Plant Fact of the Day: Built-in Fertilizer


Have you ever wondered why soy beans are so high in protein? It’s because soy bean plants have an infinite supply of fertilizer to work with, which lets it pack the beans full of extra nutrients. It gets help from these guys:

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Those blobs on the roots are huge bacterial colonies. They pull nitrogen out of thin air and turn it into something the plant can use as fertilizer. In return, the plant gives the bacteria sugar that it pulls out of thin air (from photosynthesis). Really neat relationship.

Apparently, some other plants do this too. There are some varieties of corn that do this, like Sierra Mixe

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That slimy stuff on the corn stalk is sugary mucus, which feeds the bacteria and makes it stick there. This type of corn doesn’t taste or produce very good, though, so scientists are trying to figure out how to make regular corn do this so that farmers will never have to fertilize corn again.