To many, cannabis is a recreational drug; to some, it is a medicine. Now, it is increasingly seen as a crop, to be grown in quantity and engineered for better traits—not just pharmacological effects, but also fiber content and the rapid, efficient growth that makes a plant useful for biofuels. This month, in a special issue of Critical Reviews in Plant Sciences, researchers delve into all aspects of cannabis biology and ecology. The work sheds light on how the plant has diversified since it was first grown 8500 years ago in Eurasia.

Oil palm has a reputation as an environmental menace. Can the latest genetic research change that?

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Lignin, one of the most abundant biopolymers on Earth, derives from the plant phenolic metabolism. It appeared upon terrestrialization and is thought critical for plant colonization of land. Early diverging land plants do not form lignin, but already have elements of its biosynthetic machinery. Here we delete in a moss the P450 oxygenase that defines the entry point in angiosperm lignin metabolism, and find that its pre-lignin pathway is essential for development.

This paper is a critique of Srivastava and Kolady1 who reported a macro analysis of the benefits of Bt cotton in India using state wide average data. The analysis is in error with respect to the economic benefits, biological underpinnings, and the effects of Bt cotton technology adoption on resource-poor farmers growing rain fed cotton. Viable non GMO high density cotton alternatives that increase yields, reduce cost of production, and give higher net average returns were ignored. The authors argue for biotechnology adoption in other crops in India without providing data or analysis.

Agricultural systems for space have been discussed since the works of Tsiolkovsky in the early 20th century. Central to the concept is the use of photosynthetic organisms and light to generate oxygen and food. Research in the area started in 1950s and 60s through the works of Jack Myers and others, who studied algae for O2 production and CO2 removal for the US Air Force and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

Indian Council of Agriculture Research (ICAR) Sponsored Short Course on Reshaping Agriculture and Nutrition Linkages for Food and Nutrition Security is being organized at ICAR - Central Research Institute for Dryland Agriculture (ICAR - CRIDA), Hyderabad during 17-26, November 2016.

The study on the socio-economic value of plant breeding in the European Union clearly shows the breeding sector has a strong positive impact on growth and employment, as well as on environmental protection and biodiversity preservation.

Bacteria living on and in leaves and roots influence many aspects of plant health, so the extent of a plant’s genetic control over its microbiota is of great interest to crop breeders and evolutionary biologists. Laboratory-based studies, because they poorly simulate true environmental heterogeneity, may misestimate or totally miss the influence of certain host genes on the microbiome.

The development of crop varieties that are better suited to new climatic conditions is vital for future food production. Increases in mean temperature accelerate crop development, resulting in shorter crop durations and reduced time to accumulate biomass and yield. The process of breeding, delivery and adoption (BDA) of new maize varieties can take up to 30 years.

Creativity and innovation are important factors for sustainable agricultural growth. Intellectual property right (IPR) is the key driver of innovation. However, many argue against this view, as it would benefit only a certain section in a country. The present study analyses the perception of stakeholders on Indian IPR system for plant varieties. A perception survey was conducted among various stakeholders of the seed industry across the country during 2011–12.