Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Symbioses and Other Suggestions

I'm teaching Economically Important Plants this fall, and, needless to say, I want to make it the coolest class ever. Suggestions are welcome for activities, content, and readings that could help make it so.
I'm thinking of having one day (generally during the agriculture section) on soil and symbioses. I'll have them review nutrient cycles in advance (I think students really need to understand nitrogen in order to get fertilizer in order to understand any ag. issues) and we'll talk about nitrogen fixation (probably using either soybeans or peanuts for case study, possibly the cool bacteria (Anabaena?) that fixes nitrogen with the waterferns (azolla?) in rice paddies). I also want to talk about mycorrhizal associations and pollination.
At the moment, the very cool pollination associations I can think of (yucca and yucca moth, monarchs and milkweeds, bats and saguaros aren't heavy on economic importance. Honey bees are plenty important, but not as useful for cool co-evolution discussions.
Ideas? Vanilla orchids couldn't be cultivated elsewhere for lack of a very specific bee: buzz pollination and the solanaceae?
Any specific mycorrhizal associations that are interesting?
Other soil symbioses?


Heather said...

While perhaps not as economically important as honeybees (except in my household), you might consider bats anyway. They are the exclusive pollinators of agave, which is the exclusive(?) source of tequila. Makes for a fun story.

salsis said...

You could bring government policies into it and discuss how dependent Haiti has become on rice imported from the US b/c this rice is cheaper (b/c of subsidies) than what they can grow in Haiti. My friends started a cassava (manioc) mill to encourage people to switch to cassava as their staple. Pictures are here: http://zwazoyo.blogspot.com/2011/06/cassava-mill-bread.html

salsis said...

And the guy that owns the cave near them sells the guano!