Author Archives: Alfredo Gonsalez

Plants produce less potatoes when it’s warmer: researchers find out why

Potato plants (Solanum tuberosum) are usually very sensitive to temperature: when it is too hot, a small number of tubers form or not at all. A group of biochemists from the Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg (FAU) has understood why and now hopes that this discovery will be useful to make potato crops more efficient, especially in relation to temperature.

In the study published in Current Biology, it is reported that when the temperature increases a small RNA (a small molecule of ribonucleic acid) triggers the blockage of tuber formation. This is due to the fact that at higher temperatures the plant tries to form more green shoots and leaves and fewer tubers.

Researchers have successfully “shut down” this molecule so that the plants are more resistant to high temperatures and continue to grow tubers. This means that higher yields can be achieved even if temperatures are higher than those considered optimal for potato plants (i.e. 21°C during the day and 18°C at night).

During the experiments, researchers were able to produce good quality tubers even at temperatures of over 29° during the day and 27° at night.

Uwe Sonnewald, a professor of biochemistry at the FAU, who is involved in the study, says: “Our results give us the means to be able to continue growing potatoes in the future at increasing temperatures,” which suggests that even better results can be achieved.

Children who watch TV sleep less

Pre-school children who are used to spending more hours in front of the TV sleep less than those who sleep less or don’t watch it at all. The study, which appeared in Sleep Health, was carried out by a group of researchers at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and thus confirms the negative impact of being in front of a screen on the quality of children’s sleep.

The study’s lead researcher, neuroscientist Rebecca Spencer, helped by student Abigail Helm, analyzed a diverse group of 470 preschoolers from Western Massachusetts. During several sessions, these children wore, for a maximum of 16 days, a special instrument called an actigraph, a sort of wristwatch capable of measuring the quality of sleep duration. Other data came from questionnaires sent to parents or guardians concerning the child’s behavior.

According to the results, pre-school children who watch less than one hour of TV per day sleep 22 minutes more at night, almost 2.5 hours per week, than those who watch more than one hour of TV per day. In addition, small children without a TV in their room show that they sleep 30 minutes more at night than those with a TV in their room.

The research also disproved the myth that TV is a good companion that helps children fall asleep better.

The study focused only on the impact of TVs, but the same researcher promises to perform the same experiments with portable digital devices, primarily smartphones and tablets, which are increasingly used by children before falling asleep.