Plasma Dose Improves Agricultural Crop Harvests
News May 14, 2016
The ability to enhance the growth of crops and maximize their yields could transform food supplies for the future. Exposing seeds to ionizing radiation allows scientists to control the growth and development of plants, from the early stages through to harvest. There are different types of irradiation, including plasma irradiation – a technique that does not damage the plants but has been shown to increase seed germination rates and overall plant length.
Now, Kazunori Koga and co-workers at Kyushu University have demonstrated that the use of ‘non-thermal air plasma irradiation’ can dramatically improve the harvest of the salad crop Arabidopsis thaliana1. The team built a scalable device to generate the non-thermal plasma, and placed 20 A. thaliana seeds under the device before subjecting them to a three minute dose of plasma radiation.
The seeds were then planted and their growth and proliferation monitored and compared with a control group. The researchers found that the germination rate for the plasma seeds was almost a full day faster than the controls. The plasma plants reached maturity at 17.5 days, compared with 22 days for the control group. The seeds produced by the plasma group were larger, with a 39% overall increase in seed number.
The results represent an 11% shorter harvest period and a 56% increase in total seed weight; a significant improvement in crop yield. Koga’s team are hopeful their non-thermal plasma method represents an environmentally-friendly way of maximizing A. thaliana yields and potentially those of other crop types.
Giant Viruses Invent Their Own GenesNews
Three new members have been isolated and added to the Pandoravirus family. This strange family of viruses, with their giant genomes and many genes with no known equivalents, surprised scientists when they were discovered a few years ago. This new study notes that pandoraviruses appear to be factories for new genes – and therefore new functions.
Therapeutic CRISPR Could Be Cancer RiskNews
Therapeutic use of gene editing with the so-called CRISPR-Cas9 technique may inadvertently increase the risk of cancer, according to a new study. Researchers say that more studies are required in order to guarantee the safety of these ‘molecular scissors’ for gene-editing therapies.
Who Owns the Ocean? One Company Has Registered Half of All Marine Gene PatentsNews
A single corporation has registered nearly half of all existing patents associated with genes from marine organisms, according to a new study. Researchers from the University of British Columbia and the Stockholm Resilience Centre examined the patents associated with marine species and found that BASF, the world’s largest chemical manufacturer, has registered 47 per cent of the 12,998 genetic sequences from 862 marine species.