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Hope for the Hungry! Scientists supercharge Plant Growth by making them more responsive to change in Light and Shade

Long's group targeted a system that protects plants from excessive sunlight

Representational image. Pixabay

Washington, November 28, 2016:  Scientists have supercharged plant growth by making them more responsive to changes in light and shade. The researchers hope what they have learned by souping up experimental plants will someday help feed a hungry world.

Plants turn sunlight, carbon dioxide and water into food through a process called photosynthesis.

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“It is the driving force behind all of life,” says University of Illinois plant biologist Steve Long. “Arguably, photosynthesis is the most important process on our planet.”

But for a process that’s so important, it’s surprisingly inefficient.

With food demand expected to grow by 70 percent by mid-century on a planet that is rapidly warming, researchers have been looking for ways to improve photosynthesis as a way to squeeze more productivity out of each plant.

“We’re kind of forced to push our crops to the limit,” says crop scientist Matthew Reynolds at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center, known by its Spanish acronym, CIMMYT.

Long’s group targeted a system that protects plants from excessive sunlight. When a plant is soaking up more light than it can handle, it gets rid of the energy as heat. But when clouds or leaves shade it, that system stays on for minutes or hours, slowing down the plant’s growth.

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Long and his colleagues added genes that shortened that recovery time. Modified plants grew up to 20 percent more than untreated ones.

The study appears in the journal Science.

“It’s a very big deal,” said Reynolds, who was not involved with the research. Conventional breeding programs are improving yields by about half a percent per year, if that. “A 20 percent increase — that’s a fairly substantial jump.”

Other attempts to tinker with the protective systems have hurt the plant, according to Bob Furbank, director of the Center for Translational Photosynthesis Research. He’s more optimistic about this one, since it makes the system more responsive rather than turning it down.

However, he adds, “It may be that these protective mechanisms are more important under drought, and under stress. These sorts of plants will have to be tested under a range of stresses to make sure there’s no downside.”

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Long’s group used genetic engineering to modify their plants, which can be controversial. But Reynolds, who focuses on conventional plant breeding, says the genetically modified plant can be “a proof of concept so we can start looking for natural variation as well.”

Long’s group worked in tobacco because it’s easy to study. Next they plan to apply the same technique to rice, soybeans and cassava, three critical food crops around the world. (VOA)

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Aadhaar Helpline Mystery: French Security Expert Tweets of doing a Full Disclosure Tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App

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Google comes up with a new feature

Google’s admission that it had in 2014 inadvertently coded the 112 distress number and the UIDAI helpline number into its setup wizard for Android devices triggered another controversy on Saturday as India’s telecom regulator had only recommended the use of 112 as an emergency number in April 2015.

After a large section of smartphone users in India saw a toll-free helpline number of UIDAI saved in their phone-books by default, Google issued a statement, saying its “internal review revealed that in 2014, the then UIDAI helpline number and the 112 distress helpline number were inadvertently coded into the SetUp wizard of the Android release given to OEMs for use in India and has remained there since”.

Aadhaar Helpline Number Mystery: French security expert tweets of doing a full disclosure tomorrow about Code of the Google SetUP Wizard App, Image: Wikimedia Commons.

However, the Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) recommended only in April 2015 that the number 112 be adopted as the single emergency number for the country.

According to Google, “since the numbers get listed on a user’s contact list, these get  transferred accordingly to the contacts on any new device”.

Google was yet to comment on the new development.

Meanwhile, French security expert that goes by the name of Elliot Alderson and has been at the core of the entire Aadhaar controversy, tweeted on Saturday: “I just found something interesting. I will probably do full disclosure tomorrow”.

“I’m digging into the code of the @Google SetupWizard app and I found that”.

“As far as I can see this object is not used in the current code, so there is no implications. This is just a poor coding practice in term of security,” he further tweeted.

On Friday, both the Unique Identification Authority of India (UIDAI) as well as the telecom operators washed their hand of the issue.

While the telecom industry denied any role in the strange incident, the UIDAI said that he strange incident, the UIDAI said that some vested interests were trying to create “unwarranted confusion” in the public and clarified that it had not asked any manufacturer or telecom service provider to provide any such facility.

Twitter was abuzz with the new development after a huge uproar due to Telecom Regulatory Authority of India (TRAI) Chairman R.S. Sharma’s open Aadhaar challenge to critics and hackers.

Ethical hackers exposed at least 14 personal details of the TRAI Chairman, including mobile numbers, home address, date of birth, PAN number and voter ID among others. (IANS)

Also Read: Why India Is Still Nowhere Near Securing Its Citizens’ Data?