In soils that are too acidic, aluminum locked up in clay minerals dissolves into the soil as toxic, electrically charged ions, making it hard for most plants to grow, Cornell University said Monday in a news release.
Plant biologists at Cornell said aluminum toxicity in acidic soils limits crop production in as much as half the world's arable land, mostly in developing countries in Africa, Asia and South America.
The researchers said they expect to have new genetically engineered aluminum-tolerant sorghum lines by next year. Their research will be published in the September issue of Nature Genetics.
Sorghum is an important food crop in Africa, Central America and South Asia, and is the world's fifth most important cereal crop.