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Plant Roundup

August 21, 2009

Plant geneticists are developing crops that can thrive in salty soils.


Salt-tolerant crops. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.

Millions of acres of potential farmland can’t be cultivated because they’re too salty. Now a research team based at the University of Adelaide in Australia is developing genetically modified crops that can thrive in these conditions. Recently, they reported enhancing a mustard plant’s ability to remove salt from water before it reaches the plant’s leaves. Now they’re trying the same genetic modifications on rice, wheat and other food crops.

In other plant news, scientists have discovered that a small alpine plant growing in the icy mountains of northern Russia has snow roots. The roots grow upward through ice to reach a layer of snow that contains trace amounts of nitrogen, an important plant nutrient. When the snow melts, the roots die and decompose, which could be why no one’s ever noticed the phenomenon before. I’m Bob Hirshon for AAAS, the Science Society.