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    Unravelling the impact of soil types on zinc, iron, and selenium concentrations in grains and straw of wheat/Amblyopyrum muticum and wheat/Triticum urartu doubled haploid lines

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    The concentration of mineral nutrients in plants is associated with bioavailabilities of soil mineral nutrients, which are regulated by various soil physio-chemical properties. A pot experiment was conducted to investigate the effects of soil type on grain and straw zinc (Zn), iron (Fe) and selenium (Se) concentrations of wheat/Amblyopyrum muticum and wheat/Triticum urartu doubled haploid lines. A set of 42 treatments in a factorial combination with 21 genotypes and two soil types collected from Ngabu and Chitedze Research Stations in Malawi was laid in a randomised complete block design (RCBD) in three replicates. Pre-experiment soil Zn and Fe were extracted using DTPA extraction method followed by analysis with inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry (ICP-MS). Aqua-regia hotplate acid digestion was used to extract soil Se and analysis was done using ICPM-MS. Grain and straw samples were digested using nitric acid digestion (HNO3) and analysed using ICP-MS. Soil analysis results showed that the two soils had the same textural class (Sandy clay loam), but different mineral concentrations, pH levels and percentage organic matter. Analysis of variance revealed a ~two-fold higher Zn concentration in grains grown in low pH, high Zn soils (Chitedze soils) compared to grains grown in high pH, low Zn soils (Ngabu soils). Variation in grain Zn concentration was associated with the genotypes (p = 0002), soil type (p = <0.0001), and their interaction (p = 0.035). Grain Fe was 1.3-fold higher in low pH than in high pH soils, and it was influenced by genotypes (p = < 0.0001) and soil type (p = <0.0001). Grain Se was highly associated with soil type (p = <0.0001), and it was 30-fold higher in high pH than in low pH soils. Straw Zn was generally higher in plants grown in Chitedze soils than Ngabu soils, whilst straw Se was higher in plants grown in Ngabu soils than Chitedze soils. The findings demonstrate the significance of soil physio-chemical properties for mineral accumulation and distribution to plant parts, thus informing future breeding programs on importantconsiderations on crop genetic biofortification with the three mineral element

    Identification and functional characterisation of a locus for target site integration in Fusarium graminearum

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    Background Fusarium Head Blight (FHB) is a destructive floral disease of different cereal crops. The Ascomycete fungus Fusarium graminearum (Fg) is one of the main causal agents of FHB in wheat and barley. The role(s) in virulence of Fg genes include genetic studies that involve the transformation of the fungus with different expression cassettes. We have observed in several studies where Fg genes functions were characterised that integration of expression cassettes occurred randomly. Random insertion of a cassette may disrupt gene expression and/or protein functions and hence the overall conclusion of the study. Target site integration (TSI) is an approach that consists of identifying a chromosomal region where the cassette can be inserted. The identification of a suitable locus for TSI in Fg would avert the potential risks of ectopic integration. Results Here, we identified a highly conserved intergenic region on chromosome 1 suitable for TSI. We named this intergenic region TSI locus 1. We developed an efficient cloning vector system based on the Golden Gate method to clone different expression cassettes for use in combination with TSI locus 1. We present evidence that integrations in the TSI locus 1 affects neither fungal virulence nor fungal growth under different stress conditions. Integrations at the TSI locus 1 resulted in the expression of different gene fusions. In addition, the activities of Fg native promoters were not altered by integration into the TSI locus 1. We have developed a bespoke bioinformatic pipeline to analyse the existence of ectopic integrations, cassette truncations and tandem insertions of the cassette that may occurred during the transformation process. Finally, we established a protocol to study protein secretion in wheat coleoptiles using confocal microscopy and the TSI locus 1. Conclusion The TSI locus 1 can be used in Fg and potentially other cereal infecting Fusarium species for diverse studies including promoter activity analysis, protein secretion, protein localisation studies and gene complementation. The bespoke bioinformatic pipeline developed in this work together with PCR amplification of the insert could be an alternative to Southern blotting, the gold standard technique used to identify ectopic integrations, cassette truncations and tandem insertions in fungal transformation

    The Functional Diversity of the High-Affinity Nitrate Transporter Gene Family in Hexaploid Wheat: Insights from Distinct Expression Profiles

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    High-affinity nitrate transporters (NRT) are key components for nitrogen (N) acquisition and distribution within plants. However, insights on these transporters in wheat are scarce. This study presents a comprehensive analysis of the NRT2 and NRT3 gene families, where the aim is to shed light on their functionality and to evaluate their responses to N availability. A total of 53 NRT2s and 11 NRT3s were identified in the bread wheat genome, and these were grouped into different clades and homoeologous subgroups. The transcriptional dynamics of the identified NRT2 and NRT3 genes, in response to N starvation and nitrate resupply, were examined by RT-qPCR in the roots and shoots of hydroponically grown wheat plants through a time course experiment. Additionally, the spatial expression patterns of these genes were explored within the plant. The NRT2s of clade 1, TaNRT2.1-2.6, showed a root-specific expression and significant upregulation in response to N starvation, thus emphasizing a role in N acquisition. However, most of the clade 2 NRT2s displayed reduced expression under N-starved conditions. Nitrate resupply after N starvation revealed rapid responsiveness in TaNRT2.1-2.6, while clade 2 genes exhibited gradual induction, primarily in the roots. TaNRT2.18 was highly expressed in above-ground tissues and exhibited distinct nitrate-related response patterns for roots and shoots. The TaNRT3 gene expression closely paralleled the profiles of TaNRT2.1-2.6 in response to nitrate induction. These findings enhance the understanding of NRT2 and NRT3 involvement in nitrogen uptake and utilization, and they could have practical implications for improving nitrogen use efficiency. The study also recommends a standardized nomenclature for wheat NRT2 genes, thereby addressing prior naming inconsistencies

    Mehlich 3 as an indicator of grain nutrient concentration for five crops in sub-Saharan Africa

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    Soil testing for available nutrients is an important tool to determine fertilizer rates, however many standard methods test the availability of a single nutrient only. In contrast, Mehlich 3 (M3) is a multi-element test for predicting crop yield responses to the addition of macro and micro-nutrients. However, the M3 test has rarely been validated against crop nutrient concentrations, which limits its application for dietary improvement studies in sub-Saharan Africa. This study used 1,096 paired soil and crop samples of five crop types: maize, rice, sorghum, teff and wheat, covering a broad range of soil types and soil properties in Ethiopia and Malawi (e.g., pH 4.5 - 8.8; Olsen P <1 - 280 ppm). The samples were selected based on “high” or “low” grain nutrient concentrations, and the respective soil available nutrients were measured with M3 and other extraction tests: CaCl2 (P, K, Mg, Mn), Ca(NO3)2 (K and Mg), Olsen P, sequential extraction (S), and DTPA (Mn, Fe and Zn). The primary objective was to test how well the M3 nutrient concentrations corresponded to grain nutrient concentrations. The M3 concentrations followed the trend of the “high” and “low” grain concentrations in nearly all nutrients and crops, and this was statistically significant in teff and wheat for all nutrients. The results were best for macronutrients, and slightly less good for micronutrients, probably partly because the concentration of micronutrients in the selected soil samples was generally quite low. Compared to the other multi-element extractant (CaCl2), the M3 test corresponded better to the grain concentrations of K and Mg, and equally well to Olsen P, sequential extraction (S), and DTPA predictions of P, S, Zn and Fe, respectively. M3 extracted much greater concentrations than the other tests, and this was more pronounced in alkaline soils. Given that the M3 test corresponded well to grain nutrient concentrations across a range of soils and crops in SSA, we conclude it could be regarded as a suitable universal test for many nutrients. We also defined thresholds for M3 values, defining below optimum, optimum and above optimum soil fertility status. These results validate the use of the M3 extractant to assess soil fertility and develop fertilizer recommendations for improved produce quality to enhance diets

    How much organic carbon could the soil store? The carbon sequestration potential of Australian soil

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    Soil is a huge carbon (C) reservoir, but where and how much extra C can be stored is unknown. Current methods to estimate the maximum amount of mineral-associated organic carbon (MAOC) stabilized in the fine fraction (clay + silt, <20μm) fit through the MAOC versus clay + silt relationship, not their maxima, making their estimates more uncertain and unreliable. We need a function that ‘envelopes’ that relationship. Here, using 5089 observations, we estimated that the uppermost 30 cm of Australian soil holds 13 Gt (10–18 Gt) of MAOC. We then fitted frontier lines, by soil type, to the relationship between MAOC and the percentage of clay + silt to estimate the maximum amounts of MAOC that Australian soils could store in their current environments, and calculated the MAOC deficit, or C sequestration potential. We propagated the uncertainties from the frontier line fitting and mapped the estimates of these values over Australia using machine learning and kriging with external drift. The maps show regions where the soil is more in MAOC deficit and has greater sequestration potential. The modelling shows that the variation over the whole continent is determined mainly by climate, linked to vegetation and soil mineralogy. We find that the MAOC deficit in Australian soil is 40 Gt (25–60 Gt). The deficit in the vast rangelands is 20.84 Gt (13.97–29.70 Gt) and the deficit in cropping soil is 1.63 Gt (1.12–2.32 Gt). Management could increase C sequestration in these regions if the climate allowed it. Our findings provide new information on the C sequestration potential of Australian soils and highlight priority regions for soil management. Australia could benefit environmentally, socially and economically by unlocking even a tiny portion of its soil's C sequestration potential

    Mapping the ratio of agricultural inputs to yields reveals areas with potentially less sustainable farming.

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    Fertilisers and pesticides are major sources of the environmental harm that results from farming, yet it remains difficult to target reductions in their impacts without compromising food production. We suggest that calculating the ratio of agrochemical inputs to yield can provide an indication of the potential sustainability of farmland, with those areas that have high input relative to yield being considered as less sustainable. Here we design an approach to characterise such Input to Yield Ratios (IYR) for four inputs that can be plausibly linked to environmental impacts: the cumulative risk resulting from pesticide exposure for honeybees and for earthworms, and the amount of nitrogen or phosphorus fertiliser applied per unit area. We capitalise on novel national-scale data to assess IYR for wheat farming across all of England. High-resolution spatial patterns of IYR differed among the four inputs, but hotspots, where all four IYRs were high, were in key agricultural regions not usually characterised as having low suitability for cropping. By scaling the magnitude of each input against crop yield, the IYR does not penalise areas of high yield with higher inputs (important for food production), or areas with low yields but which are achieved with low inputs (important as low impact areas). Instead, the IYR provides a globally applicable framework for evaluating the broad patterns of trade-offs between production and environmental risk, as an indicator of the potential for harm, over large scales. Its use can thus inform targeting to improve agricultural sustainability, or where one might switch to other land uses such as ecosystem restoration

    GWmodelS: a standalone software to train geographically weighted models

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    With the recent increase in studies on spatial heterogeneity, geographically weighted (GW) models have become an essential set of local techniques, attracting a wide range of users from different domains. In this study, we demonstrate a newly developed standalone GW software, GWmodelS using a community-level house price data set for Wuhan, China. In detail, a number of fundamental GW models are illustrated, including GW descriptive statistics, basic and multiscale GW regression, and GW principle component analysis. Additionally, functionality in spatial data management and batch mapping are presented as essential supplementary activities for GW modeling. The software provides significant advantages in terms of a user-friendly graphical user interface, operational efficiency, and accessibility, which facilitate its usage for users from a wide range of domains

    Acute imidacloprid exposure alters mitochondrial function in bumblebee flight muscle and brain - Correction / Corrigendum

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    This article is a correction to: Acute Imidacloprid Exposure Alters Mitochondrial Function in Bumblebee Flight Muscle and Brai

    Highlights in gibberellin research A tale of the dwarf and the slender

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    It has been almost a century since biologically active gibberellin (GA) was isolated. Here, we give a historical overview of the early efforts in establishing the GA biosynthesis and catabolism pathway, characterizing the enzymes for GA metabolism, and elucidating their corresponding genes. We then highlight more recent studies that have identified the GA receptors and early GA signaling components (DELLA repressors and F-box activators), determined the molecular mechanism of DELLA-mediated transcription reprograming, and revealed how DELLAs integrate multiple signaling pathways to regulate plant vegetative and reproductive development in response to internal and external cues. Finally, we discuss the GA transporters and their roles in GA-mediated plant development

    Acting pre‑emptively reduces the long‑term costs of managing herbicide resistance

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    Globally, pesticides improve crop yields but at great environmental cost, and their overuse has caused resistance. This incurs large financial and production losses but, despite this, very diversified farm management that might delay or prevent resistance is uncommon in intensive farming. We asked farmers to design more diversified cropping strategies aimed at controlling herbicide resistance, and estimated resulting weed densities, profits, and yields compared to prevailing practice. Where resistance is low, it is financially viable to diversify pre-emptively; however, once resistance is high, there are financial and production disincentives to adopting diverse rotations. It is therefore as important to manage resistance before it becomes widespread as it is to control it once present. The diverse rotations targeting high resistance used increased herbicide application frequency and volume, contributing to these rotations’ lack of financial viability, and raising concerns about glyphosate resistance. Governments should encourage adoption of diverse rotations in areas without resistance. Where resistance is present, governments may wish to incentivise crop diversification despite the drop in wheat production as it is likely to bring environmental co-benefits. Our research suggests we need long-term, proactive, food security planning and more integrated policy-making across farming, environment, and health arenas


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