Food, Agriculture and Plant Biology

Investigating the Molecular Defense Tactics of Plants

April 11, 2018
In a study appearing in Cell Host & Microbe, UC Davis graduate student Neeraj Lal, Professors Savithramma Dinesh-Kumar and Andrew J Fisher and their colleagues reveal the versatility of plants’ molecular defenses. The findings provide a strategic map revealing how plants allocate resources and have the potential to help bolster crop immune systems and improve their development and growth.

Harnessing Plant Microbiomes to Promote Agricultural Growth

February 28, 2018
In a paper appearing in PLOS Biology, Joseph Edwards, ’17 Ph.D. in Plant Biology, Professor Venkatesan Sundaresan, Departments of Plant Biology and Plant Sciences and their colleagues tracked root microbiome shifts throughout the life-cycle of rice (Oryza sativa). The research could help inform the design of agricultural probiotics by introducing age-appropriate microbes that promote traits like nutrient efficiency, strong roots and increased growth rates in rice plants.

ID of Pest Reproduction Pheromone May Help Fight Citrus Greening Disease

December 05, 2017
The Asian citrus psyllid, the most devastating threat to the worldwide citrus industry, may have met its match. In a ground-breaking discovery encompassing six years of research, an international team of scientists led by UC Davis chemical ecologist Walter Leal announced they've identified the sex pheromone of the pest, which feeds on citrus and transmits the bacteria that causes the deadly citrus greening disease known as Huanglongbing (HLB).

Can Diet Help Prevent or Postpone Cognitive Decline?

November 20, 2017
In a review article published in Nature: Science of Food, Professor Raymond Rodriguez and his colleagues explore the relationship between diet and brain health, proposing a framework to understand the body’s “food-brain axis,” the intersection of diet and the formation of new brain cells. Rodriguez’s aim is to provide researchers with a dietary roadmap to help prevent cognitive decline.

Photosynthesis Requires the Blue-Greens

November 13, 2017
How did plants develop photosynthesis? The story is really nothing more than a tale of biological thievery. Publishing in The Plant Cell, Lagarias and his colleagues found that a pigment called biliverdin is essential to light-induced chlorophyll production in the alga. This discovery is helping scientists understand why diverse algae retain these pigments, although many lack phytochromes.

Plant Genes May Lack Off Switch, But Have Volume Control

April 13, 2017
Professor Alan Rose has been working for over two decades to unravel a mechanism called “intron-mediated enhancement.” I’m a graduate student in Rose’s lab, and we made an exceptional discovery in an unexceptional plant called Arabidopsis thaliana, or thale cress. Arabidopsis is the lab mouse of the plant world. The Rose lab uses this small weed to answer questions about the biology of all plants. In a study recently published in the journal The Plant Cell, we show that genetic material known as introns can play very dramatic roles in plants.

How a Genetic Mutation From 1 Bull Caused the Loss of Half a Million Calves Worldwide

October 17, 2016
Pawnee Farm Arlinda Chief was one of the most prolific bulls in the history of Holstein cattle breeding — but he also introduced a lethal gene into the population, responsible for an estimated half million spontaneous abortions worldwide. Now researchers have identified the mutation responsible, enabling ranchers to test for and avoid it.