Global
Agriculture

Did You Know Plant Breeders Use Nail Polish? 

A picture of leaves and fingers with green nail polish

Nail polish helps botanists and plant breeders to study tiny pores on leaf surfaces, to develop crops which are resilient to climate change. The pores, called stomata, enable plants to take in carbon dioxide, but they also let precious water escape through evaporation. Finding the right balance in this tradeoff can improve crop yields and drought tolerance.  
 
When a clear nail polish is applied to a leaf, it dries out and forms a precise impression of the leaf’s surface. The resulting film can then be peeled off and observed under a microscope to map stomatal numbers and distributions [1]. This popular method allows plant breeders to correlate leaf pore density with a variety’s resilience, and as a result helps guide breeding programs to optimize these traits.  

A man standing in a cornfield

How efficiently different plants varieties use the water they take up the roots system depends upon the anatomy of their leaves.