Phosphate poor soils increase hairy roots

Plants grown in soils low in phosphates grow hairy roots in the search for nutrients. Now scientists have discovered the gene that turns on hairy roots and hope to use it to develop food crops that will grow in poor soils or with less fertilizer.

When crops such as barley and wheat are grown on soils containing small amounts of phosphate it is known that those plants with long hairs on their roots give higher yields than those with short hairs. Similarly, long-haired beans grown on the nutrient-poor tropical soils of Central America do much better than short haired varieties.

Root hairs burrow into the soil like tiny ‘mining machines’ releasing acids and other scouring chemicals that crack open rocky minerals releasing valuable nutrients, such as iron and phosphate, that are necessary for plant growth.

Now, for the first time, scientists have found the mechanism that controls the growth of these specialised nutrient-excavating cells. They discovered that a master regulatory gene called RSL4 acts like a switch; hair cells grow when the gene is turned on and growth stops when it is off.

More information:
A basic helix-loop-helix transcription factor controls cell growth and size in root hairs
Discovery of nutrient mining machine in plants

2 thoughts on “Phosphate poor soils increase hairy roots

  1. that’s amazing that the control gene was found; hopefully this can increase food security around the world…

  2. hi, sorry your comment got stuck in the queue I’ve been buried on a computer project.

    It is really cool that we can figure out how to custom alter plants to bring them to places that might not otherwise be suitable for farming. I’d like to see more of it. Right now things get altered then the same plants go everywhere reducing diversity. Too few big companies and not enough startups doing this research.

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