Scientists from the University of York have discovered a key enzyme that could help make plants bomb-proof.
TNT, found in explosives, inhibit the growth and development of plants in a war zone by reacting with a plant enzyme known as MDHAR6.
Professor Neil Bruce and his team found this enzyme actually creates a harmful chemical, when it comes into contact with TNT.
As a result, plants don't survive in areas heavily contaminated with TNT.
Given that it is becoming increasingly difficult to stop the use of explosives, Bruce and his team propose another option to ensure that war zones can still be a fertile area -- mutant plants.
They are mutant because they lack that all-important enzyme and therefore, "have an enhanced TNT tolerance." In other words -- they become bomb-proof.
In a paper published in Science, the team estimated some 10 million hectares of US military land is "contaminated with munitions constituents."
Engineered plants to grow in these zones may one day help to clean up and repopulate derelict areas, after the fighting has stopped.
Dr Liz Rylott, who also led the study, explained: “Only by eliminating the acute phytotoxicity of TNT can plant-based systems be successfully used to clean-up contaminated sites. Our work is an important step on that journey," she said in a statement.