Perched atop a bluff overlooking the Pacific in La Jolla, Calif., the greenhouses where Joanne Chory’s plants are growing seem a touch extravagant for Arabidopsis thaliana, a small flowering piece of greenery that often blooms by the roadside. Technically, it’s a weed.
But Chory, 65, a plant biologist with a halo of snowy white hair, has big ambitions for these scrawny creations. By genetically engineering these weeds to grow unusually deep with hefty root structures, rich in an impermeable corklike polymer called suberin, Chory and her team at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies are attempting to vastly increase the amount of carbon dioxide each of these plants sucks out of the air and buries underground.
If they can replicate these