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Soon, corns to grow in caves, mines

Posted on May 13 2014 | IANS

New York, May 13 : In view of growing concerns about genetically modified crops cross-contaminating other crops, scientists have now devised a way to grow dwarf corn stalks in caves and abandoned mines without affecting their yield.

Lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield, the study showed.

"It is an affordable, non-chemical means of taking genetically modified crops to harvest maturity without getting any kind of pollen or seed into the ecosystem," said Cary Mitchell, professor of horticulture at Purdue University in the US.

For their experiment, the researchers installed a growth chamber with insulation and yellow and blue high-intensity discharge lamps in a former limestone mine in Marengo, Indiana, to test how corn would react to an environment in which its growing conditions - light, temperature, humidity and carbon dioxide - were tightly controlled.

To their surprise, the hybrid corn responded by growing "too well".

"Productivity in a controlled environment is superior to that in the field, and you can raise more than one crop per year," Mitchell maintained.

Controlled environment agriculture would be one of the big movements of the 21st century, he added.

The technique could be particularly useful for growing transgenic crops to produce high-value medicinal products such as antibodies for the budding plant-derived industrial and pharmaceutical compounds industry.

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