Scientists have discovered how aluminum, a toxic result of soil acidification, acts to reduce plant growth.
The increasing human population and continuing degradation of farm soils has made food security a critical issue, says researcher Peter Kopittke of the University of Queensland School of Agriculture and Food Sciences.
One-third of the world’s food-producing land has been lost in the past 40 years as a result of soil degradation.
“Acid soils cost over $A1.5 billion per year in forgone production in Australia alone,” says Kopittke. (That’s $1.15 billion in US dollars.)
“Soil degradation occurs naturally, but is exacerbated by agricultural activities and is expensive to reverse, so another option is to cultivate crops with better tolerance for the soil conditions.
“Our research has identified how aluminum reduces plant growth, so that we can work towards overcoming this and increasing crop productivity.”
The researchers discovered that aluminum in soils could reduce the growth of roots within five to 30 minutes of exposure.