Newsy Notes: Plant Pathogens, Butterflies, Invasive Plant Spread

Newsy Notes features quick explanations of research related to the  growing of plants. I come across this research during my daily sweep of plant-related information. I found the items noted below of particular interest. Follow the links for more in depth reading on each topic. The following were all published by ScienceDaily.

E. coli, Salmonella may lurk in unwashable places in produce:

Washing fruits and vegetables may not remove E. coli or Salmonella, report Purdue University researchers. After developing a method to look at pathogens in nutrient-transporting plant tissue they found E. coli in mung bean sprouts and Salmonella in peanut seedlings after the seeds of each had been contaminated with the pathogens prior to planting. Proper washing removes dangerous pathogens from the outside of food, but heating to a specific temperature is needed to remove them from inside tissues. This, of course, does not occur with fruits and vegetables consumed raw such as salad greens and bean sprouts. The next research step is to try and determine how the pathogens survive inside plant tissues, which may lead to methods of eradication.

Major breakthrough on how viruses infect plants:

Cucumber mosaic virus causes disease by directly matching a host plant gene associated with chlorophyll formation, found plant scientists with The Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, Australia’s national science agency. Like a zipper, one side of the gene – the virus side – directly matches the host plant gene. When scientists altered the host plant’s genetic make up so it carried both copies, rather than one copy, of the chlorophyll forming gene the virus could not attack. With this knowledge, scientists can now search for genes in plant viruses that match plants’ known genetic sequences in an effort to find ways to stop disease spread.

How butterflies copy their neighbors to fool birds:

Butterflies are truly amazing creatures. They migrate thousands of miles as part of their life-cycle and delight humans with their flittering and colors. Here’s another amazing butterfly fact … they can change wing patterns to fool birds, report researchers who studied wing color patterns of an Amazon butterfly species. Gene analyses in these butterflies showed they carry three versions of the chromosome that controls wing patterns. Butterflies, and apparently moths, alter wing patterns to make them less attractive to their specific predators. Fascinating!

Rural road maintenance may accidentally push spread of invasive plants:

When you think about this it’s a no-brainer, but how many have actually considered that maintenance of a road bed in rural areas, such as grading work, can spread roadside invasive plants? Apparently it can, shows a computer simulation model developed by  researchers at Penn State. They input field experiment data from spring road re-grading into their computer model to determine how this work might spread Japanese stilt grass. Though most of the sterile seeds used in their model remained within about 164 feet (50 meters) of their original location, a small percentage of seed moved more than 820 feet (250 meters). Of course, this is not the only way invasive plants spread, but it may help explain some spread.

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NOTE: Click this link for more information on Japanese stilt grass in Connecticut. This invasive has quickly … and I mean quickly … invaded disturbed soils, lawns, roadside edges, and woodland edges in my neighborhood. It is currently the invasive weed I spend most of my time trying to control.

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3 comments for “Newsy Notes: Plant Pathogens, Butterflies, Invasive Plant Spread

  1. August 20, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    Some amazing tidbits! Thanks for sharing.

  2. August 20, 2011 at 7:07 pm

    Joene, The spread of invasives is not at all surprising. I’ve been seeing tons of Japanese stilt grass in my corner of CT. I wonder if the weather conditions have contributed to its abundance this year but it seems to be everywhere I look…even in my own garden.

    • joenesgarden
      August 21, 2011 at 12:21 pm

      Debbie,
      From what I’ve read Japanese stilt grass spreads via seeds produced from late September to early November … which means any mammal/bird can spread it … and roots. One place suggested it may spread by rooting stem cuttings if it is cut before the end of July, which means mowers may unintensionally spread it from yard to yard. We’ve analysed its spread on our own property and think it came in from the fill used around a neighbor’s newly paved driveway – where we first noticed it. It was not controlled in this spot and spread onto our property. We think some of its spread occurred with the movement of winter snows since it has really spread to the areas where we pile snow. Some of it likely spread when I piled weedings from beds adjacent to the neighbor’s driveway to a casual weed composting area elsewhere on our property. We’ve also noticed Japanese stilt grass did not establish in woodland edge areas with heavy leaf cover. Mind you all this comes from our personal observations on our own property … not from scientific research. I will not mulch Japanese stilt grass. I will burn it in my outside fireplace. We are doing our best to keep it from spreading further and hope to learn more once it is studied further by invasive plant experts.

      Unfortunately, according to a Nature Conservancy, Connecticut Chapter print out, the spread of Japanese stilt grass is not well understood. They currently suggest weeding after July – doing so earlier allows new seeds to sprout in the disturbed soil and possibly flower – and cutting/weed wacking dense stands in August and early September (before flowering and seed production). To eradicate from planting beds and unmowable areas, hand pull after July and before mid-September, and MONITOR.

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