Sunday 10 August 2014

Fast Growing Plants

We use catalysts to get faster chemical reactions, growth hormones to stimulate growth & cell reproduction and regeneration in humans or animals, and sometimes fertilisers are added to soil to improve its fertility.

How do we get plants to mature in the shortest possible time?
Pineapples for instance take about 2 years to grow before it could be eaten.  What if we could reduce its growth by a few months?  Can it be done?

Yes we can, and the answer is by tissue culture.  Nothing magical or sinister, it’s just science!

So, what is tissue culture anyway?
Basically it’s just growing tissue (or cells) outside an organism, i.e. in a laboratory container under controlled environment conditions.  Single cells, plant cells without cell walls, pieces of leaves, stems or roots are exposed to specific nutrients, hormones and light under sterile conditions to produce several new plants - each a clone of the original mother plant, over a very short period of time.

How is micropropagation carried out?
The offspring all come from a single plant and have identical genetic make-ups to each other and to the mother plant. They are called clones.

What are the advantages of micropropagation over the conventional method of growing plants?
1. It is fast and produces thousands of plantlets within months. 
2. Healthy plant material is ensured since soil and disease-causing organisms are excluded during the propagation cycle. 
3. The method is programmable as it is independent of seasonal changes and the weather. 
4. It saves an enormous amount of care usually required by cuttings and seedlings (watering, weeding, spraying etc.) 
5. Excess material produced can often be stored over long periods. 
6. Species and cultivars can be stored in small spaces.

Tissue culture is not really new technology as it owes its origin to the ideas of the German scientist, Haberlandt, at the beginning of the 20th century. It has now come to a stage that it is imperative we use more of this technology due to pressing environmental concerns. Changing climate, fast expanding world population and scarcity of food in many parts of the world are major concerns and many scientists believe this is one of the many ways to deal with it.  

So folks, we don’t have to wait too long to enjoy our favourite fruits.  It’s NOT MAGIC but it’s worth the short wait!

This article is written in conjunction with the Science Engagement Session at HotScience, Petrosains from 3-4 May 2014 with Nuclear Malaysia led by Dr. Rusli Ibrahim, Puan Norazlina Noordin & their team.

Shared by Azni
Learning Specialist, Petrosains

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