Corn Compound Benzoxazinoids Found to Reduce Soil Arsenic Levels


Researchers have recently come across a unique compound called benzoxazinoids, which is said to be produced in large quantities by corn plants. It has been found that they can reduce arsenic toxicity in contaminated soil through extensive Research

How Arsenic is Accumulated in Food Chain

When crops are grown in soil contaminated by arsenic, it paves its way into the food chain. A University of Basel study uncovered a corn plant mechanism to reduce arsenic contamination. The solution is a special substance released into the soil by the corn roots.

Arsenic is a toxic metalloid found worldwide, especially in Southeast Asia. Bangladesh, Vietnam, and even countries like China face significant arsenic contamination. In addition, Switzerland has natural hot spots, such as Liesberg in Baselland, with high arsenic levels.

Arsenic Mimics Phosphorus

Professor Klaus Schlaeppi from the University of Basel explains, “Arsenic behaves chemically similar to phosphorus.” Plants take up phosphorus through root transport channels. “Arsenic enters plants through these channels,” Schlaeppi said. This accumulation negatively impacts human health, causing neurological damage and cancer.

Benzoxazinoids: Corn’s Defense Mechanism

Schlaeppi’s team reported in PNAS that corn uses benzoxazinoids to reduce arsenic toxicity. These compounds are produced by grasses, including corn and wheat. Corn releases large quantities of benzoxazinoids into the soil through its roots. “There was evidence that corn takes up less arsenic than other plants,” Schlaeppi noted.

Researchers grew corn in arsenic-free and arsenic-rich soils. They also used corn plants genetically unable to produce benzoxazinoids. Schlaeppi collaborated with Professors Adrien Mestrot and Matthias Erb from the University of Bern.

Benzoxazinoid-producing corn grew better in arsenic soil, accumulating less arsenic than mutant plants. Adding benzoxazinoids to arsenic soil protected mutant plants. “This proved that benzoxazinoids reduce arsenic uptake into plants,” Schlaeppi stated.

Mechanism of Action

Analyses showed bacteria and fungi were not involved. Chemical soil analyses revealed that benzoxazinoids caused a toxic form of arsenic to disappear. “Benzoxazinoids transform arsenic, preventing root uptake,” Schlaeppi explained. The exact chemical processes remain unclear.

Benzoxazinoids’ positive effect persisted across generations. Even a second corn generation benefited from the benzoxazinoids discharged by the first generation.

Practical Applications

Schlaeppi suggested cultivating plants that release more benzoxazinoids in contaminated areas. This could be achieved through breeding or genetic modifications. “This way, we could ensure less arsenic enters the food chain,” he added.

While arsenic proves to be a Harmful substance, there are many such compounds we need to be careful of. Human bodies can be the strongest and most fragile things at the same time. It is best to be careful and take care of our health by taking preventative measures that aid in a betting lifestyle.