Video: Ancient corn variety that makes its own nitrogen could lead to more sustainable farming

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Ancient corn variety that makes its own nitrogen could lead to more sustainable farming. Image Credit: ALAN BENNETT / UC DAVIS

In the 1980s, Howard-Yana Shapiro, now chief agricultural officer at Mars, Incorporated, was looking for new kinds of corn. He was in the Mixes District of Oaxaca in southern Mexico, the area where the precursors to maize (aka corn) first evolved, when he located some of the strangest corn ever seen. Not only was it 16 to 20 feet tall …. Yet it grew to those impressive heights in what can charitably be called poor soil, without the use of fertilizer. But the strangest part of the corn was its aerial roots–green and rose-colored, finger-like protrusions sticking out of the corn’s stalk, dripping with a clear, syrupy gel.

Shapiro suspected that …. the roots allowed this unique variety of corn, dubbed Sierra Mixe and locally bred over hundreds or even thousands of years, to produce its own nitrogen, an essential nutrient for crops ….

Related article:  'Synthetic signalling networks' between GMO plants, bacteria could boost crop yields

Now, after over a decade of field research and genetic analysis, the team has published their work in the journal PLOS Biology. If the nitrogen-fixing trait could be bred into conventional corn, allowing it to produce even a portion of its own nitrogen, it could reduce the cost of farming, reduce greenhouse gas emissions and halt one of the major pollutants in lakes, rivers and the ocean ….

Read full, original article: The Corn of the Future Is Hundreds of Years Old and Makes Its Own Mucus

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