Monday, April 23, 2012

Plant power, 19 May at the Botanic Garden

To kill and to cure, to make and to mend, to bewitch and beware, discover
The Power of Plants
as the Botanic Garden hosts first Fascination of Plants Day on
Saturday 19 May 2012

Plants have a unique talent: the ability to gather energy from the sun’s rays travelling through space to synthesise their own food. This is the foundation of all other life on earth, from the oxygen in our lungs to the medicines that keep us healthy. They’re also some of the most stunning organisms on the planet, and the most varied, adapted to every ecological niche across every continent.

On Saturday 19 May, plant scientists, biochemists, horticulturists and representatives from the plant science industries will gather at the Botanic Garden to share with visitors the power of plants for the first international Fascination of Plants Day. Demonstrations and activities will run from 10.30am: science experiments will include balloons inflated by gases released by fermenting plants, children can dress up as bees to collect nectar from giant flowers to learn about pollination and there’ll be quizzes to match the product to the plant. Plus the chance to test a laser remote sensing system – the latest tool in forest conservation.

The living world is a rich source of chemicals with many medicines, dyes, flavourings and foodstuffs having their origins in compounds produced by plants. Ampika Ltd, an ethical enterprise spinout of the University of Cambridge, will be bringing a display about medicinal plants, including a new anaesthetic gel derived from a plant found in the Peruvian rainforest, which is currently under trial as a pain-relief treatment for toothache. The Botanic Garden and Cambridge Crystallographic Data Centre will also be launching a new Chemicals in Plants trail that identifies some of the poisonous, beneficial (and occasionally both!) chemicals produced by plants.

Launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation, the Fascination of Plants Day held at the Botanic Garden on 19 May will be a day of interactive plant fun and demos that will also highlight the critical role plant science plays in the social, environmental and economic landscape now and into the future. The event is co-organised by the Cambridge Partnership for Plant Science, a consortium that connects cutting-edge research undertaken in the region with the business community that develops plants for application in food, energy and other material uses.

More information

Monday, April 16, 2012

Plant genetics and opportunities in agriculture

David Baulcombe and Andrew Burgess discuss plant genetics and opportunities in agriculture in a Youtube video:

View the video

Seed size is controlled by maternally produced small RNAs, scientists find

Z. Jeff Chen, the D.J. Sibley Centennial Professor in Plant Molecular Genetics at The University of Texas at Austin and his colleagues, including David Baulcombe at the University of Cambridge, provide the first genetic evidence that seed development is controlled by maternally inherited "small interfering RNAs," or siRNAs.


Read the publication.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Lighting up plant cells to engineer biology

Jim Haseloff's lab have developed a new technique for measuring and mapping gene and cell activity through fluorescence in living plant tissue.