Evolution in Perspective

The Wonder Plant That Could Slash Fertilizer Use

Farmers in Mexico have been utilizing a certain breed of corn to produce plentiful crops without the need for fertilizer. This breed of corn is referred to as the “Sierra Mixe Corn,” after the mountainous region that it is commonly found in. Farmers found that this corn was able to grow in the least hospitable conditions such as no fertilizer, with soil that is nearly depleted of nitrogen. Researchers think that the aerial roots that resemble long fingers actually nutrient the plant on its own by pulling nitrogen from the environment around it. Although the plant takes about 8 months to fully mature, it could be a commercially viable option to change agriculture as we know it, if they can reduce the maturity time frame to 3 months or less.

Key Takeaways:

  • It would be great if the ability of Sierra Mixe corn to pull nitrogen from the air is given to conventional corn.
  • Chemical sprays and manure to fix nitrogen is added to cereals like corn and rice because they do not have nitrogen-fixing bacteria in their roots.
  • Because fertilizers are expensive and can distort the environmental balance, self-fertilizing corn is a desirable quality.

“Thanks to these microbes, the corn can fertilize itself by pulling nitrogen directly from the surrounding air.”

Read more: https://www.theatlantic.com/science/archive/2018/08/amaizeballs/567140/

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