SPPS Newsletter October 2014

Index of Issue III 2014

Click here to download the folder about the First SPPS Early Career PI meeting. Photo © Ilkka Jaakola

The organizing committee welcomes Early Career Principal Investigators to join the First SPPS Early Career PI meeting. It will be held 25-26.11.2014 in Naantali, Finland! The registration deadline is already at 10.10.2014, so please don’t hesitate to register.

With this new initiative, we aim to tighten the collaboration among “next generation” scientists working on photoautotrophic organisms in Scandinavia. While promoting scientific excellence, this is expected to improve the competitiveness of Nordic plant scientists in the tightening competition for Scandinavian and European research funding in the future. All Early Career PIs who are members of SPPS, or work in the Nordic countries, are warmly invited to register to the meeting. Not sure if you are an Early Career Stage PI? Please see plantworld.fi/ECPI2014 for more information.

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The winners of the SPPS Awards in 2013. From top to bottom, left to right: Teemu H. Teeri, Peter Brodersen, Eva-Mari Aro and Charles L. Guy. Modified from www.spps.fi by Gorm Palmgren

The call for nominations for the biannual SPPS awards are now open. We welcome all members to propose a candidate for any of the four awards: the SPPS Early Career Award, the SPPS Award, the Physiologia Plantarum Award, and the SPPS Popularisation Prize. You can read more about the criteria for being honored by each of the prizes below. Please remember that the proposed candidate does not have to be a member of SPPS. However, you must yourself be a member of SPPS in order to propose a candidate. The formal procedure for proposing a candidate is to send a Recommendation Letter together with the nominee’s Curriculum Vitae to SPPS at spps@helsinki.fi before 31 October 2014.

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From the panel discussion 1: Communicating science. From www.facebook.com/SPPSEducation

Summer has passed and so has the 8th SPPS PhD Students Conference in Uppsala! We, the organizing committee, are very happy with how the conference went. We were pleased not only with the scientific quality of all the presentations, but also with the good atmosphere and the exchanges made during the social programs. We are very thankful for all of you who participated in the conference and made it so enjoyable!

We had the pleasure to welcome approximately 100 participants from 12 countries, of which 8 invited speakers had high expertise in their own field. Furthermore, all PhD students contributed to the conference, either by giving a talk or presenting a poster. For many it was their first participation in a conference, however, the relaxed atmosphere allowed for many interesting debates and gave the students an opportunity to mingle and discuss with the top scientists in their field. Besides the 8 main sessions we also had two panel discussions, which were very lively and gave rise to many interesting discussions of different topics, such as science communication.

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The 26th Congress of SPPS has been dubbed Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015. From spps2015.org

As you are probably aware of already, the 26th Congress of SPPS – Plant Biology Scandinavia 2015 – will take place August 9-13, 2015 in Stockholm, Sweden. The scientific program covers 8 major areas of experimental plant biology and 15 internationally acknowledged keynote speakers have been confirmed. Through the next year, SPPS Newsletter will make a short presentation of these keynote speakers and their research. In this issue, we kick the series off by presenting the speakers behind the two first sessions of the Congress.

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Panagiotis Moschou won the FESPB Award after being proposed by SPPS. Photo courtesy of Panagiotis Moschou

It was a wish coming true for Panagiotis Moschou when he on 8 April 2014 received the information that he had won the FESPB Award given to young scientists under the age of 35. He already knew that Anna Kärkönen on behalf of SPPS had proposed him as a candidate for the prestigious prize, but it was a great personal achievement that he has aspired to since he was a PhD student at University of Crete in Greece. Panagiotis Moschou got his degree in 2009 and after finishing his military service, he started looking for labs that could fulfill his interest in programmed cell death. The choice fell on Peter Bozhkov’s group at SLU (Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences) in Uppsala, Sweden who encouraged the young scientist to start right away. The cooperation has been very fruitful and at an age of only 31, he has already published more than 20 peer reviewed articles in prestigious journals like Plant Cell, Plant Journal and – of course – Physiologia Plantarum.

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Education corner organized a session on “How to Communicate Science” at the recent SPPS PhD Student Conference. Drawing contributed by Jodi Maple Grødem

The 8th SPPS PhD Conference took place in Uppsala Sweden this past June, and the education committee participated in this well organized conference. We are happy to report here on several successful events related to our mission of promoting plant science and education. The Education Committee organized a workshop on How to Communicate Science that was well attended, especially considering the busy schedule of the congress. Education committee chairperson Jodi Maple-Grødem led this workshop that gave practical advice to young scientists on how to engage the public though social media and other outlets, to promote understanding of their scientific work.

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Russia invests far less in R&D compared to other countries. From www.nature.com

In this instance of Scandinavian research institute: we will go a little beyond Scandinavia and visit Moscow, the capital of Russia. Science in Russia has faced some serious challenges from around the breakdown of the Soviet Union in 1991 and the crisis that followed. This led to drastic reductions in research budgets and the emigration of numerous scientists and students to Europe and USA. During the economic growth of the 2000s, state funding gradually increased and the situation has improved somewhat. A new €240 million initiative to further strengthen Russian science was introduced in 2011 under the name ‘megagrants’. The megagrants aim at getting emigrated scientists back to Russia – at least part time and for a period – by offering them €3 million to personally lead a research laboratory in Russia for a period of not less than four months per year over two years.

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Plants have numerous signaling pathways involved in defense responses and one of them is mediated by oxylipins, lipid-derived signaling molecules including jasmonic acid. Regulation of the genes encoding enzymes involved in the biosynthesis of these compounds are consequently important for plant defense responses. Now, Yonggen Lou and colleagues from Zhejiang University in China has studied one of them in detail, namely the chloroplast-localized Osr9-LOX1 from rice. They found that antisense expression of the gene led to a decrease in wound-induced compounds but an increase in herbivory-induced compounds, the combination of which was associated with increased resistance to the chewing larvae of striped stem borer (Chilo suppressalis). On the other hand, these plants were more susceptible to the sap-sucking brown planthopper (Nilaparvata lugens). The authors suggest that Osr9-LOX1 may play a central role in regulating the cross-talk between jasmonic acid and salicylic acid and thereby directing resistance to either chewing or sucking herbivores in rice.

Read full article here: Zhou et al (September 2014) Physiologia Plantarum 152: 59

Chinese researchers have suggested a new set of integrated soil-crop system management (ISSM) practices for rice, wheat and maize that can increase yield by 18-35% without any increase in nitrogen fertilizer. While global food demand is expected to double by 2050, growth of grain yield has actually slowed since the 1980s. This is an alarming situation but in the new study Fusuo Zhang from China Agricultural University in Beijing, China suggests that the demand for both human consumption and animal feed can be met, if farmers can achieve 80% of the goals for the ISSM model by 2030. The model aims to adapt cropping systems to local conditions through optimized nutrient application, seasonal timing and use of selected crop varieties, in order to maximize yield and minimize environmental impact. Simulations showed that the system increased average yields while at the same time kept nitrogen fertilization constant and substantially reduced greenhouse gas emissions. Even though the ISSM approach has been developed for China, the authors believe it can be applied elsewhere as it is agronomically robust and relatively easy and inexpensive to adopt.

Source: Chen et al (3 September 2014) Nature doi:10.1038/nature13609

Over 16,000 genes blend perfectly every day to become more than 2 billion cups of coffee. Probably more than any other drink, coffee has delighted people all over the world for centuries for its taste and refreshing properties. But until now, when a French and American led consortium of international scientists managed to sequence the full genome, scientists had little clue to what exactly makes coffee so special. The main conclusion they draw is that the coffee plant (Coffea canephora) did not inherit its caffeine-related genes from a common ancestor like tea or cocoa, but instead developed its own set of genes. The study also revealed that in comparison to other tasteful crops, coffee has much larger families of genes relating to alkaloid and flavonoid compounds which contribute to aroma and bitterness of the beans. This has apparently happened by selective duplication of gene families instead of duplication of the full genome as seen in many other species. The authors suggest that caffeine must play an important role in nature since the genes to synthesize it has developed at least twice.

Source: Denoeud et al (5 September 2014) Science 345: 1181