Liberal Media

Tag Archive for Biology

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Scientists seek cure for devastating witches’ broom disease of the chocolate tree

In the early 1900s, Brazil was the world’s largest producer of cocoa. Chocolate trees (Theobroma cacao) were cultivated in a 800, 000 ha region of rainforest in the state of Bahia, beneath a dense canopy of native shade trees. Whereas the surrounding rainforest was a biodiversity hotspot, the chocolate trees, which were derived mainly from a handful of seeds introduced in the mid 1700s, had very low levels of genetic variation. According to Brazilian scientist Gonçalo Pereira, “This scenario created a very romantic, but extremely fragile situation”. Genetic variation is important for a population’s survival, as genetically variable populations are more resistant to pathogens. In 1989, disaster struck in the form of a devastating fungus named Moniliophthora perniciosa. In a ten-year period, the fungus eradicated around 70 percent of Brazil’s chocolate trees, resulting in an economic and social catastrophe that affected two million people.

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Himalayan Viagra fuels caterpillar fungus gold rush

Overwhelmed by speculators trying to cash-in on a prized medicinal fungus known as Himalayan Viagra, two isolated Tibetan communities have managed to do at the local level what world leaders often fail to do on a global scale—implement a successful system for the sustainable harvest of a precious natural resource, suggests new research from Washington University in St. Louis.

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Science casts light on sex in the orchard

Persimmons are among the small club of plants with separate sexes—individual trees are either male or female. Now scientists at the University of California, Davis, and Kyoto University in Japan have discovered how sex is determined in a species of persimmon, potentially opening up new possibilities in plant breeding. The work is published Oct. 31 in the journal Science.

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