Evidence on the origin of cassava: phylogeography of Manihot esculenta.
Cassava (Manihot esculenta subsp. esculenta) is a staple crop with great economic importance worldwide, yet its evolutionary and geographical origins have remained unresolved and controversial. We have investigated this crop's domestication in a phylogeographic study based on the single-copy nuclear gene glyceraldehyde 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G3pdh). The G3pdh locus provides high levels of noncoding sequence variation in cassava and its wild relatives, with 28 haplotypes identified among 212 individuals (424 alleles) examined. These data represent one of the first uses of a single-copy nuclear gene in a plant phylogeographic study and yield several important insights into cassava's evolutionary origin: (i) cassava was likely domesticated from wild M. esculenta populations along the southern border of the Amazon basin; (ii) the crop does not seem to be derived from several progenitor species, as previously proposed; and (iii) cassava does not share haplotypes with Manihot pruinosa, a closely related, potentially hybridizing species. These findings provide the clearest picture to date on cassava's origin. When considered in a genealogical context, relationships among the G3pdh haplotypes are incongruent with taxonomic boundaries, both within M. esculenta and at the interspecific level; this incongruence is probably a result of lineage sorting among these recently diverged taxa. Although phylogeographic studies in animals have provided many new evolutionary insights, application of phylogeography in plants has been hampered by difficulty in obtaining phylogenetically informative intraspecific variation. This study demonstrates that single-copy nuclear genes can provide a useful source of informative variation in plants. (+info)
Case study of the effects of atmospheric aerosols and regional haze on agriculture: an opportunity to enhance crop yields in China through emission controls?
The effect of atmospheric aerosols and regional haze from air pollution on the yields of rice and winter wheat grown in China is assessed. The assessment is based on estimates of aerosol optical depths over China, the effect of these optical depths on the solar irradiance reaching the earth's surface, and the response of rice and winter wheat grown in Nanjing to the change in solar irradiance. Two sets of aerosol optical depths are presented: one based on a coupled, regional climate/air quality model simulation and the other inferred from solar radiation measurements made over a 12-year period at meteorological stations in China. The model-estimated optical depths are significantly smaller than those derived from observations, perhaps because of errors in one or both sets of optical depths or because the data from the meteorological stations has been affected by local pollution. Radiative transfer calculations using the smaller, model-estimated aerosol optical depths indicate that the so-called "direct effect" of regional haze results in an approximately 5-30% reduction in the solar irradiance reaching some of China's most productive agricultural regions. Crop-response model simulations suggest an approximately 1:1 relationship between a percentage increase (decrease) in total surface solar irradiance and a percentage increase (decrease) in the yields of rice and wheat. Collectively, these calculations suggest that regional haze in China is currently depressing optimal yields of approximately 70% of the crops grown in China by at least 5-30%. Reducing the severity of regional haze in China through air pollution control could potentially result in a significant increase in crop yields and help the nation meet its growing food demands in the coming decades. (+info)
UK CropNet: a collection of databases and bioinformatics resources for crop plant genomics.
The UK Crop Plant Bioinformatics Network (UK CropNet) was established in 1996 in order to harness the extensive work in genome mapping in crop plants in the UK. Since this date we have published five databases from our central UK CropNet WWW site (http://synteny.nott.ac.uk/) with a further three to follow shortly. Our resource facilitates the identification and manipulation of agronomically important genes by laying a foundation for comparative analysis among crop plants and model species. In addition, we have developed a number of software tools that facilitate the visualisation and analysis of our data. Many of our tools are made freely available for use with both crop plant data and with data from other species. (+info)
Engineering the provitamin A (beta-carotene) biosynthetic pathway into (carotenoid-free) rice endosperm.
Rice (Oryza sativa), a major staple food, is usually milled to remove the oil-rich aleurone layer that turns rancid upon storage, especially in tropical areas. The remaining edible part of rice grains, the endosperm, lacks several essential nutrients, such as provitamin A. Thus, predominant rice consumption promotes vitamin A deficiency, a serious public health problem in at least 26 countries, including highly populated areas of Asia, Africa, and Latin America. Recombinant DNA technology was used to improve its nutritional value in this respect. A combination of transgenes enabled biosynthesis of provitamin A in the endosperm. (+info)
The next target of bioterrorism: your food.
One of the many forms that biological warfare may take is the targeting of major food crops. In a poor country where millions of citizens depend on staple crops such as rice, an act of bioterrorism that destroys the crop would create a famine, resulting not only in malnutrition and starvation but also in reduced immune resistance to a range of common illnesses. To reduce the potential of deliberate introductions of crop pathogens as acts of terrorism, researchers must be able to "fingerprint" pathogens at the molecular level and discriminate between naturally occurring and deliberately introduced outbreaks. Several domestic and international surveillance, tracking, and reporting efforts are under way. (+info)
Crop biotechnology. Where now?
Nature Biotechnology organized a conference in London on Agobiotech 99: Biotechnology and World Agriculture (November 14-16, 1999). The conference focused entirely on crop biotechnology and covered both societal and scientific aspects. Below is an account of the more important issues raised by the speakers and the audience. (+info)
A new chlorinated red naphthoquinone from roots of Sesamum indicum.
A new chlorinated red naphthoquinone pigment having antifungal activity, named chlorosesamone, was isolated from the roots of Sesamum indicum. Its structure was characterized as 2-chloro-5,8-dihydroxy-3-(3methyl-2-butenyl)- 1,4-na phthoquinone on the basis of spectral evidence. (+info)
Museum specimen data predict crop damage by tropical rodents.
Museum collections constitute a massive store of information on biological diversity. We used museum specimen data to generate ecological niche models that provide predictions of geographic distributions of native rodent pest species and agricultural census data that summarize the geographic distribution of nine crops in the state of Veracruz, Mexico, as well as crop losses between planting and harvest. Herein, we show that crop damage is related significantly to the predicted presence of rodent species for seven of nine crops. Museum collections may thus provide important baseline information for designing land-use and agricultural pest-management programs. (+info)