Tag Archives: botany

The mystery of leaf size solved

Why is a banana leaf a million times bigger than a common heather leaf? Why are leaves generally much larger in tropical jungles than in temperate forests and deserts? The textbooks say it’s a balance between water availability and overheating.

But it’s not that simple.

A global team of researchers, led by Associate Professor Ian Wright from Macquarie University, revealed that in much of the world the key limiting factor for leaf size is night temperature and the risk of frost damage to leaves.

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New chlorophyll a gateway to better crops

A chance finding has led to the first new chlorophyll discovered in 67 years, opening up possibilities for biofuel and food crops to use sunlight more efficiently.

2011 Life Scientist of the Year Min Chen. Credit: Prime Minister's Science Prizes/Bearcage
2011 Life Scientist of the Year Min Chen. Credit: Prime Minister’s Science Prizes/Bearcage

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Could we grow drugs using sunflowers?

Queensland researchers believe future cancer drugs could be grown in sunflowers and ultimately delivered as a seed ‘pill’.

They’re a long way from that outcome. But, as they reported to the XVIII International Botanical Congress in Melbourne earlier this year, they have already shown that sunflowers make a precursor to cancer drugs as part of their defence against insect attack.

The precursor, a small ring-like protein fragment known as SFTI, has already shown potential as a cancer treatment. Until now, however, it has been considered too expensive to produce by conventional means.
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Master switch turns plant sex life on and off

University of Melbourne researchers have isolated a genetic ‘switch’ that can be turned on or off to alter the development of sex cells in plants.

The discovery brings understanding of fertilisation in plants to a new level, and is an important step towards growing greater amounts of food through increased fertilisation of crop plants. Professors Mohan Singh and Prem Bhalla, who head the University’s Plant Molecular Biology and Biotechnology Laboratory in the Faculty of Land and Food Resources, analysed the genetic makeup of white lilies and other flowering plants to identify a germline-restrictive silencing factor (GRSF).

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Antarctica under threat

Climate change will impose a complex web of threats and interactions on the plants and animals living in the ice-free areas of Antarctica.

Increased temperatures may promote growth and reproduction, but may also contribute to drought and associated effects. These scenarios are explored in a new book, Trends in Antarctic Terrestrial and Limnetic Ecosystems: Antarctica as a Global Indicator, co-edited by Australian Antarctic Division biologist, Dr. Dana Bergstrom.

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