Researchers from the Institute of Plant Sciences (IPS) at the University of Bern have shown that specialized metabolites secreted by maize roots affect the quality of soil and in some fields, this effect increases the yields of wheat planted after maize in the same soil by more than 4%.
It has been known from early studies in IPS that benzoxazinoids – natural chemicals which maize plants release through their roots – change the composition of microorganisms in the soil on the roots and therefore influence the growth of the subsequent plants that grow in the soil. The current study looked at whether plant-soil feedbacks of this kind also occur under realistic agricultural conditions.
During a two-year field experiment, two lines of maize were initially grown, only one of which released benzoxazinoids into the soil. Three varieties of winter wheat were then grown on differently conditioned soils. The researchers found that it was possible that the excretion of benzoxazinoids improves germination and increases tillering, growth, and crop yield.
(Source: Crop Biotech Update, International Service for Acquisition of Agri-Biotech Applications. www.isaaa.org)