A new study shows that plants can be adapted to become food-storage containers by turning a leaf’s outer layer into a nutrient-rich, starch-rich interior layer.
That means, for example, beans and other crops can be turned into “seeds” of various sorts, a type of compost that can be made into a compost heap or used to help compost the ground.
“It’s a completely new food storage system that’s not only being used in agriculture, but it’s also being used for human consumption,” said James Smith, a plant physiologist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.
In this image from a video uploaded to YouTube by a user in China, the leaves of a soybean (top) are exposed to sunlight in a compost pile in a rural region.
Smith and his colleagues studied the use of starch-based compost in soybean fields in China.
They found that the plants could absorb the starch in the soil, turning it into a starch-enriched “seedbed” for later harvest.
In some ways, this study is an early version of what Smith and colleagues hope will someday be an alternative food-recycling system, called starch-hydraulic composting, that would combine high-quality starch and other nutrients with the compost pile’s nutrients to form a nutrient rich interior layer for the plants to absorb and use.
“I think the idea of a starch hydrate is just a really exciting idea,” Smith said.
“I think we’re still a ways from making it into something that we can actually use in agriculture.”
But the researchers have shown that starch hygrometers could be used to create edible seeds, and they’ve also shown that the starch hygroscopic system could also be used in other ways to create a nutrient dense interior layer that would help plant roots retain more nutrients in the ground, Smith said, adding that it could also make sense for the same plants to use this type of system in agriculture.
The starch hybras can be a useful resource, Smith added, since starch is an important part of a plant food matrix, which can help the plants maintain an optimum nutritional balance, allowing them to take advantage of nutrients in their environment.
“If you’re a plant, and you can only take in certain nutrients, you’re going to get damaged,” he said.
“When you take in a lot of nutrients, your plant will go through a lot.
So starch is just one of those nutrients that can help a plant survive.”
Smith said the researchers’ results were published online on Aug. 19 in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.
Smith is the lead author of the paper, which was funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation.
Smith said the starch-hybras were being tested on soybeans in China in a controlled, experimental environment.
He said the results were not meant to suggest that starch-containing starch-filled food could be a practical food storage solution for the U.S. market, but that the researchers were using the starch as an example of how starch could be useful for farming in general.
“We are not suggesting that starch can be used as a feedstock for food production in the U., but it is a useful food storage product for a wide variety of applications,” Smith wrote in an email.
“What we’re trying to do here is to make starch more widely available to agriculture and food production around the world, and we hope that this work will help to increase the availability of starch in general for food.”
A starch hygelase, or starch hygra-type hydraulic system, was developed to help plants digest carbohydrates.
The process uses starch, water and a combination of bacteria and fungi to break down the starch.
(Photo: J.F. Lapp/CSAO)The starch-derived starch-yielding system, known as starch hygraphics, was initially developed to make better food storage for crops, but has become increasingly popular as a nutrient supplement.
Smith described it as a starch hydraemic system, meaning that the bacteria and yeast that help break down starch also help break up the starch that is produced from the food.
“So, it can be very useful for things like making bread,” Smith explained.
“One of the reasons it’s been so successful in agriculture is that it can break down most of the starch available in the environment, so it’s a great nutrient to feed people and to feed livestock, and it can also be very valuable in food storage.”
But the starch hydgra system can also serve in agriculture,” he added.
The study was funded in part by the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), the U,S.
Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the Ullstein Bilderberg Initiative (UBI).
The study’s co-authors include graduate student Ying Chen, graduate student Yi-Jin Zhang, postdoctoral researcher Zhigang Chen and senior research scientist