Six researchers from UPSC developed a concept for more sustainable urban farming. They presented their idea last November at PLATSEN in Umeå, a conference that aims to bring together different actors to discuss about sustainable developments. A short video describing their so-called eMTE concept is now available online.

The concept called eMTE (electronic Multi-Trophic Ecosystem) comprises several stages of a food chain like aquaculture, compost recycling, bioreactors as well as aero-/hydroponics. These so-called trophic layers are electronically controlled and interconnected with each other to form a small-scale ecosystem. Like this, nutrients produced in one trophic layer can support another layer reducing the amount of waste and energy that needs to be invested to produce food. Employing electronics offers great possibilities to monitor the different trophic layers and therefore makes the entire ecosystem more modular, which thus eases its use within complex structures such as found in cities.schemeSchematic overview of the eMTE concept

The eMTE project was initiated by Olivier Keech, assistant professor at Umeå University. His team, namely Nicolas Delhomme, Simon Law, Stefano Papazian, Alonso Serrano, Bastian Schiffthaler and Bernard Wessels, consists of fundamental scientists with different specialisations. All of them are driven by the idea to improve urban farming and urban food production while in parallel increasing the awareness about human relationship to ecosystems.

“It was great to get the opportunity to present our eMTE concept at PLATSEN”, says Olivier Keech, leader of the eMTE project. “We got lots of positive feedback as well as new contacts to collaborate with, which is encouraging. Our idea is to develop this project further so it can be soon integrated into existing and novel urban farming projects.”

PLATSEN is thought as a platform where decision makers, politicians, scientists, NGOs and people from public and private sectors can meet and exchange and discuss ideas about sustainability in an urban environment. The event is initiated by the Swedish Scientific Council for Sustainability in collaboration with several other actors from the public and private sectors e.g. Umeå Municipality and Umeå University.

For more information have a look to the video or contact Olivier Keech: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
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Six new members were elected at the General Meeting of the Royal Swedish Academy of Science on the 11th of January 2017. Ove Nilsson, director of the UPSC and professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, is one of them. The membership honours exclusive recognition of successful achievements in research and outstanding services to science.

The other new members are Rikard Holmdahl from Karolinska Institutet, Ruth Palmer from the University of Gothenburg and Jarone Pinhassi from Linnaeus University and the two Nobel laureates May-Britt Moser and Edvard Moser, both from the Norwegian Kavli Institute for Systems Neuroscience. All members are divided according to their scientific focus into different scientific disciplines, called classes. Ove Nilsson and Jarone Pinhassi are assigned to the class for bioscience while the other four belong to the class for medical sciences.

There have been three other UPSC researcher elected to the Academy previously: Gunnar Öquist, Göran Sandberg and Stefan Jansson. Today, the Academy has about 625 members, 450 from Sweden and 175 foreign members. It is a non-governmental scientific organisation that awards every year the Nobel Prizes in Physics and Chemistry, the Sveriges Riksbank Prize in Economic Sciences and many other prizes. The members take part in the Academy’s committees and panels and in the selection process for the prizes. The main goal of the Academy is to promote sciences and strengthen their influence in society.

Link to the announcement at the Royal Swedish Academy of Science:

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[2017-01-19] UPSC and SweTree Technologies announced today that they have entered into partnership with the VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology to accelerate research on tree value and productivity. The joint research collaboration aims to identify new genes for growth increase in trees and is envisioned to strengthen all involved parties. The study results will be published in leading scientific journals.

The joint project of Belgian and Swedish scientists builds on accumulated experience on functional genomics of genes controlling growth in annual plants as well as trees. This partnership combines four important assets: the strong research on tree biology and genomics at UPSC; the excellent industrial tree biotechnology capabilities of SweTree Technologies; the world-leading expertise in plant growth and productivity of the research group of Dirk Inzé (VIB-UGent); and the outstanding expertise in bio-informatics and comparative genomics of the lab of Klaas Vandepoele (VIB-UGent).

“This agreement will bring the UPSC and VIB research environments closer together, by exchanging researchers more frequently and by arranging joint scientific meetings”, says Ove Nilsson, director of UPSC. “We are very excited about this opportunity to deepen our scientific collaborations with the VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology, one of the strongest research environments in Europe for experimental plant research. It is an excellent complement to our research interests and we are especially excited about the possibilites to make cutting-edge comparative genomics analysis between Arabidopsis, maize and poplar trees.”

VIB and UPSC will share all data and develop new bioinformatics tools to identify key conserved regulators of growth and wood formation. “My team is passionate about understanding plant growth and how this is controlled by both intrinsic development programs and environmental cues”, says Dirk Inzé. “By using the experimental advantages of both Arabidopsis and maize as model systems we have made remarkable progress in understanding plant growth and crop yield. And we’re just getting started.”

In a first joint-research project, the researchers will test identified key genes for their growth and yield-promoting abilities in Arabidopsis, maize and poplar trees. SweTree Technologies will contribute to the collaboration with knowledge from tree plantations and they will test the best lead genes in Eucalyptus.

“We are delighted by the collaboration between UPSC, VIB and SweTree Technologies”, says Carl-Gustav Löf, CEO of SweTree Technologies. “With our joint efforts, we anticipate to take important steps towards significantly increasing the values of forestry plantations and agricultural crops.”

Left: Klaas Vandepoele and Dirk Inzé from VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology (photo: Karel Spruyt); Right: Ove Nilsson from UPSC and Carl-Gustav Löf from SweTree Technologies (photo: Anne Honsel)

Ove Nilsson (Director UPSC): +46 70 286 9082

VIB for Plant Systems Biology
Dirk Inzé (Science director VIB Center for Plant Systems Biology): +32 477 695 746
Griet Verhaegen (Business Development Manager VIB): +32 477 61 07 72

SweTree Technologies
Carl-Gustav Löf (CEO SweTree Technologies): +46 70 609 95 10

Forskare från Umeå Plant Science Centre – Umeå universitet och SLU – berättar om sin forskning.
Populärvetenskapliga föredrag i huvudsak på svensk
Kaffe och te i pausen.
Alla är välkomna!
Researcher from Umeå Plant Science Centre - Umeå University and SLU - talk about their research.
Popular science lectures that are given mainly in Swedish
Coffee and tea will be served in the break.
Everyone is welcome!

Tid: 9 mars kl  12:00 – 16:00
Plats: P-O Bäckströms sal, SLU

Preliminärt program:
 12.00 Välkommen 
  Natalie von der Lehr (moderator, frilansjournalist)
 12.05 Hur vet träden att det är höst? (svensk presentation)
  Stefan Jansson (professor, Umeå universitet)
 12.30 How do plants make plumbing pipes from cells? (engelsk presentation)
  Sacha Escamez (postdoktor med Hannele Tuominen, Umeå universitet)
 12.55 Fotosyntesen - ett samarbete mellan cellens energifabriker (svensk presentation)
  Per Gardeström (professor, Umeå universitet)   
 13.20 Traffic in plant cells - sending cargo the right way (engelsk presentation)
  Anirban Baral (postdoktor med Rishikesh Bhalerao, SLU)
 13.45 Chemicals as tools to dissect plants (engelsk presentation)
  Siamsa Doyle (forskare med Stéphanie Robert's, SLU) 
 14.10 Paus och kaffe
 14.40 Getting together: the fungus-root symbiosis in forest tree (engelsk presentation)
  Judith Felten (universitetslektor, SLU)
15.05 Därför är världen grön – om växter och deras försvar (svensk presentation)
  Benedicte Albrectson (forskare, Umeå Universitet) 
15.30 Framtidens skogsgenetik med gamla fältförsök (svensk presentation)
  Anders Fries (forskare, SLU) 
[2016-12-14] Siamsa Doyle receives the UPSC Agrisera Prize 2016 for her excellent scientific contributions to unravel new functions of the endomembrane system. Her admirable scientific skills and efficiency led to several publications in high ranked journals like PNAS. Siamsa Doyle is also honoured for her outstanding contribution to improve the UPSC work environment.

DSC03882The UPSC Agrisera Prize is awarded every year to a PhD student, Postdoc or technician at UPSC for excellent scientific achievement that benefitted from Agrisera product. In addition to this, the candidate should have made a very positive contribution to the UPSC scientific environment by initiating for example valuable scientific discussions.

The prize is a personal cash prize in the form of a check and can be used for travel costs. The award was presented by Malgorzata Wessels from Agrisera and Catherine Bellini, chairman of the UPSC board.

Sucrose delivers the carbon for cellulose biosynthesis. To make the carbon available, sucrose needs to be enzymatically cleaved. This can be done by two classes of enzymes, sucrose synthases and invertases. Umut Rende from Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) investigated how these two enzyme classes contribute to cellulose biosynthesis in aspen wood. He will defend his PhD thesis at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science on Thursday, the 8th of December 2016.

Invertase TreesControl (WT) and different transgenic aspen lines with reduced invertase activity.Umut Rende has focussed specifically on sucrose synthases and cytosolic neutral invertases, enzymes that are active in developing aspen wood. By analysing transgenic aspen trees with reduced enzyme activity of either sucrose synthases or neutral invertases he could show that neutral invertases are important for cellulose biosynthesis. Sucrose synthase on the other hand is not delivering carbon specifically for synthesis of cellulose but also for other cell wall components like lignin and hemicellulose. 

The transgenic trees Umut Rende and his collegues created grew normally in the greenhouse without any visible differences to non-modified trees. “That was quite disappointing at first,” says Umut Rende. “The total neutral invertase activity in our invertase mutants was reduced by about 50%. We had to look deep into the chemistry and structure of the wood in these trees to see that the cellulose content and the diameter of the cellulose fibrils was reduced. This very specific cellulose defect demonstrated that neutral invertase activity is critical for cellulose formation in developing wood of hybrid aspen.”

Formas has recently granted two research projects from Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) that both aim to analyse the specific role of carbohydrate metabolism for wood formation. Ewa Mellerowicz, coordinator of one project, will study the role of Carbohydrate Active Enzymes in wood formation. Totte Niitylä, who is leading the other project, aims to analyse how carbohydrates are transported and integrated into the wood. The two researchers from UPSC will each receive about three million SEK from Formas.  

A large proportion of the woody biomass arises from carbohydrates. The two projects will analyse the carbohydrate metabolism in developing wood in spruce and aspen. Both tree species are fully sequenced model species and important for the Swedish forest industry. The researchers aim to identify factors that control the mechanical and chemical properties of wood and that influence specific wood traits like volume and density which are interesting for forestry. The outcome of these projects will provide new insights into wood formation in trees and will be very interesting for spruce and aspen breeding programs in Sweden.  

Ewa Mellerowicz, Professor at the Swedish University of Mellerowicz Ewa 1150Agricultural Science (SLU), is focussing in her research on so called wood matrix polysaccharides. These are long-chained carbohydrates that interact with the other wood cell wall components, cellulose and lignin, to form a rigid structure. They are synthesized and modified by Carbohydrate Active Enzymes (CAZYmes) and affect the mechanical and chemical properties of cell walls in wood cells. In her project, Ewa Mellerowicz and her colleagues want to identify CAZYmes that are involved in wood formation in spruce where wood carbohydrate metabolism is so far not well studied.

The researchers specifically plan to characterize how the expression of the identified spruce CAZYme genes is changing during the day and how this influences the deposition of carbohydrates to the cell wall. In a further step, Ewa Mellerowicz and her team will test the function of the identified spruce genes in aspen. The identification and characterisation of spruce CAZYmes will be not only valuable for understanding wood formation in conifers. The enzymes might be also interesting tools for industrial use.

Totte NiittyläTotte Niittyla 1150, group leader at UPSC, is interested in the transport of carbohydrates from photosynthetic tissues to the wood and their metabolism in the wood. He and his team are developing carbon-13 isotope flux measurements for aspen. The researchers expose aspen plants for a short time to carbon dioxide that is labelled with the heavy isotope carbon-13. Then, they analyse how the label is transported to and metabolised in developing wood. By determining which compounds are labelled combined with enzyme activity measurements the researchers around Totte Niittylä aim to identify new genes that control carbon fluxes during wood formation.

Chemicals modifying plant development are commonly used to characterize the molecular basis of plant growth. In collaboration with the Laboratories for Chemical Biology Umeå (LCBU), Thomas Vain from Umeå Plant Science Centre (UPSC) has identified novel compounds that control plant development. He also contributed to develop workflows for processing digital images to quantify relevant biological information from these images. Thomas Vain will defend his PhD thesis at the Swedish University of Agricultural Science on Friday, the 25th of November 2016.   

Thomas Vain and his colleagues from LCBU, Umeå University, have screened about 8000 different compounds on their effects on plant development using the model plant Arabidopsis thaliana. Their special focus was on compounds that alter how plants perceive auxin, a phytohormone broadly regulating plant development. The identified molecules are useful tools to study fundamental aspects of plant development and might lead to the design of more specific agrochemicals. 

20161123 Vain Press release Figure1A. thaliana seedlings and the chemical structure of the phytohormone auxin
A chemical biology screen like the one performed by Thomas Vain and his colleagues consist normally of several steps. In the first round, a large amount of compounds was tested and the most effective compounds were selected. These compounds were characterised further using different, more specific approaches to understand their mode of action. They ended up with several interesting compounds that affect the auxin signalling pathway, which effects unravel in detail auxin perception and response. 

Thomas Vain and his colleagues from the UPSC went even further. They chose one of their most affective compounds and performed a genetic screen with it. They used a population of randomly mutagenized Arabidopsis seedlings and screened for mutants that were resistant to the selected compound. The mutation in the resistant mutants will tell the researchers more about possible mediators of the effect of the selected compound. This will increase the understanding about how auxin is perceived and how responses to auxin are regulated. 

Vetenskapsrådet decided to fund the research projects of Rishikesh P. Bhalerao, Stefan Jansson, Stéphanie Robert and Åsa Strand, all researchers at the Umeå Plant Science Center (UPSC). They will receive about three million SEK each for their research projects over four years. In total, Vetenskapsrådet has granted 340 from 1767 applications in the field of natural and engineering sciences.

VR2016Photo: Anne Honsel The four granted projects cover different research areas within plant science. Rishikesh P. Bhalerao will analyse how aspen trees reactivate their growth in spring. Two different temperature signals are necessary for this. First low temperatures in winter are needed to break the dormancy whereas subsequent warm temperatures in spring induce bud burst after dormancy has been released. Rishikesh Bhalerao will focus in his project on elucidating the molecular basis of temperature mediated dormancy break and bud burst.

The aim of Stefan Jansson’s project is to understand how trees survive the winter. He plans to compare deciduous trees like aspen with evergreen needle trees like spruce. Deciduous trees degrade and recycle their photosynthetic components in autumn before they shed their leaves. Evergreen trees in contrast keep their photosynthetic machinery during the winter and stay green. Stefan Jansson wants to analyse how these different strategies to survive the winter are regulated.

Stéphanie Robert will examine how cell shapes are determined. Cell walls have been suggested to be heterogeneous in their mechanical and chemical properties. These properties determine the stiffness and elasticity of the cell wall, which control cell growth and overall cell shape. Stéphanie Robert will analyse which cell wall components are influencing the properties of the cell wall and how these properties control the shape of the cell.

Åsa Strand will investigate which regulatory mechanisms control the development of chloroplasts, the photosynthetic centre of the plant cell. Photosynthetic activity is established during chloroplast development and as a consequence this leads to drastic changes in the metabolism of the cell. Åsa Strand wants to understand how these metabolic changes interconnected to chloroplast development are communicated within the cell. The focus of her project will be on the communication between the chloroplast and the nucleus.

Plants continuously have to decide how to invest their resources. If they invest more into growth, they might become more susceptible against diseases or easier attacked by herbivores. On the other hand, a strong investment into their defence system will be at the expense of growth. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker from Umeå University has found that certain defence chemicals, influence the decision making process in Aspen trees. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker has successfully defended her thesis on Friday the 4th of November.   

The production of defense chemicals is costly for a plant. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker has worked with Aspen trees that have evolved different strategies to invest their resources. Those trees produce different levels of tannins and salicinoids which are phenolic defence compounds. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker wanted to know how these genetically different Aspen trees (also called Apen genotypes) react to additional nitrogen nutrition and how this affects the plant associated microorganisms.   

image006The soil nitrogen content influences the plant's decision to grow or to defend. 
Nitrogen nutrition normally promotes plant growth and inhibits the synthesis of tannins in the tree leaves. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker found that there is a connection between the genetically inherited level of tannins and the trees’ strategy to deal with limited nitrogen availability. Aspen trees with low tannin levels grew better on poor soils with low nitrogen levels than trees that contain a lot of tannins. “Trees with high levels of tannins invest more energy to keep these levels high”, says Huizu Vicki Guo Decker. “That is why they grow less when nitrogen is limited. This strategy can be of advantage for the tree when it is for example attacked by insects.”

Another factor that is thought to influence the fitness of the tree are endophytic fungi. These are plant associated microorganisms that co-exist with the tree but do not cause any disease symptoms. Instead, their presence might improve the fitness of the tree against plant attacking insects. Vicki Huizu Guo Decker found that the composition of the fungal community on Aspen leaves is strongly related to the level of phenolic compounds. Especially salicinoids influence the structure of the fungal community.

The relationship between endophytic fungi and the host plants get image005Treatment with the Aspen leaf beetles and resulting deeding damages. even more complex when additional environmental factors are added like plant attacking insects. Huizu Vicki Guo Decker worked with Aspen leaf beetles. This specialised beetles and their larvae feed on Aspen trees and the larvae even use the phenolic compounds from the tree for their own defence. Guo Decker showed that the fungal composition becomes less specific to the respective respective genetic Aspen genotype when the Aspen leaf beetles are attacking the tree.