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Concept: Maize


Despite the extensive cultivation of genetically engineered (GE) maize and considerable number of scientific reports on its agro-environmental impact, the risks and benefits of GE maize are still being debated and concerns about safety remain. This meta-analysis aimed at increasing knowledge on agronomic, environmental and toxicological traits of GE maize by analyzing the peer-reviewed literature (from 1996 to 2016) on yield, grain quality, non-target organisms (NTOs), target organisms (TOs) and soil biomass decomposition. Results provided strong evidence that GE maize performed better than its near isogenic line: grain yield was 5.6 to 24.5% higher with lower concentrations of mycotoxins (-28.8%), fumonisin (-30.6%) and thricotecens (-36.5%). The NTOs analyzed were not affected by GE maize, except for Braconidae, represented by a parasitoid of European corn borer, the target of Lepidoptera active Bt maize. Biogeochemical cycle parameters such as lignin content in stalks and leaves did not vary, whereas biomass decomposition was higher in GE maize. The results support the cultivation of GE maize, mainly due to enhanced grain quality and reduction of human exposure to mycotoxins. Furthermore, the reduction of the parasitoid of the target and the lack of consistent effects on other NTOs are confirmed.

Concepts: Ecology, James D. Watson, Genetically modified food, Poaceae, Scientific method, Transgenic maize, DNA, Maize


Most cropland in the United States is characterized by large monocultures, whose productivity is maintained through a strong reliance on costly tillage, external fertilizers, and pesticides (Schipanski et al., 2016). Despite this, farmers have developed a regenerative model of farm production that promotes soil health and biodiversity, while producing nutrient-dense farm products profitably. Little work has focused on the relative costs and benefits of novel regenerative farming operations, which necessitates studyingin situ, farmer-defined best management practices. Here, we evaluate the relative effects of regenerative and conventional corn production systems on pest management services, soil conservation, and farmer profitability and productivity throughout the Northern Plains of the United States. Regenerative farming systems provided greater ecosystem services and profitability for farmers than an input-intensive model of corn production. Pests were 10-fold more abundant in insecticide-treated corn fields than on insecticide-free regenerative farms, indicating that farmers who proactively design pest-resilient food systems outperform farmers that react to pests chemically. Regenerative fields had 29% lower grain production but 78% higher profits over traditional corn production systems. Profit was positively correlated with the particulate organic matter of the soil, not yield. These results provide the basis for dialogue on ecologically based farming systems that could be used to simultaneously produce food while conserving our natural resource base: two factors that are pitted against one another in simplified food production systems. To attain this requires a systems-level shift on the farm; simply applying individual regenerative practices within the current production model will not likely produce the documented results.

Concepts: Maize, Profit, Ecology, Farm, Soil, Agriculture, Biodiversity


Wheat is one of the most consumed cereal grains worldwide and makes up a substantial part of the human diet. Although government-supported dietary guidelines in Europe and the U.S.A advise individuals to eat adequate amounts of (whole) grain products per day, cereal grains contain “anti-nutrients,” such as wheat gluten and wheat lectin, that in humans can elicit dysfunction and disease. In this review we discuss evidence from in vitro, in vivo and human intervention studies that describe how the consumption of wheat, but also other cereal grains, can contribute to the manifestation of chronic inflammation and autoimmune diseases by increasing intestinal permeability and initiating a pro-inflammatory immune response.

Concepts: Immunology, Infectious disease, Human, Immune system, Maize, Cereal, Nutrition, Wheat


The role of bats or any generalist predator in suppressing prey populations depends on the predator’s ability to track and exploit available prey. Using a qPCR fecal DNA assay, we document significant association between numbers of Brazilian free-tailed bats (Tadarida brasiliensis) consuming corn earworm (CEW) moths (Helicoverpa zea) and seasonal fluctuations in CEW populations. This result is consistent with earlier research linking the bats' diet to patterns of migration, abundance, and crop infestation by important insect pests. Here we confirm opportunistic feeding on one of the world’s most destructive insects and support model estimates of the bats' ecosystem services. Regression analysis of CEW consumption versus the moth’s abundance at four insect trapping sites further indicates that bats track local abundance of CEW within the regional landscape. Estimates of CEW gene copies in the feces of bats are not associated with seasonal or local patterns of CEW abundance, and results of captive feeding experiments indicate that our qPCR assay does not provide a direct measure of numbers or biomass of prey consumed. Our results support growing evidence for the role of generalist predators, and bats specifically, as agents for biological control and speak to the value of conserving indigenous generalist predators.

Concepts: Maize, Predation, Biological pest control, Mexican Free-tailed Bat, Lepidoptera, Moth, Ecology, Insect


Dietary recommendations emphasize increased consumption of fruit, vegetables, and whole grain cereals for prevention of chronic disease.

Concepts: Barley, Maize, Cereals, Cereal germ, Fruit, Medicine, Cereal, Vegetarian cuisine


Miscanthus sacchariflorus is a fast-growing C(4) perennial grass that can naturally hybridize with M. sinensis to produce interspecific hybrids, such as the sterile triploid M.× giganteus. The creation of such hybrids is essential for the rapid domestication of this novel bioenergy crop. However, progress has been hindered by poor understanding of the environmental cues promoting floral transition in M. sacchariflorus, which flowers less readily than M. sinensis. The purpose of this work was to identify the flowering requirements of M. sacchariflorus genotypes in order to expedite the introduction of new germplasm optimized to different environments. Six M. sacchariflorus accessions collected from a range of latitudes were grown under controlled photoperiod and temperature conditions, and flowering, biomass, and morphological phenotypic data were captured. Results indicated that M. sacchariflorus, irrespective of origin, is a quantitative short-day plant. Flowering under static long days (15.3h daylength), compared with shorter photoperiods, was delayed by an average 61 d, with an average associated increase of 52% of above-ground biomass (DM plant(-1)). Timing of floral initiation occurred between photoperiods of 14.2h and 12.1h, and accumulated temperatures of 553-1157 °C above a base temperature of 10 °C. Miscanthus sacchariflorus flowering phenology closely resembles that of Sorghum and Saccharum, indicating potentially similar floral pathways and suggesting that determination of the underlying genetic mechanisms will be facilitated by the syntenic relationships existing between these important C(4) grasses.

Concepts: Miscanthus giganteus, Photoperiodism, Flower, Maize, Evolution, Biomass, Biofuel, Poaceae


Starch grain, phytolith and cereal bran fragments were analyzed in order to identify the food remains including cakes, dumplings, as well as porridge unearthed at the Astana Cemeteries in Turpan of Xinjiang, China. The results suggest that the cakes were made from Triticum aestivum while the dumplings were made from Triticum aestivum, along with Setaria italica. The ingredients of the porridge remains emanated from Panicum miliaceum. Moreover, direct macrobotantical evidence of the utilization of six cereal crops, such as Triticum aestivum, Hordeum vulgare var. coeleste, Panicum miliaceum, Setaria italica, Cannabis sativa, and Oryza sativa in the Turpan region during the Jin and Tang dynasties (about 3(rd) to 9(th) centuries) is also presented. All of these cereal crops not only provided food for the survival of the indigenous people, but also spiced up their daily life.

Concepts: Staple food, Cereal, Oat, Barley, Poaceae, Wheat, Maize, Rice


This study investigated whether increasing insoluble (predominantly wheat bran) fibre over 14 days improves subjective digestive feelings, general wellbeing and bowel function. A single centre, multi-site, open, within subjects design with a 14 day non-intervention (baseline) monitoring period followed by a 14 day fibre consumption (intervention) period was performed. 153 low fibre consumers (<15 g/day AOAC 985.29) completed a daily symptom diary for 14 days after which they consumed one bowl of ready-to-eat breakfast cereal containing at least 5.4 g fibre (3.5 g from wheat bran) for 14 days and completed a daily symptom diary. Significant improvements were demonstrated in subjective perception of bowel function (e.g., ease of defecation) and digestive feelings (bloating, constipation, feeling sluggish and digestive discomfort). Significant improvements were also found in subjective perception of general wellbeing (feeling less fat, more mentally alert, slim, happy and energetic whilst experiencing less stress, mental and physical tiredness, difficulty concentrating and fewer headaches). In general, improvements in study outcomes increased with increasing cereal/fibre consumption. However, consuming an additional minimum 5.4 g of fibre (3.5 g wheat bran) per day was shown to deliver measurable and significant benefits for digestive health, comfort and wellbeing. Encouraging consumption of relatively small amounts of wheat bran could also provide an effective method of increasing overall fibre consumption.

Concepts: Bran, Porridge, Maize, Oat, Rice, Breakfast, Breakfast cereal, Wheat


Agricultural sustainability may represent the greatest encumbrance to increasing food production. On the other hand, as a component of sustainability, replacement of chemical fertilizers by bio-fertilizers has the potential to lower costs for farmers, to increase yields, and to mitigate greenhouse-gas emissions and pollution of water and soil. Rhizobia and plant-growth-promoting rhizobacteria (PGPR) have been broadly used in agriculture, and advances in our understanding of plant-bacteria interactions have been achieved; however, the use of signaling molecules to enhance crop performance is still modest. In this study, we evaluated the effects of concentrated metabolites (CM) from two strains of rhizobia—Bradyrhizobium diazoefficiens USDA 110T (BD1) and Rhizobium tropici CIAT 899T (RT1)—at two concentrations of active compounds (10–8 and 10–9 M)—on the performances of two major plant-microbe interactions, of Bradyrhizobium spp.-soybean (Glycine max (L.) Merr.) and Azospirillum brasilense-maize (Zea mays L.). For soybean, one greenhouse and two field experiments were performed and effects of addition of CM from the homologous and heterologous strains, and of the flavonoid genistein were investigated. For maize, three field experiments were performed to examine the effects of CM from RT1. For soybean, compared to the treatment inoculated exclusively with Bradyrhizobium, benefits were achieved with the addition of CM-BD1; at 10–9 M, grain yield was increased by an average of 4.8%. For maize, the best result was obtained with the addition of CM-RT1, also at 10–9 M, increasing grain yield by an average of 11.4%. These benefits might be related to a combination of effects attributed to secondary compounds produced by the rhizobial strains, including exopolysaccharides (EPSs), plant hormones and lipo-chitooligosaccharides (LCOs). The results emphasize the biotechnological potential of using secondary metabolites of rhizobia together with inoculants containing both rhizobia and PGPR to improve the growth and yield of grain crops.

Concepts: Agriculture, Rice, Staple food, Wheat, Cereal, Poaceae, Soybean, Maize


Cultivated rice (Oryza sativa L.) was domesticated from wild rice (Oryza rufipogon Griff.), which typically displays fewer grains per panicle and longer grains than cultivated rice. In addition, wild rice has long awns, whereas cultivated rice has short awns or lacks them altogether. These changes represent critical events in rice domestication. Here, we identified a major gene, GRAIN NUMBER, GRAIN LENGTH AND AWN DEVELOPMENT 1 (GAD1), that regulates those critical changes during rice domestication. GAD1 is located on chromosome 8 and is predicted to encode a small secretary signal peptide belonging to the EPIDERMAL PATTERNING FACTOR-LIKE family. A frame-shift insertion in gad1 destroyed the conserved cysteine residues of the peptide, resulting in a loss of function, and causing the increased number of grains per panicle, shorter grains and awnless phenotype characteristic of cultivated rice. Our findings provide a useful paradigm for revealing functions of peptide signal molecules in plant development and helps elucidate the molecular basis of rice domestication.

Concepts: Maize