How Plant Cells Build The Wall

By Ann Filmer

Animations and models of plant cell division are part of a new project investigating how plant cells form their distinctive walls.

Cell division is a fundamental aspect of life. Without cell division, living organisms do not grow. The last step of cell division, also called cytokinesis, is uniquely different in plants from that in animals and fungi due to the presence of cell walls in plants.

This 4D time sequence imaging from Georgia Drakakaki’s lab at UC Davis shows how new plant cell walls form between divided plant cells. Green, vesicles forming cell wall and red, cell membranes.

New Technology Targets Citrus Greening Disease

By Ann Filmer

Louise Ferguson, a Cooperative Extension Specialist in the Department of Plant Sciences at UC Davis and with UC Cooperative Extension, is co-principal investigator in a new $3.4 million project funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture, “Development of an automated delivery system for therapeutic materials to treat HLB-infected citrus.”

The four-year project is based at University of Florida, with collaborators at UC Davis/UC Cooperative Extension and Texas A&M University. The researchers are developing a new automated technology to deliver bactericides into the vascular system of citrus trees through numerous tiny punctures in the tree trunk and scaffold branches. The bactericides will then be transported through the tree’s hydraulic conducting system.

Grant to Improve Poultry Production Worldwide

USAID awards second phase of funding to Genomics to Improve Poultry Innovation Lab 

By Diane Nelson

Throughout Africa, chickens are vital to family nourishment, income and food security. But African poultry production is threatened by an extremely virulent Newcastle disease virus that can decimate entire flocks within days.

UC Davis Animal Science Professor Huaijun Zhou with white leghorn chickens at a UC Davis facility. Zhou uses genetic and genomic techniques to breed chickens that are more resistant to disease and heat stress for developing world farmers. (Gregory Urquiaga)

Podcast: Wine Country Wildfires Leave Questions for Vintners

Seeking Solutions to Smoke Taint in Wine

By Amy Quinton

A year ago this week, a series of fires broke out in Napa, Sonoma, and Mendocino counties. The area is one of California’s best-known wine growing regions. While 90 percent of the grapes in Napa County had been harvested, a few vineyards still had grapes on the vine, including at the University of California, Davis’s experimental station in Oakville.

Anita Oberholster

UC Davis Extension Specialist Anita Oberholster is looking at the effects of wildfire smoke on wine grapes and whether “smoke taint” can be mitigated. (Joe Proudman/UC Davis)

Agricultural Index Insurance Pairs Economics, Natural Sciences For Climate Resilience in East Africa

By Alex Russell

For poor and subsistence farmers in developing countries, a severe drought, flood or other catastrophe can cost them everything. In response to these kinds of climate-related risks, farmers often choose to minimize their exposure to loss. They might avoid higher-cost improved seeds that promise bigger harvests or riskier but profitable cash crops. Both of these strategies can keep them poor.

Maize farmers in Tanzania. Agricultural index insurance could help small farmers like these invest in higher-value crops and increase their income.

Newly Discovered Enzyme is “Firing Pin” for Plant Immunity

SIK1 Gene Opens Possibilities for Treating Disease, Breeding Resistant Crops

Just like humans, plants have an immune system that helps them fight off infections. Plant immunity has some important differences: they don’t make antibodies and can’t fight off the same bug more quickly months or years later. However, plant cells can identify pathogens and react to them, often by producing a burst of reactive oxygen which is toxic to bacteria or fungi. Cells around an infected site will go into programmed cell death to seal off the disease.

Shedding Light on the Energy-Efficiency of Photosynthesis

By Amy Quinton

Photosynthesis is one of the most crucial life processes on earth. It’s how plants get their food, using energy from sunlight to convert water and carbon dioxide from the air into sugars. It’s long been thought that more than 30 percent of the energy produced during photosynthesis is wasted in a process called photorespiration.

A new study led by researchers at the University of California, Davis, suggests that photorespiration wastes little energy and instead enhances nitrate assimilation, the process that converts nitrate absorbed from the soil into protein.

Study shows plants may not lose energy during photosynthesis. (Getty Images)

Could Prison Studies End the Salt Wars?

Medical research studies involving prison inmates have a bad reputation, but now a group of nutrition researchers proposes to use prisoners to answer a long running question in nutrition: what is the connection between salt intake and health? They recently published their proposal in the journal Hypertension, reported by Gina Kolata in the New York Times.

Arguments over the role of dietary salt in heart health — the “Salt Wars” — have been raging for years. David McCarron, a nephrologist and former research affiliate with UC Davis’s Department of Nutrition is a prominent “Salt Skeptic,” arguing that Americans eat about the same amount of salt now as 40 years ago, and that salt intake in humans is regulated by the brain, not by how much is added to food.

Data Dump: 11,000 Donate Stool Samples to Gut Microbiome Project

By Greg Watry

The American Gut Project has just produced the largest study yet of microbial diversity in human poop. With “contributions” from more than 11,000 citizen scientists, the team led by researchers at UC San Diego has compiled a public reference database on the human gut microbiome, published May 15 in the journal mSystems. The study is a step forward in understanding how factors such as diet, antibiotics and mental health relate to the microbes living in the human gut.

Engineered Yeast Makes Hoppy Flavors

Can you brew a hoppy beer without hops? Beer purists might regard the idea with suspicion, but researchers at UC Berkeley, with some help from UC Davis’ “Pope of Foam,” have shown that you can brew a tasty hoppy beer using gene-edited yeast to replace hop flavors.

According to Charles Denby, a former postdoctoral researcher at UC Berkeley, growing hops uses a lot of water – 50 pints of water to grow enough hops (the crumbly flowers of the hop vine) for a pint of craft beer.