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September 22 2012

Clear Soil Could Improve Crops

Artificial soil-like materials have been developed to help scientists image the secret world of plant roots. The view could help biologists, chemists and physicists improve crops and identify ways to prevent the outbreak of plant-based diseases.

The clear soil was developed by theoretical biologist Lionel Dupuy at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland. It's is made of a synthetic material known as Nafion. The compound can be modified to mimic the chemistry of natural soils. It's not transparent at first, but when watered in a customized liquid solution, the particles bend light, making the solution clear.

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