This is part of our new weekly plant news roundup, brought to you thanks to our partners at Earth.com.
A report from Harvard has found that climate change may have been part of the reason that corn in the midwestern U.S. is doing so well. Prior to this research, we’d always assumed that the 5x increase in midwestern corn production was due to technological advances.
In fact, a longer growing season thanks to climate change (paired with cool nights) may be a major contributor. But these trends may be reversed as climate change progresses.
Scientists are continually coming up with new ways to power the world. Manu Mannoor and Sudeep Joshi of the Stevens Institute of Technology have combined nanotechnology, cyanobacteria, and fungi to create mushrooms that are capable of producing tiny amounts of electricity.
The mushrooms essentially served as a place for the cyanobacteria to live while “electric ink” embedded in the cyanobacteria produced electricity. The regular button mushrooms can’t even light up an LED yet, but lead scientist Manu Manoor said on Stevens Institue of Technology website, “With this work, we can imagine enormous opportunities for next-generation bio-hybrid applications. For example, some bacteria can glow, while others sense toxins or produce fuel. By seamlessly integrating these microbes with nanomaterials, we could potentially realize many other amazing designer bio-hybrids for the environment, defense, healthcare and many other fields.”
Researchers from Pennsylvania State University recently published a study on how heat can impact the cells of rice. After subjecting young rice plants to very hot temperatures, they found that the RNA within those plants cells had re-folded. RNA is the single-stranded partner of DNA. Because RNA is just single-stranded, it’s able to fold in on itself much more completely than DNA.
The researchers hope that these insights into how plants deal with heat could help us create heat- or drought-resistant plants, which may be necessary as climate change worsens.
Folk medicine suggested that ferns were used as medicine to treat various ailments across Europe. Up until this week, we didn’t have any evidence of a person who had actually used ferns to treat anything – just books suggesting that it was done. But researchers this week discovered fern spores in the teeth of hundreds-years-old skeleton.
The body of a man who died in his twenties in the 9th century found evidence that he’d eaten cereal grains and ferns. There’s no evidence that ferns were part of this man’s regular diet, but ferns have been suggested as cures for colds, dandruff, and kidney stones.