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US researchers have discovered a way for corn producers to increase their crop’s frost resistance by incorporating a tobacco gene.

A team from Iowa State University’s Plant Science Institute found that a specific tobacco gene activates corn’s natural defence systems against cold temperatures. They inserted the gene (NPK1), which in turn encoded a protein that mimics the plant’s natural responses to stress faster than it would naturally.

While the corn lines generated are not yet appropriate for the marketplace, one of the scientists, Ken Wang, said he saw the discovery as an important step in understanding crop stress.