Lund University library has been a valuable source of old material as it contains Physiologia Plantarum archives starting from 1947.

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What questions in plant science do you think can positively impact our society? Photo contributed by Jodi Maple Grødem

As the SPPS Education committee prepares for the Science Communication Workshop at The 8th Scandinavian Plant Physiology Society PhD Students Conference in Uppsala this June, it has got us thinking about the best ways to communicate plant science and research. Plant science has never been more important. In the coming decade, basic and applied plant research will play a key role in addressing the grand challenges facing our planet, including the production of safe and abundant food, health, biofuel and environmental sustainability.

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Vegetarians often praise their colourful diets – and for good reasons. Photo (and recipe) by Laura Palmgren Poulsen, instagram.com/laurapalmgren

Vegetarians and vegans alike often claim that their diets are superior to meat lovers’ – not only in terms of health and longevity, but also seen from an ethical and environmental point of view. Some of us might have grown a little tired of their self appraisal, and maybe for a good reason: they are basically right! A wealth of scientific evidence from numerous studies now support the health benefits of a vegetarian diet and its reduced environmental impact. But don’t let your desire for a juice steak weigh you down with guilt, because a little meat actually harms your body much less than vegetarians harm a carrot when they slice it.

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Dressing up nicely at the Plant Stress Group. From www.helsinki.fi

University of Helsinki has a strong presence in plant biology with more than 70 students, researchers, technicians etc working in the division called Plant Biology. The division is organized within the Department of Biosciences and is located in the Viikki Biocenter that offers exceptional research facilities. Plant Biology is divided into approximately 16 research groups, covering many aspects but with a general emphasis on stress signaling and ecophysiology. The group we will focus on in this overview is the Plant Stress Group headed by Jaakko Kangasjärvi. Jaakko Kangasjärvi graduated in plant physiology from University of Minnesota and after a number of positions at several Finnish universities, he was appointed professor at the University of Helsinki in 2003. Moreover, he enjoys the position as President of SPPS after he was elected at the society’s general assembly in Tampere, Finland i 2008.

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Secondary growth of the tiny hypocotyl of Arabidopsis thaliana bears resemblance to massive trunks of trees and this makes the small plant a convient model for its larger counterparts. Moreover, the hypocotyl has very little elongation growth that can obscur observations on secondary growth. These are some of the conclusions drawn by Laura Ragni and Christian S. Hardtke from University of Lausanne, Switzerland in this minireview. They go on by describing how peptides, receptors, transcription factors, hormones and factors that control radial growth have been identified by various genetic approaches. These include the well known CLAVATA3 peptide that regulates stem cell homeostasis through WUSCHEL expression as well as the more recent finding that ethylene plays a key role in regulating secondary growth in both Arabidopsis and Populus. The authors suggest that the Arabidopsis hypocotyl can serve as a robust model system for studying natural variation since the observations can more easily be normalized for developmental stage rather than age.

Read full article here: Ragni and Hardtke (June 2014) Physiologia Plantarum 151: 164

Thanks to hard work of Alexander Myburg at University of Pretoria, South Africa and several colleagues in many other countries, the complete genome of Eucalyptus grandis has now been sequenced. Eucalyptus is the world’s most widely planted hardwood tree thanks to its ability to adapt well to different environments, grow quickly and provide renewable sources of materials, such as pulp, paper and biofuels. Sequencing, assembly and analysis of the genome revealed 36,376 protein-coding genes with the greatest number of tandem duplications ever seen. The researchers believe that the duplications have prioritized specific genes for wood formation, suggesting an explanation for the high woody biomass produced by these trees. Eucalyptus also breaks the record for diversity of genes for specialized metabolites such as terpenes. This might explain the wide range of essential oils having medicinal and industrial uses, including the commercially valuable eucalyptus oil, that are produced by Eucalyptus.

Source: Myburg et al (11 June 2014) Nature doi:10.1038/nature13308

A 12 year long Finnish field study suggest that isolated populations are more prone to disease than highly connected populations. Anna-Liisa Laine from Helsinki University and colleagues studied the relationsship between the weed Plantago lanceolata and one of its fungal pathogens, Podosphaera plantaginis (powdery mildew), in over 4,000 populations on the archipelago Åland in the Baltic Sea. The relationship typically involves cycles of fungal extinction and subsequent recolonization, but the scientists found that larger populations of the host experienced higher pathogen extinction rates and less pathogen colonization than expected. This might seem counterintuitive since it is generally believed that a disease can spread more easily in dense populations. The reason behind the observation is apparently that the highly connected host populations can exchange more genes – including resistance genes – and thereby build up resistance. The resistance helps the plants to both avoid infection and also to kill the pathogen should it succeed to infect.

Source: Jousimo et al (13 June 2014) Science 344: 1289