Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


MU Researchers Find Boron Facilitates Stem Cell Growth and Development in Corn


Results could lead to advancements in corn crop yields and farming techniques

Boron deficiency is one of the most widespread causes of reduced crop yield. Missouri and the eastern half of the United States are plagued by boron deficient soil and, often, corn and soybean farmers are required to supplement their soil with boron; however, little is known about the ways in which corn plants utilize the essential nutrient.

Now, researchers at the University of Missouri have found that boron plays an integral role in development and reproduction in corn plants. Scientists anticipate that understanding how corn uses the nutrient can help farmers make informed decisions in boron deficient areas and improve crop yields.

“Boron deficiency was already known to cause plants to stop growing, but our study showed that a lack of boron actually causes a problem in the meristems, or the stem cells of the plant,” said Paula McSteen, associate professor in the Division of Biological Sciences and a researcher in the Bond Life Sciences Center at MU. “That was completely unknown before. Through a series of experiments involving scientists from several disciplines at MU, we were able to piece together the puzzle and reach a new conclusion.”

Meristems comprise the growing points for each plant, and every organ in the plant is developed from these specialized stem cells. Insufficient boron causes these growing points to disintegrate, affecting corn tassels and kernels adversely. When tassels are stunted, crop yields are reduced, McSteen said.

The research evaluated a group of plants stunted by its ability to grow tassels. Kim Phillips, a graduate student in McSteen’s lab, mapped the corn plant’s genome and found that a genetic mutation stunted tassel growth because it was unable to transport boron across the plant membranes, inhibiting further growth in the plants.

Amanda Durbak, a post-doctoral fellow in the College of Arts and Science at MU, also helped prove boron’s usefulness to meristems. She treated two groups of tassel-less corn, one with a boron fertilizer and the other with only water. The group that was treated with boron grew normally, while the group treated with water withered.

Further testing revealed that, at the cellular level, the affected plants’ meristems had altered pectin which is strengthened with boron and stabilizes the plant cell. Without the pectin, plant meristems disintegrate.

“By using various techniques and expertise at MU, including genomics, translational experiments with frog eggs, research in the field, cellular testing, and evaluations at the MU Research Reactor Analytical Chemistry facility and at MU Plant and Soil Analysis Facility, the study team drew conclusions that will help corn producers make informed decisions about raising crops in boron deficient zones,” McSteen said.

Researchers at the University of Georgia and at California State University, Long Beach also contributed to this study. The paper, “Transport of boron by the tassel-less 1 aquaporin is critical for vegetative and reproductive development in maize,” was published in The Plant Cell and was funded in part by the National Science Foundation.

Editor’s Note: For a longer version of this story, please visit: “Critical transport: Bond LSC team finds boron vital for plant stem cells, corn reproduction.”

For related video, please visit:

Jeff Sossamon | Eurek Alert!
Further information:

Further reports about: Cell Corn Development Researchers Stem crop decisions deficiency farmers meristems nutrient tassels

More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:

nachricht Harnessing a peptide holds promise for increasing crop yields without more fertilizer
25.11.2015 | University of Massachusetts at Amherst

nachricht Study shows how crop prices and climate variables affect yield and acreage
18.11.2015 | University of Illinois College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences

All articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: How do Landslides control the weathering of rocks?

Chemical weathering in mountains depends on the process of erosion.

Chemical weathering of rocks over geological time scales is an important control on the stability of the climate. This weathering is, in turn, highly dependent...

Im Focus: How Cells in the Developing Ear ‘Practice’ Hearing

Before the fluid of the middle ear drains and sound waves penetrate for the first time, the inner ear cells of newborn rodents practice for their big debut. Researchers at Johns Hopkins report they have figured out the molecular chain of events that enables the cells to make “sounds” on their own, essentially “practicing” their ability to process sounds in the world around them.

The researchers, who describe their experiments in the Dec. 3 edition of the journal Cell, show how hair cells in the inner ear can be activated in the absence...

Im Focus: Climate study finds evidence of global shift in the 1980s

Planet Earth experienced a global climate shift in the late 1980s on an unprecedented scale, fuelled by anthropogenic warming and a volcanic eruption, according to new research published this week.

Scientists say that a major step change, or ‘regime shift’, in the Earth’s biophysical systems, from the upper atmosphere to the depths of the ocean and from...

Im Focus: Innovative Photovoltaics – from the Lab to the Façade

Fraunhofer ISE Demonstrates New Cell and Module Technologies on its Outer Building Façade

The Fraunhofer Institute for Solar Energy Systems ISE has installed 70 photovoltaic modules on the outer façade of one of its lab buildings. The modules were...

Im Focus: Lactate for Brain Energy

Nerve cells cover their high energy demand with glucose and lactate. Scientists of the University of Zurich now provide new support for this. They show for the first time in the intact mouse brain evidence for an exchange of lactate between different brain cells. With this study they were able to confirm a 20-year old hypothesis.

In comparison to other organs, the human brain has the highest energy requirements. The supply of energy for nerve cells and the particular role of lactic acid...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Event News

European Geosciences Union meeting: Media registration now open (EGU 2016 media advisory 1)

01.12.2015 | Event News

Urbanisation and migration from rural areas challenging agriculture in Eastern Europe

30.11.2015 | Event News

Fraunhofer’s Urban Futures Conference: 2 days in the city of the future

25.11.2015 | Event News

Latest News

USGS projects large loss of Alaska permafrost by 2100

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

New study reveals what's behind a tarantula's blue hue

01.12.2015 | Life Sciences

Climate Can Grind Mountains Faster Than They Can Be Rebuilt

01.12.2015 | Earth Sciences

More VideoLinks >>>