If modern baseball can teach kids anything about science, it’s that steroids make things huge. We’ve all seen players with tree-trunk sized arms blast baseballs out of ballparks thanks to steroid hormones that bulk up muscle cells.
But what’s good for athletic prowess isn’t always good for farmers. Take corn — a crop we grow on 70 million acres of the nation’s farmland. Naturally occurring veggie steroids give corn long stalks, which require lots of water and fertilizer to grow.
When Purdue University researchers set out to miniaturize corn in an effort to help conserve water and fertilizers and reduce pesticide use, they searched for ways to do the opposite of what BALCO did for Barry Bonds. “If you take away the steroid from a plant,” said lead researcher Burkhard Schulz, a self-described plant architect, “you receive a very small plant.”