Scientists unlock plant mysteries

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SHEFFIELD University scientists have discovered maize crops emit chemical signals to attract growth promoting microbes to their roots - a finding which boosts their performance and could combat world food shortages.

The groundbreaking research – discovering the first chemical signal shown to attract the beneficial bacteria – could reduce agricultural reliance on fertilisers and pesticides across the globe.

Scientists found that the environment around a plant’s roots teem with micro-organisms and populations of bacterial cells can be up to 100 times denser around roots than elsewhere.

They also found evidence that certain beneficial bacteria use chemical toxins to a locate a plant’s roots.