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Natural Sciences

Jolly Green Scientists

Updated about 1 month ago

Education
Science
Natural Sciences
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There's a plethora of misinformation, marketing, and hear-say related to growing horticultural plants. In this series, we digest replicated scientific data and research shared in popular science magazines (such as GrowerTalks) and share it with you, the listeners. Scientific papers are often behind a 'pay-wall' and riddled with academic jargon. Fortunately for you, both of the hosts of this show have a relatively limited spoken vocabulary and need to speak things out in very simple terms for their own simple minds to grasp them. The hosts, Erfan Vafaie (Entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service) and Vikram Baliga (Horticulturalist with Texas Tech University) are both on the verge of acquiring their PhDs (or not, if things go haywire). On the side, Erfan acts as fool as a part of an improv comedy troupe (Card 53 Comedy) and Vikram hits musical instruments to make harmonious sounds.

Read more

There's a plethora of misinformation, marketing, and hear-say related to growing horticultural plants. In this series, we digest replicated scientific data and research shared in popular science magazines (such as GrowerTalks) and share it with you, the listeners. Scientific papers are often behind a 'pay-wall' and riddled with academic jargon. Fortunately for you, both of the hosts of this show have a relatively limited spoken vocabulary and need to speak things out in very simple terms for their own simple minds to grasp them. The hosts, Erfan Vafaie (Entomologist with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service) and Vikram Baliga (Horticulturalist with Texas Tech University) are both on the verge of acquiring their PhDs (or not, if things go haywire). On the side, Erfan acts as fool as a part of an improv comedy troupe (Card 53 Comedy) and Vikram hits musical instruments to make harmonious sounds.

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

Cover image of Jolly Green Scientists

Jolly Green Scientists

Latest release on Nov 24, 2020

Best weekly hand curated episodes for learning

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail about 1 month ago

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This means that the episode rankings aren't working properly. Please revisit us at a later time to get the best episodes of this podcast!

Rank #1: Ep. 13. Horntail snail pest alert and growing plants on Mars

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A new invasive snail has been observed near Miami (Florida) in August of 2020. If established, the snail can be problematic in nursery, greenhouse, fruit and vegetable production. Recognition is vital - if you see this snail, please report to state regulatory agencies right away (i.e. Texas Department of Agriculture). We also talk about the practical challenges with growing plants on Mars; something we're all going to encounter in the next 5 years or so... probably.

Horntail Snail: https://www.fdacs.gov/content/download/93400/file/horntail-snail-pest-alert.pdf

Growing plants on Mars: https://www.sciencenews.org/article/mars-farming-harder-martian-regolith-soil

Nov 24 2020

21mins

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Rank #2: Ep. 12. Fraternal Twin of Ethylene in Plants

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ACC, or more commonly known as 1-Aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid on the streets, is a precursor to ethylene, the compound most known for its ability to ripen fruit. ACC was not thought to have its own set of functions, but this recent article supports otherwise. A better understanding of plant physiology can lead to a whole new area of plant research, which includes potential management strategies.

Citation:

Van de Poel, B. 2020. Ethylene’s fraternal twin steals the spotlight. Nat. Plants. 1–2. 

Nov 10 2020

20mins

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Rank #3: Ep. 11. Bacteria in Whiteflies and Diabolical Ironclad Beetles

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I've received reports of large migrations of whiteflies recently in the landscape, from Dallas, Austin and even east Texas regions. It's not uncommon to see large clouds of whiteflies when cotton is 'defoliated' in preparation for harvest; however, whiteflies often need some time to get used to their new plant host (acclimation). Changes in endosymbionts, bacteria found inside the insect that commonly have a mutualistic positive relationship with the insect, are a potential explanation for host shift acclimation. For fun, we also talk about the diabolical ironclad beetle and it's incredibly resilient properties that make engineers interested enough to study.

Some references:

Asplen, M. K., N. Bano, C. M. Brady, N. Desneux, K. R. Hopper, C. Malouines, K. M. Oliver, J. A. White, and G. E. Heimpel. 2014. Specialisation of bacterial endosymbionts that protect aphids from parasitoids. Ecol. Entomol. 39: 736–739.

Hu, F.-Y., and C.-W. Tsai. 2020. Nutritional relationship between Bemisia tabaci and its primary endosymbiont, Portiera aleyrodidarum, during host plant acclimation. Insects. 11: 1–13.

Liu, X. D., and H. F. Guo. 2019. Importance of endosymbionts Wolbachia and Rickettsia in insect resistance development. Curr. Opin. Insect Sci. 33: 84–90.

Kanakala, S., and M. Ghanim. 2019. Global genetic diversity and geographical distribution of Bemisia tabaci and its bacterial endosymbionts. PLoS One. 14.

Weinert, L. A., E. V. Araujo-Jnr, M. Z. Ahmed, and J. J. Welch. 2015. The incidence of bacterial endosymbionts in terrestrial arthropods. Proc. R. Soc. B Biol. Sci. 282: 3–8.

Vorburger, C. 2018. Symbiont-conferred resistance to parasitoids in aphids – Challenges for biological control. Biol. Control. 116: 17–26. 

Oct 27 2020

34mins

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Rank #4: Ep. 10. Murder Hornet 'Slaughter Phase' and Plant Guttation

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The Asian Giant Hornet is one of the many plagues that's hit us in 2020; but as fall approaches, it's thought they will enter the slaughter phase, when they can take out an entire bee hive within hours. Fortunately for us in Texas, recent models suggest that the the Asian Giant Hornet won't establish in Texas due to our suboptimal climate (and because they take "Don't mess with Texas" seriously).

We also discuss new findings on the importance of plant guttation as a nutritional resource for insects and the potential implications for systemic insecticides.

Citations:

Matsuura, M., and S. F. Sakagami. 1973. A bionomic sketch of the giant hornet, Vespa mandarinia, a serious pest for Japanese apiculture. 北海道大學理學部紀要. 19: 125–162.

University of Melbourne. 2020. 'Insect Armageddon': Low doses of the insecticide, Imidacloprid, cause blindness in insects: Findings show even small doses of insecticides reduce capacity of insects to survive. ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 28 September 2020. .

Urbaneja-Bernat, P., A. Tena, J. González-Cabrera, and C. Rodriguez-Saona. 2020. Plant guttation provides nutrient-rich food for insects. Proceedings. Biol. Sci. 287: 20201080.

Zhu, G., J. Gutierrez Illan, C. Looney, and D. W. Crowder. 2020. Assessing the ecological niche and invasion potential of the Asian giant hornet. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. 0: 202011441.

Oct 13 2020

30mins

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Rank #5: Ep. 9. Poison Ivy Getting Worse and Beetles Escape Through Frog's Rear End

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Increasing levels of CO2 is one of the driving factors for global climate change. This same CO2 also happens to be vital for plant growth via photosynthesis. As a result, fast-growing plants, such as poison ivy, are actually becoming more abundant and more hazardous.

https://www.southernliving.com/news/poison-ivy-more-poisonous-bigger-climate-change?fbclid=IwAR24gBcp2fknpLYUcnG6IDvLEndKF6RyMhAUqFDgYiWbpoSWsHIN0kXll3A

If you were eaten by a frog, how would you survive? Well, these water beetles survive by swimming 'downstream'.

https://www.sciencenews.org/article/water-beetle-frog-eaten-alive-escape-death-butt-excretion?fbclid=IwAR2OhiL1E6IEqQs6ZjoK_ukVoL82-Ikx-zJaaUqkdO7_wnvKuprSOzcjt6Q

And lastly, here is a link to provide you nightmares of swarms of fungus gnat larvae.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6MwYvLaJ6Ho

Sep 29 2020

25mins

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Rank #6: Ep. 8. Watering potted poinsettias

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Potted plants are arguably overwatered in the greenhouse and nursery industry. Over-watering can be considered a waste of water, results in leaching of pesticides and fertilizers, and can promote plant pathogens. In this episode, we discuss a study that uses various sensors to assess plant stress to determine how much watering can be reduced before the plant is 'too stressed'.

For the full article:

Nackley, L. L., E. Fernandes de Sousa, B. J. L. Pitton, J. Sisneroz, and L. R. Oki. 2020. Developing a Water-stress Index for Potted Poinsettia Production. HortScience. 55: 1295–1302.

Sep 15 2020

29mins

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Rank #7: Ep. 7. Whiteflies on Poinsettias

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A common assumption is that ornamental plants must be perfectly clean when they hit the retailer. No pests. Nada. This assumption is unrealistic and rather harmful. By making this assumption, we limit our pest management decisions to options that are most likely to kill all the insects: synthetic insecticides. However, how true is it that synthetic insecticides give us perfectly clean plants? And if "zero" pests is unrealistic, what is? Listen to this episode to learn more about a study looking at whitefly densities on poinsettia cuttings received by growers and finished poinsettias that make it to the retailer.

Citation:

Vafaie, E. K., H. B. Pemberton, M. Gu, D. Kerns, M. D. Eubanks, and K. M. Heinz. 2020. Whitefly Abundance on Rooted Poinsettia Cuttings and Finished Poinsettias. Horttechnology. 1–6.

https://journals.ashs.org/horttech/view/journals/horttech/30/4/article-p486.xml

Sep 01 2020

29mins

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Rank #8: Ep. 6. Jolly Green Crime

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We often associated federal crimes with illegal drugs, guns or human trafficking, but rarely do we consider that selling plants and insects can be illegal, especially if imported without a permit. In this episode, we discuss two popular science articles that discuss federal investigations into plant and insect smugglers.

Full articles:

Jani Actman (2019). Demand for exotic pets and collectors' items drives a flourishing illegal trade in beetles, spiders, and more. National Geographic: Wildlife Watch.

Rob Walker (2020). Texas's cactus cops battle to save rare desert beauty from smuggling gangs. The Guardian.

John MacCormack (2020). Smugglers sold thousands of protected "living rock" cacti, found only in the Big Bend. San Antonio Express News.

Aug 18 2020

33mins

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Rank #9: Ep. 5. Cucumber Mosaic Virus Increases Plant Fertility

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The cucumber mosaic virus is a plant virus vectored by aphids. The virus can decrease yields, which would ultimately result in the plant produce less progeny. In a natural environment, we would expect high virus pressure to quickly result in selection for virus-resistant plants. However, the virus counteracts the negative impact on plant fertility by manipulating plant physiology to make it more attractive to pollinators!

Full citation below:

Groen, S.C., Jiang, S., Murphy, A.M., Cunniffe, N.J., Westwood, J.H., Davey, M.P., Bruce, T.J.A., Caulfield, J.C., Furzer, O.J., Reed, A., Robinson, S.I., Miller, E., Davis, C.N., Pickett, J.A., Whitney, H.M., Glover, B.J., Carr, J.P., 2016. Virus Infection of Plants Alters Pollinator Preference: A Payback for Susceptible Hosts? PLoS Pathog. 12, 1–28. https://doi.org/10.1371/journal.ppat.1005790

Aug 04 2020

30mins

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Rank #10: Ep. 4. Impact of Soil Fungi on Milkweed Plants

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The soil harbors all kinds of fungi; some beneficial and some detrimental to the health of plants. A specific class of fungi, known as arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi (AMF) form a symbiotic relationship with the roots of plants that's associated with over 80% of plant species globally. These fungi can help alter plant defense traits against herbivores or help provide nutrients to plants. In episode, we digest a study specific to AMF of milkweed plants and how it can impact performance of monarch butterfly caterpillars and aphids.

Full citation to study:

Meier, A. R., & Hunter, M. D. (2018). Mycorrhizae alter toxin sequestration and performance of two specialist herbivores. Frontiers in Ecology and Evolution, 6: 1 - 16.

Jul 21 2020

32mins

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