Economist GMAT Reading Comprehension Challenge #25

Economist GMAT Reading Comprehension Challenge #25

Welcome back to the Economist Reading Comprehension Challenge! If you’re just getting started with this reading visit the instructions on the GMAT Reading Comprehension Challenges home page.

Article: Rice, maize and sorghum may be able to fix nitrogen from the air


Plants need nitrogen…

Plants are unable to breakdown airborne nitrogen, a nutrient they rely on, but have been able to benefit from bacteria that can.

At the moment…

Farmers provide nitrogen to crops either by rotating fields with plants that benefit from nitrogen fixing bacteria or by applying nitrogen to fields in the form of fertilizer which requires a great quantity of fossil fuels to create.

Jean-Michel Ané…

Ané is working on the nitrogen issue in two different ways, studying how legumes became friendly with nitrogen fixing bacteria and identifying a type of symbiotic nitrogen-fixing that does not rely on root nodules.

The crucial insight…

The crucial insight behind the first of these approaches was the realisation that the association between legumes and bacteria is similar to a more widespread one between land plants and fungi.

Genetic tweaking…

Dr Ané and his colleagues have also worked out the evolutionary origin of nodule formation and want to copy this evolution to other crops, by genetic tweaking.

The most widely…

Corn is the subject of the second approach.

Sierra Mixe maize…

Sierra Mixe maize is an odd corn plant because it puts out aerial roots, which ooze a gel when it rains, and doesn’t require crop rotation to flourish.

Analysis of the gel…

The aerial roots of the plant are hosting nitrogen-fixing bacteria and using them to fertilise the surrounding soil.

Six-metre-tall maize plants…

Dr Ané, Dr Shapiro and their colleagues have managed to cross-breed aerial roots into more manageable plants and have found that gel-dripping aerial roots were reported on a strain of sorghum.

Dr Ané is now doing…

If any of these crops could be encouraged to fix nitrogen routinely, that would simplify and improve farmers’ lives enormously.

Main Idea

Dr. Ané has shown promising work in nitrogen fixation which if made viable for crops would simplify and improve farmers’ lives enormously.

Primary Purpose

To discuss scientific work in nitrogen fixation.

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