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Life sciences/Plant sciences/Plants

AAAS and 126 partner organizations representing U.S. science, engineering, higher education and businesses today urged the White House and congressional leaders to strike a balanced compromise on the looming “fiscal cliff” that avoids harming critical research efforts.

Freshmen taking a required plant biology course at New Jersey’s Rider University often become attached to the plants they grow for the class, even getting upset when they realize some of the seedlings must die so that their dry biomass can be measured. Throughout this process, the students go beyond common perceptions of plants as “green rocks” that are barely alive and not very interesting except to botanists intent on categorizing them. They get closer to realizing the importance of plants to food supply, atmospheric carbon balance, and even energy sources.

For about 70 years, breeders have selected tomato varieties with uniformly light green fruit before ripening. These tomatoes then turn red evenly as they ripen, and they look nice in a supermarket display.

Researchers now have pinpointed the molecular changes responsible for this “uniform ripening” trait of many modern tomatoes. But these changes, they show, also reduce the fruit’s sugar content.

Satellite images of a town in Nigeria’s oil-rich southern delta confirm that “significant” oil spills have contaminated nearby waterways and killed plant life across thousands of acres of tropical riparian landscape, says a report released today by AAAS.