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Image of the Day: Slimy Business

A new study reports finding corn species in Mexico that can trap nitrogen.

Aug 13, 2018
Sukanya Charuchandra
The dripping gel secreted by aerial roots 
HOWARD-YANA SHAPIRO

ABOVE: Nitrogen-fixing corn varieties secreting large amounts of sugar-rich gel
JEAN-MICHEL ANÉ

Researchers have identified some Mexican corn varieties that can obtain nitrogen from the air with the help of their aerial roots. In results published August 7 in PLOS Biology, researchers report that the crops’ aerial roots secrete a gel within which certain bacteria capture nitrogen from the air and make it available to the plant. Naturally growing in soils lacking nitrogen, the plants have developed this alternative method to acquiring nitrogen that could reduce farmers’ dependence on nitrogen fertilizers.

A.V. Deynze et al., “Nitrogen fixation in a landrace of maize is supported by a mucilage-associated diazotrophic microbiota,” PLOS Biology, doi:10.1371/journal.pbio.2006352, 2018.

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