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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Technology Note

Air Date: Week of

Living On Earth’s Cynthia Graber reports that scientists have found the key to preventing aluminum poisoning in wheat and barley.


GRABER: Aluminum is an element that's found naturally in the soil. Usually it doesn't cause a problem, but in acidic soils aluminum can be toxic to the roots of crops. And this can drastically cut down the amount of food the land can produce. It's a widespread problem that affects almost a third of the world's potentially arable land, and dealing with it can be expensive. But some strains of important plants, like wheat and barley, are naturally resistant to aluminum toxicity. Now, researchers have found the location of the resistance gene in both crops. This means resistant strains can be identified in the laboratory and then can be cross-bred with strains that aren't resistant. Eventually, researchers say they might be able to use genetic engineering to transfer the genes from plants that can withstand aluminum poisoning to other unrelated crops. And that's this week's technology update. I'm Cynthia Graber.



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