Sunday 24 March 2013

Toxic-tolerant maize moves closer to reality

PlanetSave reports on new research from the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Cornell University which shows that corn (maize) crops capable of being grown in toxic soils are moving closer to reality. The new research has been attempting to unravel the reasons for why some maize plants can tolerate toxic aluminum in soil, and some can’t.
“Aluminum toxicity comes close to rivaling drought as a food-security threat in critical tropical food-producing regions. Acidic soils dissolve aluminum from clays in the soil, making it toxic to plant roots in half the world’s arable land,” said senior author Leon Kochian, director of the USDA Agriculture Research Service Plant, Soil and Nutrition Laboratory at Cornell.
“The MATE1 gene, which was found in triplicate in aluminum-tolerant maize, turns on in the presence of aluminum ions and expresses a protein that transports citric acid from root tips into the soil, which binds to and locks up aluminum, thereby preventing it from harming roots.”
Read more here.