Phoraging phor phosphate

Like humans, plants need a balanced diet containing all the essential minerals in order to grow and flourish. But finding mineral nutrients in soil is no simple task. Some are up near the surface, some are deep below, and some are where you’d least expect them. Phosphate in particular is a tough one to track down. Can we design plants that find it more efficiently? Today’s episode of Neiler’s Peer Review focuses on a paper by Sun et al. that attempts to do just that (“Large Crown Root Number Improves Topsoil Foraging and Phosphorus Acquisition”). Did they figure it out? Or is the problem more complicated than it seems?

For more info on this and related studies from the original authors, check out the Roots Lab at Penn State.

crown root phosphate (1)crown root phosphate (2)crown root phosphate (3)crown root phosphate (4)

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Hetz W et al. (1996) Isolation and characterization of rtcs, a maize mutant deficient in the formation of nodal roots. Plant J 10: 845-857

Sun B et al. (2018) Large Crown Root Number Improves Topsoil Foraging and Phosphorus Acquisition. Plant Physiol 177: 90-104

Stevens G et al. (2002) Crop nutrient deficiencies & toxicities. MU Extension, University of Missouri-Columbia. Accessed 8 May 2018:

Muthreich N et al. (2013) Comparative Transcriptome Profiling of Maize Coleoptilar Nodes during Shoot-Borne Root Initiation. Plant Physiol 163: 419-430

Taramino G et al. (2007) The maize (Zea mays L.) RTCS gene encodes a LOB domain protein that is a key regulator of embryonic seminal and post-embryonic shoot-borne root initiation. Plant J 50: 649-659

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