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Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in mines, caves
Date:5/12/2014

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. - Lowering temperatures for two hours each day reduces the height of corn without affecting its seed yield, a Purdue study shows, a technique that could be used to grow crops in controlled-environment facilities in caves and former mines.

Raising the crops in isolated and enclosed environments would help prevent genetically modified pollen and seed from escaping into the ecosystem and crossing with wild plants.

Cary Mitchell, professor of horticulture, said 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.

"Grains of corn could be engineered to produce proteins that could be extracted and processed into medicine, pharmaceuticals and nutraceuticals such as essential vitamins," he said. "This is a young industry, but what we've done is show that you can successfully grow these high-value crops in contained environments."

Mitchell described corn as a "good candidate crop" for the industry because of the plant's bounty of seeds and well-characterized genome, which can be modified in many ways. Using plants as "factories" to generate bioactive medicines would be far cheaper than the current methods that rely on cell cultures from mammals, he said.

But raising corn - a towering crop that needs bright light and heat - in a dark, cool, underground mine presented a challenge to Mitchell and then-postdoctoral researchers Yang Yang and Gioia Massa. They 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," said Yang.

"We coddled th
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Contact: Natalie van Hoose
nvanhoos@purdue.edu
765-496-2050
Purdue University
Source:Eurekalert  

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Corn dwarfed by temperature dip suitable for growing in mines, caves
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