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How engineered roots could help fight climate change

Researchers have discovered a gene that could make plants grow deeper root systems, equipping them not only to cope with drier climates, but also to store more carbon—and thereby, actively fight climate change.

The findings, published in Cell, emerged from a research collaborative called the Harnessing Plants Initiative, which seeks to leverage the natural power of plants to capture carbon dioxide from the air. Focusing on the thale cress—a widely-used plant model—the Salk Institute researchers wanted to uncover the mechanism behind the behavior of a particular plant hormone called auxin, which is well known to control general plant growth, as well as root development.