Elowan: A plant robot hybrid

Plants working as light sensors is exactly what Elowan was designed to convey—Deep integration of technology with our nature. One small capability such as response of plants to light shows how plants could be harnessed for our physical devices or interaction purposes.

This leads to applications such as sensing a surrounding environment through a plant or tree signals or routing those signals through our interactive devices. The plants could be used as sensing platforms for monitoring their own health, minute changes in the environment or to give rise to new organic interactive devices.

I think such a process of hybridizing with nature leads us to think about how we design our future devices. The way we have seen environment and sustainability efforts have been much more passive and always about saving while we are the back foot, but if we start looking at capabilities in the environment, we align ourselves with the development, as opposed to being divergent from it. I called this new type of interaction design as convergent design.

Elowan

Scare your plants to produce stronger offspring


UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — By temporarily silencing the expression of a critical gene, researchers fooled soybean plants into sensing they were under siege, encountering a wide range of stresses. Then, after selectively cross breeding those plants with the original stock, the progeny “remember” the stress-induced responses to become more vigorous, resilient and productive plants, according to a team of researchers.

This epigenetic reprogramming of soybean plants, the culmination of a decade-long study, was accomplished not by introducing any new genes but by changing how existing genes are expressed. That is important because it portends how crop yields and tolerance for conditions such as drought and extreme heat will be enhanced in the future, according to lead researcher Sally Mackenzie, professor in the departments of Biology and Plant Science at Penn State.

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Species, Variety, Cultivar

Groups

  • Angiosperms: Flowering plants
  • Gymnosperms: Conifers, cycads, allies
  • Pteridophytes: Ferns
  • Bryophytes: Mosses and liverworts
  • Families:

  • Currently 642 families
  • Genus:

  • Currently 17,020
  • Group of related plants
  • Origin, type, group
  • Species:

  • Genus name + specific feature that makes it different than other plants in Genus
  • Breeds true from seeds or cloning
  • The largest group in which two parents can create fertile offspring
  • Variety:

  • Usually occurs in nature and have same characteristics of parents
  • Seeds from varieties usually have same characteristics
  • Always written in lower case
  • Hybrid:

  • Crosses between species or different parentage in the species
  • Seeds rarely breed true
  • Cultivar:

  • Cultivated variety, created by humans. Some are mutations, some are hybrids of two plants.
  • Seeds don’t usually breed true, propagation by cloning is needed ( from cuttings, tissue culture )
  • First letter of a cultivar is capitalized
  • Heirloom:

  • Varieties found in nature for at least 50 years
  • The Plant List on going list of all known plant species

    Seeds: Species, F1, F2, F3

    P1 Species seeds are from two parents of the same species or self pollination
    — breed true

    F1 seeds are hybrids created from two unrelated parents ( children )
    — hardy crosses, usually vigorous, healthy plants, children usually look like the children

    F2 are self pollinated F1s or pollinated by other F1s ( grandchildren )
    — might look like parent, might look like mailman, most diverse, greatest diversity in this cross

    F3 are self pollinated F2s or by other F2s ( great grandchildren )
    — who knows? usually selected to strengthen an F1 trait

    F4, F5, F6 can also be found

    The ‘F’ is short for filia

    Species seeds are the most expensive, each F? gets cheaper the farther you travel down the family tree

    S seeds are self fertilized seeds that have been treated chemically, or otherwise, to create a mutation. It’s not an accepted botanical grading, but often used by hobbyists

    Plants gain and ditch the ability to fix nitrogen

    Plants, like all living things, need nitrogen to build amino acids and other essential biomolecules. Although nitrogen is the most abundant element in air, the molecular form of nitrogen found there is largely unreactive. To become useful to plants, that nitrogen must first be “fixed,” or busted out of its molecular form and linked with hydrogen to make ammonia. The plants can then get at it by catalyzing reactions with ammonia.

    But plants can’t fix nitrogen. Bacteria can.

    Some legumes and a few other plants have a symbiotic relationship with certain bacterial species. The plants build specialized structures on their roots called nodules to house and feed the bacteria, which in turn fix nitrogen for the plants and assure them a steady supply of ammonia. Only 10 families of plants have the ability to do this, and even within these families, most genera opt out. Ever since the symbiosis was discovered in 1888, plant geneticists have wondered: why? If you could ensure a steady supply of nitrogen for use, why wouldn’t you? Plants repeatedly got rid of their ability to obtain their own nitrogen

    Phylogenomics reveals multiple losses of nitrogen-fixing root nodule symbiosis $$$