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Public-Private Collaboration Identifies Nitrogen Fixing Corn

A public-private research collaboration between scientists at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the University of California - Davis, and Mars Inc. have identified corn varieties native to Mexico that have the ability to secure the nitrogen it needs from the air.

In order to fix its own nitrogen, the corn secretes a mucus-like gel from arrays of aerial roots along its stalk that contains a bacteria with the ability to convert atmospheric nitrogen into a form of nitrogen usable by the plant. By doing so, the plant can acquire between 30 percent and 80 percent of the total nitrogen needed for growth, however, the team states that the rate of fixation depends upon environmental factors such as rainfall and humidity.

If such corn could be commercialized, it would greatly reduce the crop’s high demand for chemical fertilizers, however, further study is required to determine the possibility for this corn to be developed on a commercial scale.

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