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A Route for Steeper, Cheaper, and Deeper Roots
July 5, 2013 — Plants with thinner roots can grow deeper, a trait which could be exploited in lands affected by drought and nutrient deprivation. New research, to be presented at the Society for Experimental Biology meeting on July 5, shows that maize roots which have fewer cortical cells in the outer layer of their roots are more efficient at accessing water and nutrients.
A research team headed by Prof Jonathan Lynch at the Pennsylvania State University, United States, found that maize roots show natural variation in the number of cortical cells in their roots which can be selected preferentially for cultivation on land where deep roots are an advantage. A field study in collaboration with the Bunda College of Agriculture in Malawi shows that a lower number of cortical cells, reduces the energetic cost of soil exploration by the roots.