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Plant gene work could benefit food crops

'Largest orchid in the world' growing in Brazil
Brasilia (AFP) Feb 1, 2011 - Brazil's environmental agency announced Tuesday the "largest orchid in the world" was growing in a botanic garden in the capital, at a height of 8.2 feet (2.5 meters) and some stems measuring as long as 9.8 feet (three meters). Displayed at the Brazilian Orchids Project garden in Brasilia, the flower -- part of the Grammatophyllum genus -- has been growing for five years and already has 19 long stems, on which 400 flowers bloom, said the Brazilian Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA). Biologist Lou Menezes, head of the orchid garden had "grown and adapted to the harsh climate" in Brasilia, which is dryer than its native Malaysia. Experts are working on a special hybrid species of orchid by crossing Grammatophyllum flowers with the Cyrtopodium genus, which is often found in the Brazilian rainforest.
by Staff Writers
West Lafayette, Ind. (UPI) Jan 31, 2011
New findings on how plants adapt to unfavorable conditions could one day be used to help food crops survive changing environments, a U.S. researcher says.

A Purdue University professor of horticulture studying how a particular plant from coastal areas developed a high tolerance for sodium has found changes in a gene linked to adaptation to that specific environmental factor, a university release said Monday.

While it has long been understood that plants are adapted to their local soil environments, the molecular basis of such adaptation has remained elusive.

"What we're looking at is evolution in action," David Salt said. "It looks like natural selection is matching expression of this gene to the local soil conditions."

Since crops grown around the world could be affected by climate change, it was important to identify mechanisms by which plants adapt to drought conditions, higher temperatures or changes in soil nutrition, Salt said.

"Driven by natural selection, plants have been evolving to grow under harsh conditions for millennia," Salt said. "We need to understand genetically what is allowing these plants to survive these conditions."

earlier related report
China food firm buys French vineyard
Bordeaux, France (AFP) Feb 1, 2011 - Major Chinese food company COFCO has bought a top French vineyard, the Chateau de Viaud near Bordeaux, lawyers and managers involved in the deal said on Tuesday.

It was the fourth major purchase by a Chinese company of wine property in the famed Bordeaux grape region since 2008, and comes amid fast-growing investment by China across Europe.

"The deal illustrates the growing interest of China in French wine-growing excellence in response to exponential Chinese demand for quality wines," said a statement from top Paris law firm Gide Loyrette Nouel.

It said the chateau's owner Philippe Raoux had sold the 18-hectare property for an unspecified amount to COFCO, which is listed in Hong Kong and majority owned by the Chinese state.

It described the property as "a top-rate vineyard" in the coveted Lalande-de-Pomerol wine region. Vineyard managers confirmed the sale to AFP.

The law firm said COFCO is the biggest Chinese foodstuffs company with turnover of more than $21 billion (15 billion euros).

COFCO's website says it is a Fortune-listed leading importer and exporter of grain, oils and foodstuffs and "is also very successful in real estate, hotel business and financial services".

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Madison WI (SPX) Jan 31, 2011
Soybean production has continued to increase in the Northeast United States with more and more first time growers planting the crop and many experienced growers planting alongside corn crops. To save on time and expenses, some farmers plant soybeans with a corn planter in 30-inch rows instead of 7.5-inch rows with the regularly used grain drill. Dr. William Cox, a Cornell University scient ... read more

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