Plants are responsible for the production of a wide variety of unique compounds. Something like this has an effect on the roots of the subsequent plant that thrives in the soil, for instance, maize. Recently, researchers from the University of Bern’s Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) have been conducting field studies in this region. The discoveries are quite fascinating and provide new avenues of investigation.
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Researchers demonstrated that this impact boosts the yields of wheat put in the same soil after maize by more than 4% in certain locations. But how precisely does that take place?
At the beginning of a field experiment that lasted for two years, two different lines of maize were cultivated, but only one of them emitted benzoxazinoids into the earth’s soil. After that, three distinct kinds of winter wheat were cultivated on variously conditioned soils.
Whether effects of this kind actually make a significant difference for overall agricultural productivity and sustainability remains to be seen, however, as yield also depends on many other factors, explained Matthias Erb, Professor for Biotic Interactions at the Institute of Plant Sciences.
The researchers carried out a number of different analyses of the soil and the roots in order to gain a deeper comprehension of the underlying process. The plants that produced benzoxazinoid collected these compounds and the products of their breakdown in the soil near their roots. However, the nitrogen levels of the soil were not changed. Furthermore, benzoxazinoids were shown to have a relatively long half-life in the soil.
One further thing that was discovered was that the soil chemistry and the kinds of microorganisms that were present in the studied field differed quite a little from place to place. The researchers were able to demonstrate that the effect of benzoxazinoids on the development and resilience of wheat is dependent on its unique chemical makeup, as their hypothesis predicted.