39 North Innovation District Plan Unveiled
The Science in Our Food
(Farm Futures) 4 ways tech will transform your farm: Part one in a series CRISPR? Robots? Ag’s latest buzzwords will revolutionize how you farm — sooner than you think.
Tuesday, September 25, 2018 READ MORE
Burst of Morning Gene Activity Tells Plants When to Flower “This work showed us that plants are integrating many different signals together when making the critical decision of when to flower,” Dr. Nusinow said.
Monday, September 24, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) Danforth Center partners with Wells Fargo to expand company’s incubator program Partnership to advance solutions aimed at the interconnection of food, water and energy
Friday, September 14, 2018 READ MORE
The Ag Innovation Showcase launched by the Danforth Center in 2009 has helped put St. Louis on the map as an ag tech hub for scientists, entrepreneurs and investors.
Monday, September 10, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) 12 companies presenting at next week’s Ag Innovation Showcase Among the presenting agtech and food companies is Plastomics, which is based at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Friday, September 7, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) How St. Louis became the heart of global agtech "39 North is an extension of Dr. Danforth’s vision to make St. Louis a world center for plant science and innovation,” said Sam Fiorello, COO, Danforth Center and president of BRDG Park.
Friday, August 17, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) Danforth Center partners with Saint Louis University “We are excited for Allison to join us as a joint faculty member with SLU,” Jim Carrington, president of the Danforth Center, said in a statement.
Thursday, August 16, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Joint SLU, Danforth scientist expands research collaboration “I am delighted for the opportunity to bridge SLU and the Danforth Center through a joint appointment,” Miller said in a statement.
(WIRED) European Ruling Could Slow Africa’s Push For Crispr Crops Many European scientists cheered back in January when it seemed the court of the European Union would ease its restrictions on gene-editing technology in food.
Thursday, July 26, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Public Radio) Brookings touts agtech cluster in St. Louis After two decades of building, the region’s agricultural technology cluster is poised to take off
(EQ) From Science Research To IoT Device Design: Plant Analytics Startup Grows With Arch Grants Dr. Nadia Shakoor is pioneering the future of agriculture and plant research with an IoT-enabled phenotyping and data collection device. She opens up about her debut in the business world.
Thursday, June 28, 2018 READ MORE
(Modern Agriculture) The Future of Food and Farming Agriculture in 2050: Big Challenges, Bigger Dreams
Friday, June 15, 2018 READ MORE
(Innovation City) Dr. Jim Carrington on Innovation City Innovation City gives you an inside look at how rapidly business and culture are changing thanks to increasing diversity and inclusion
Tuesday, June 12, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Banners tout St. Louis County's new 39 North agricultural technology district Banners attached to streetlight poles were added Tuesday along Olive Boulevard for 39 North
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) Sugarcane research company to open North American headquarters in St. Louis The world’s largest sugarcane technology company selects BRDG Park
Wednesday, May 2, 2018 READ MORE
CTC Genomics selects St. Louis as the site of its North American research headquarters Brazilian Ag Bio Firm Specializes in Sugarcane
(New York Times) How a Rose Blooms: Its Genome Reveals the Traits for Scent and Color Study marks a new “democratization” of plant research resulting from more widely available, affordable and detailed genome sequencing
Monday, April 30, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) Danforth Center to take discoveries to market with new hire Don MacKenzie is tasked overseeing the regulatory processes to bring the Danforth Center's technologies to market.
Friday, April 13, 2018 READ MORE
(St. Louis Post-Dispatch) 39 North plant science district gets trail, road planning funds Plans are in motion to rework roads and improve incubator space
Friday, March 2, 2018 READ MORE
(Ag Professional) The Future of Ag Tech in the Midwest
The development of new technology in agriculture has helped encourage young people
Tuesday, February 20, 2018 READ MORE
(Agri-Pulse) Who is leading the charge for new precision breeding tools?
Plenty of precision breeding innovation
(St. Louis Public Radio) St. Louis plant scientists use podcast to dig deep into the struggles of research
Researchers Liz Haswell and Ivan Baxter spend most their time trying to understand how plants function.
Monday, January 8, 2018 READ MORE
(HEC-TV) New Smart Crop-Monitoring Platform Alerts Farmers & Growers About Their Crops
Researchers at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center have created a crop phenotyping station called the PheNode.
Wednesday, January 3, 2018 READ MORE
(KMOX) C-Speak Podcast: Sam Fiorello
Mark Reardon talks with Sam Fiorello on the C-Speak Podcast, the language of executives by KMOX
Friday, December 29, 2017 READ MORE
(Talking Biotech Podcast) Control of Aflatoxin in Groundnut
Dilip Shah and a team of researchers worked to devise a multi-faceted plan to protect groundnut from fungal infections.
Saturday, December 23, 2017 READ MORE
(MIT Technology Review) These Are Not Your Father's GMOS
A new wave of gene-edited crops are dodging regulators, and they're about to reach stores.
Thursday, December 21, 2017 READ MORE
New Hire to Advance Human Resources
Danforth Center Welcomes Anna Dibble
Wednesday, November 29, 2017 READ MORE
(Forbes) Collaboration Provides Hope In The Battle Against Mycotoxin Induced Cancer In The Developing World
There is new hope for a solution to this vexing health issue based on a recent collaboration between groups of scientists in the US and in India.
Saturday, November 4, 2017 READ MORE
(AgFunder News) Is St. Louis the Silicon Valley of Agtech?
St. Louis has worked hard to be a magnet for Fortune 500 companies. Nine members of this elite class call the city home, not the least of which is multinational agricultural giant Monsanto.
Thursday, November 2, 2017 READ MORE
DuPont Pioneer and Danforth Center Collaborate to Apply Cutting-Edge Technologies to Improve Crops for Smallholder Farmers
The suite of technologies DuPont Pioneer is providing to the project is revolutionary
Tuesday, October 17, 2017 READ MORE
National Science Foundation Funds Multi-Institutional Project to Improve Harvests of One of the Most Important Crops in U.S. Agriculture
Danforth Center Receives $3.4M to Improve Maize Architecture
Wednesday, October 11, 2017 READ MORE
U.S. Department of Energy Awards Danforth Center $16M to Enhance Sorghum for Bioenergy A multi-institutional research effort aims to optimize photosynthesis and water use efficiency
Monday, October 2, 2017 READ MORE
TechAccel Invests in Unique Sprayable RNAi Pesticide Technology First “Path to Commercialization” Grant Awarded to Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Monday, September 11, 2017 READ MORE
Why a St. Louis event could be one of agtech’s biggest disruptors: 4 questions with Bayer's R&D head
Monday marks the start of the ninth annual Ag Innovation Showcase.
Monday, September 11, 2017 READ MORE
The Future of Agriculture is Center Stage at Ag Innovation Showcase
Bees, new food sources and machine learning are leading trends
Thursday, August 31, 2017 READ MORE
(St. Louis Business Journal) Greitens touts Israeli relationship as economic generator
St. Louis is already home to a number of Israeli-founded companies that have moved to the area thanks to GlobalSTL, an initiative started and organized by BioSTL several years ago.
Wednesday, August 16, 2017 READ MORE
Analysis Linking Field and Controlled Environments Reveals Key Traits Controlling Height
Discovery could help improve yield in food and bioenergy crops
Monday, July 10, 2017 READ MORE
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Burst of Morning Gene Activity Tells Plants When to Flower
ST. LOUIS, MO, September 24, 2018 – For angiosperms — or flowering plants — one of the most important decisions facing them each year is when to flower. It is no trivial undertaking. To flower, they must cease vegetative growth and commit to making those energetically expensive reproductive structures that will bring about the next generation. Knowledge of this process at the cellular level is critical for understanding how plants allocate resources to produce grains, tubers, leaves, nuts and fruits that mean so much to humans and animals alike.
In a paper, Molecular basis of flowering under natural long-day conditions in Arabidopsis, published today in the journal Nature Plants, He Huang, Ph.D., research scientist, and Dmitri A. Nusinow, Ph.D., assistant member, Donald Danforth Plant Science Center, and an international team of researchers demonstrated that the gene FT — the primary driver of the transition to flowering in plants each spring — does something unexpected in Arabidopsis thaliana plants grown in natural environments, with implications for the artificial growing conditions scientists commonly use in the lab.
“This work showed us that plants are integrating many different signals together when making the critical decision of when to flower,” Dr. Nusinow said. “Subtle changes in the environment can have a big effect on how the plants will respond.”
The research team, led by University of Washington (UW) biology professor Takato Imaizumi, showed that FT has a peak of activity every morning leading up to the transition, something that scientists had not previously seen in Arabidopsis, a model plant that is widely studied for understanding the molecular details of the transition to flowering. The morning peak of FT activity causes plants to transition earlier from vegetative growth to flowering.
Prior research, which saw only an evening peak of FT gene activity, had been conducted on Arabidopsis plants grown indoors under fluorescent light. The team — which includes researchers in Switzerland, Scotland, South Korea and Japan — grew their plants outside under sunlight in Seattle because conditions at the summer solstice are similar to the standardized, artificial "long-day" growing conditions for Arabidopsis: 16 hours of light and eight hours of darkness.
The team grew non-transgenic Arabidopsis plants outdoors for five consecutive summers and compared them to plants grown indoors under artificial long-day conditions. Outdoor plants produced fewer leaves than indoor plants, indicating that the outdoor plants flowered earlier. Both outdoor and indoor plants showed evening peaks of FT gene activity, but outdoor-grown plants also showed a morning peak of FT activity. Researchers concluded that the indoor, artificial growing conditions missed key qualities of natural conditions, throwing off expression of the FT gene and the trait it governs. When active, the FT gene produces a protein that travels from the leaves to the shoot apical meristem — the niche of stem cells in the shoot that produces above-ground growth — and switches the meristem from vegetative growth to floral growth.
To identify the differences between indoor and outdoor growing conditions, the group focused on light. The fluorescent bulbs commonly used in Arabidopsis research do not emit the same wavelengths of light that sunlight does. Fluorescent bulbs, for example, generate less light from far-red wavelengths. In the outdoor growing plots, the ratio of red-wavelength light to far-red wavelength was about 1-to-1, but for fluorescent bulbs this ratio is higher than 2, which means they emit more red light than far-red. When the researchers added a far-red LED lamp to the indoor growth chambers to mimic outside light, the Arabidopsis plants then showed a morning peak of FT gene activity.
In addition, by modifying the temperatures in the indoor growth chambers to cycle daily from about 16 degrees Celsius to almost 23 C — or from 61 degrees Fahrenheit to about 73 F — the evening FT gene activity was reduced, similar to the outdoor plants.
FT has been studied in other plants, including some crop plants, which also show morning peaks of FT expression. But most commercially important plants are too large or grow too slowly for the controlled-environment studies that are required to determine the cellular and genetic details of plant traits. That is why Arabidopsis, a small, fast-growing weed from the mustard family, is widely used as a substitute model organism.
Critically, their results illuminate a path forward for plant researchers to adopt artificial growth conditions that more accurately reflect natural growing conditions.
"Arabidopsis has been studied for decades. Researchers set up their indoor growing conditions the best they could, given equipment, time and funding, and passed those conditions down to scientists they trained," said Imaizumi. "But we need to change those conditions so that what we find in the lab reflects nature more closely. If we see a change in flowering by making these minor alterations, I imagine that other traits will change as well."
“A better understanding of how the controlled environment conditions that are used in research compare to the complex reality of the outdoors will allow us to design better experiments,” Nusinow said. “This will likely push our work from simple, reductionist conditions to a richer, more complex synthesis of light and temperature that reflects the real world. This is an exciting direction for our work to be moving towards.”
Co-lead authors on the paper are former UW postdoctoral researchers Young Hun Song and Akane Kubota. Song is now an assistant professor at Ajou University and Kubota is an assistant professor at the Nara Institute of Science and Technology. Co-authors are Dmitri A. Nusinow and He Huang at the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center; Michael Kwon, Nayoung Lee, Ella Taagen, Dianne Laboy Cintrón, and Nhu Nguyen at the University of Washington; Michael Covington with Amaryllis Nucleics; Dae Yeon Hwang at Ajou University; Sarah Hodge and Andrew Millar at the University of Edinburgh; Reiko Akiyama with the University of Zurich; and Kentaro Shimizu of both the University of Zurich and Yokohama City University.
The research was funded by the U.S. National Institutes of Health, the U.S. National Science Foundation, the Rural Development Administration in South Korea, the Japan Science and Technology Agency, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science, the Swiss National Science Foundation, UK Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, and the National Research Foundation of Korea.
About The Donald Danforth Plant Science Center
Founded in 1998, the Donald Danforth Plant Science Center is a not-for-profit research institute with a mission to improve the human condition through plant science. Research, education and outreach aim to have impact at the nexus of food security and the environment, and position the St. Louis region as a world center for plant science. The Center’s work is funded through competitive grants from many sources, including the National Institutes of Health, U.S. Department of Energy, National Science Foundation, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Follow us on Twitter at @DanforthCenter.
Video: Seasonal Flowering
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