Architects at the University of Stuttgart not only copy constructive and functional principles from nature, they also use plants whilst they are still growing to create buildings that will become green areas in the truest sense of the word. The first large construction, a tower made from willows, is almost fully grown. Further constructions are planned in the near future.
Farmers expect sugar-beet seeds to be of the highest quality. Seed producers such as Einbeck-based KWS SAAT AG use complex technologies to ensure that seeds start germinating immediately after sowing even under unfavourable environmental conditions. One of the techniques used by KWS SAAT AG involves a special method of seed preparation to ensure immediate germination. However the disadvantage of this special type of pretreatment is that the seeds are likely to suffer damage when stored incorrectly or over the long term. A cooperative project is aimed at finding ways to prevent undesired reactions from occurring in the seeds or to halt an undesired process once it has started.
Thanks to the latest generation of sequencing technology, the deciphering of the complete genome of organisms is becoming faster and cheaper. The challenge is to compile the book of life from millions of DNA fragments and unlock the secrets of the human and other organisms. The young bioinformatics company Computomics in Tübingen is doing just this for crops. In contrast to the human genome, the genome of the majority of plants is still a book with seven seals.
Prof. Dr. Ralf Reski and his team at the University of Freiburg have made considerable contributions to the analysis of the genome of the moss Physcomitrella patens. However the researchers are aware that the base pair sequence still has many gaps and errors. But how do the researchers manage to navigate around the chaos of millions of letters base pairs and sentence fragments DNA fragments?
A blue carnation developed in Australia was the first genetically modified ornamental plant sold around the world. The Stuttgart-based company Ornamental Bioscience GmbH now plans to use the same approach with far more practical goals in mind: water-saving summer flowers and tropical plants that are resistant to the cold, both of which have many concrete advantages and not just for consumers.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published updated guidance for the environmental risk assessment (ERA) of Genetically Modified (GM) plants, reflecting the scientific state-of-the-art in this field.
In these times of changing climate sustainable thinking and the growing desire to become less dependent on crude oil the interest in biobased plastics is growing. Biobased plastics can be either entirely or partially produced from renewable resources using biotechnological methods.
Research into the plant genome reveals many fundamental mechanisms some of which are also found in animals and human beings. Research increases the possibility of application in particular for the improvement of food animal feed and energy plants. However there is more to it than just transgenic plants.
The German Max Planck Institutes are world leaders in the area of plant research. Prof. Dr. Detlef Weigel Director of the Department of Molecular Biology at the Max Planck Institute for Developmental Biology in Tübingen makes a major contribution to this success. Using Arabidopsis thaliana as model system Weigel studies the molecular mechanisms that enable plants to adapt to environmental conditions and those that underlie plant immunity. He has published a large number of reports in renowned scientific journals and is the most cited plant researcher in Europe.
All multicellular organisms including plants produce hormones. One of the hormones plants produce is the phytohormone jasmonic acid which has for a long time mainly been known as a second messenger substance that is released when plants are attacked by pathogens. Some years ago Dr. Michael Riemann from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT discovered that jasmonic acid acts as a major growth regulator of phytochrome-mediated responses in plant seedlings.
Researchers from the University of Freiburg have just shown that plant embryo decide already at the two-cell stage which cells will later become the shoot and which the roots. Experiments suggest this might be affected by the distribution of auxin.
Max Planck scientists and researchers at the University of Heidelberg have discovered a gene that enables certain plants to grow on soils with high heavy metal concentrations and that even contributes to the soils remediation. The gene product is a transport protein in the cell membrane.
Scientists from Freiburg have made a significant contribution to deciphering the moss genome. The challenging sequencing job was accomplished using state-of-the-art bioinformatics methods under the leadership of the Freiburg scientist Dr. Stefan Rensing.
Scientists from Heidelberg University have discovered a mechanism in Arabidopsis that enables cells to pass on information about their genetic fate to new generations of cells. This surprising discovery also reveals that the mechanism in Arabidopsis is strikingly similar to human cell memory.
People can develop new technologies and animals may migrate to other regions. However, plants are tied to their location. Nevertheless, they have found ways to ensure their survival. This is the case for the plant Arabidopsis thaliana, which is found throughout the entire northern hemisphere. But how does this small, inconspicuous plant deal with all these different extremes? In order to discover the whole-genome sequence variation, the 1001 Genomes Project was launched in 2008, with eleven research institutes participating worldwide.
A growing number of industrial companies would like to use renewable raw materials for production, out of ecological, economic or technical interest. However, it is not always easy for many of the companies to get into contact with farmers and secure the supply of crops in the quantity and quality they require. Dresden-based C.S.P. Consulting und Service für Pflanzliche Rohstoffe GmbH is now able to use its know-how and that of its partners to close the gap between the farmers, i.e. producers of raw materials, and the processing companies.
Boston ivy ivy and other woody vines have unusually strong adhesive forces. The question researchers are asking is can they transfer the surface adhesion principle of ivy to technical applications? The Plant Biomechanics Group led by Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck in Freiburg is working on one project that focuses on using nature as a model for intelligent adhesive bonds.
In comparison to other plants, algae grow quickly and produce large quantities of biomass. They generate a much greater mass per square metre than other energy plants. In addition, almost all algal biomass can be used as raw material for the pharmaceutical industry, amongst others. Therefore, a technology that is able to effectively produce microalgae on an industrial scale could make a considerable contribution to the energy and material industry as well as to climate protection. A company called GICON uses a photobioreactor based on the “Christmas tree” principle to successfully minimise the formation of biofilm, which inhibits the productivity of the algae.
Prof. Dr. Mark van Kleunen a Dutch biologist at the University of Konstanz is investigating the impact of climate change on specific plant species including clonal plant species that produce an exact copy of their genetic code due to asexual reproduction. Mark van Kleunen is specifically focused on genetic variations of the dwarf willow Salix herbacea found in alpine environments.
Plants cannot see but they can perceive the quantity and quality of light. As they have evolved plants have developed numerous molecular photodetectors such as phytochromes. Phytochromes can detect changes in the light situation. The undergrowth of forests thus manages to grow towards the few patches of sunlight that the phytochromes can detect. Researchers have long puzzled over how phytochromes transmit information about the light level into the nucleus and enable plants to react to changing light situations by altering the activity of specific genes. Four years ago a group of researchers led by Prof. em. Dr. Eberhard Schäfer clarified the principle underlying the transport of phytochrome A into the nucleus. Now the team led by Schäfer and Dr. Tim Kunkel has achieved the same success with phytochrome B.
Dr. Bettina Prüm Dr. Holger Bohn and Prof. Dr. Thomas Speck from the Botanic Garden of the University of Freiburg have discovered the mechanisms that prevent beetles from sticking to specifically structured leaf surfaces. In cooperation with the Freiburg Centre for Interactive Materials and Bioinspired Technologies FIT the researchers are now planning to apply natures smart strategy to the design of structures that help prevent insect pests from entering areas such as cupboards and medicine cabinets where they are unwanted.
Urbanisation, changing climate and population explosion along with increasing energy requirements – the chemical industry needs to come up with effective contributions to finding solutions to issues of future relevance. During a guest lecture at the University of Konstanz, Dr. Andreas Kreimeyer, Executive Research Officer of the world’s largest chemical company, BASF SE, spoke about future research issues and the solutions that he believes can only be found through international and interdisciplinary cooperation. Industrial and plant biotechnology have been two of BASF’s many growth areas for many years.
A team of researchers led by Prof. Dr. Tilman Lamparter from the Karlsruhe Institute of Technology KIT is investigating how the absorption of light alters the three-dimensional structure of phytochrome molecules and how this effects the behaviour of plantcells. The researchers use bacteria with phytochromes that have largely unknown functions.
In order to help inform debate on genetically modified organisms, the European Commission is publishing a compendium entitled "A decade of EU-funded GMO research". The book summarizes the results of 50 research projects addressing primarily the safety of GMOs for the environment and for animal and human health. Launched between 2001 and 2010, these projects received funding of €200 million from the EU and form part of a 25-year long research effort on GMOs.