Department of
Plant Biology

Plant Biology News

Thawing permafrost is roiling the Arctic landscape

Thawing permafrost is roiling the Arctic landscape, driven by a hidden world of changes beneath the surface as the climate warms.

Across the Arctic, strange things are happening to the landscape.

Massive lakes, several square miles in size, have disappeared in the span of a few days. Hillsides slump. Ice-rich ground collapses, leaving the landscape wavy where it once was flat, and in some locations creating vast fields of large, sunken polygons.

New estimation strategy improves soil carbon sampling in agricultural fields

There is much more carbon stored in Earth’s soil than in its atmosphere. A significant portion of this soil carbon is in organic form (carbon bound to carbon), called soil organic carbon (SOC). Notably, unlike the inorganic carbon in soils, the amount of SOC, and how quickly it is built up or lost, can be influenced by humans. Since its advent about 10,000 years ago, agriculture has caused a significant amount of SOC to be released into the atmosphere as carbon dioxide, contributing to climate change.

House Committee Holds Hearing on Bioenergy RD&D for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow

On March 16, 2022, the House Science, Space, and Technology Subcommittee on Energy held a hearing on “Bioenergy Research and Development for the Fuels and Chemicals of Tomorrow.” According to the hearing charter, the purpose of the hearing was to examine the status of bioenergy research, development, and demonstration (RD&D) activities carried out by the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).

Illinois team significantly improves BioCro software for growing virtual crops

A team from the University of Illinois has revamped the popular crop growth simulation software BioCro, making it a more user-friendly and efficient way to predict crop yield. The updated version, BioCro II, allows modelers to use the technology much more easily and includes faster and more accurate algorithms.

Study: Fire hastens permafrost collapse in Arctic Alaska

Arctic permafrost, if thawed, could double the amount of carbon in the atmosphere

While climate change is the primary driver of permafrost degradation in Arctic Alaska, a new analysis of 70 years of data reveals that tundra fires are accelerating that decline, contributing disproportionately to a phenomenon known as “thermokarst,” the abrupt collapse of ice-rich permafrost as a result of thawing.

Stronger drought resistance of urban vegetation due to higher temperature, CO2 and reduced O3

Globally, plants are reaping the benefits of elevated CO2 levels in the atmosphere by increasing photosynthesis rates, a phenomenon known as the CO2 fertilization effect. However, those benefits might be offset by drier and warmer climates caused by global warming and extreme climate events. Using data collected from urban environments, researchers at Illinois have been able to study dueling effects of climate change factors on vegetation response to drought.

Comparing photosynthetic differences between wild and domesticated rice

Millions of people in Asia are dependent on rice as a food source. Believed to have been domesticated as early as 6000 BCE, rice is an important source of calories globally. In a new study, researchers compared domesticated rice to its wild counterparts to understand the differences in their photosynthetic capabilities. The results can help improve future rice productivity.

BBC World News' Follow the Food featured RIPE research

On October 29th, the Realizing Increased Photosynthetic Efficiency (RIPE) project was featured on an episode of Follow the Food on BBC World News. Hosted by world-renowned ethnobotanist James Wong, the multimedia series focuses on the biggest pressures on the world food system including RIPE’s central mission of how to feed the growing population, and climate change, which is the focus of the current season.

USDA Funds ‘Agrivoltaics’ Project Led by University of Illinois/iSEE Team

The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has announced funding for a new project led by iSEE Interim Director Madhu Khanna to optimize design for “agrivoltaic” systems — fields with both crops and solar panels — that will maintain crop production, produce renewable energy, and increase farm profitability.

New imaging, machine-learning methods speed effort to reduce crops' need for water

Scientists have developed and deployed a series of new imaging and machine-learning tools to discover attributes that contribute to water-use efficiency in crop plants during photosynthesis and to reveal the genetic basis of variation in those traits.