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Journal Club: Best of 2016

The five nominees for our journal club’s “Best Paper We Read in 2016” are:

Wu et al., Leaf development and demography explain photosynthetic seasonality in Amazon evergreen forests

  • We liked it for: The coherent mechanistic analysis, with supporting data at different scales, to explain why canopy photosynthesis increases in the dry season in the tropics
  • Quibbles: Leaf-scale physiology was only presented as rates of ‘true’ Vcmax ie. corrected for mesophyll conductance – but without saying how mesophyll conductance varied, these rates can’t be directly linked to photosynthesis.

Atkinson et al., C4 photosynthesis boosts growth by altering physiology, allocation and size

  • We liked it for: The really solid evidence provided by a large, carefully controlled experiment using paired species comparisons to examine how C4 photosynthesis improves plant growth
  • Quibbles: The one quibble was the feeling that this was something we knew already, rather than a new discovery.

Gray et al., Intensifying drought eliminates the expected benefits of elevated carbon dioxide for soybean

  • We liked it for: The impressive synthesis of data from the soyFACE experiment – a superlative example of how to bring together a range of datasets to understand the overall outcome from a large experiment. Something to aim for in EucFACE!
  • Quibbles: We wanted more on the response of LAI vs the response of yield

Wenzel et al., Projected land photosynthesis constrained by changes in the seasonal cycle of atmospheric CO2

  • We liked it for: A really clever and novel analysis, which uses the observed increase in seasonal CO2 amplitude to help constrain long-term predictions of photosynthetic CO2 response
  • Quibbles: Not all of us were convinced that the increase in seasonal CO2 amplitude is sufficiently driven by increasing CO2, to be able to use it to constrain projections of CO2 fertilisation effect into the future

Kromdijk et al., Improving photosynthesis and crop productivity by accelerating recovery from photoprotection

  • We liked it for: It all started with a model! A canopy photosynthesis model suggested that a particular tweak to photosynthesis could give large yield increases. Whiz-bang bioengineering followed by a field trial now holds out the promise of significant improvements in crop yields.
  • Quibbles: The study used tobacco, a crop grown for its leaves. It’s not clear how this work will translate to a grain crop.

And The Winners Are: 

All five nominees received 4-star or higher ratings on the day. In our final vote, all papers received at least one vote, showing we liked them all! But the two papers receiving the most votes, and therefore our joint winners, are:

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