Researchers found a corn that could fix nitrogen from soil and are deriving methods to cross-bred it with the traditional corn crop.
Leguminous plants require less fertilizer to grow as they have the ability to fix nitrogen from the soil. A corn having the properties of legumes was discovered by the researchers at the University of California, and they are working to find ways to cross-bred it for larger use of the farmers.
Farmers are forced to use large quantity of fertilizers to meet the growing demand of corn. According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), around 40 and 80 percent of fertilizer is not absorbed by the plants, but remains in the environment and keeps circulating in the atmosphere. The excess fertilizer is then carried in lakes and ponds where aquatic plants grows profusely and in the process the oxygen supply is lowered for the other species, misbalancing the ecosystem at large.
The researchers discovered a typical different variety deeply of corn in the Sierra Mixe region of Mexico, in the state of Oaxaca. Thousands of different varieties of corn, with ancient history, wildly different appearances and uses, are found in Mexico. This typical corn has some strange features such as it grows very slowly and is three times taller than the conventional corn. They have above-ground roots which secretes a mucus-type substance, clear and thick and sticky. The nitrogen-fixing bacteria hosts on the roots that are rich in mucus creating a low-oxygen, high-sugar environment.
Researchers believe that the typical corn variety if cross-bred with traditional corn through something like CRISPR, a genome editor, it would revolutionize corn plantation. This would make the corn crop to fix nitrogen on their own, thereby reducing fertilizer intake in the environment.