Students in Science 9 learned about two sides of the same coin — the benefits of genetic diversity and the benefits of creating an identical crop quickly and economically — in a lab focused on human-assisted asexual propagation last week.
The students learned how to create a genetically identical “daughter plant” or clone of the original plant by taking cuttings from the “mother plant.” In order to understand that method of reproduction, the students first needed to understand the parts of the plants and their roles, the things plants need to survive, and the various types of tissue within a plant and their corresponding roles.
“The magic in asexual propagation is the meristematic tissue whose only job is to grow,” said School Horticulturalist Ms. Patricia Hanbidge. Meristematic tissue, she explained, is a type of tissue whose only job is to grow endlessly, and which has the ability to become a specialized cell with specific jobs. For example, meristematic tissue on a leaf cutting can become root or stem tissue.
Students were shown how to take stem and leaf cuttings of specific plants and place them either in water or directly into soilless media — material that provides plants with physical support, regulates water flow, and acts as a reservoir for nutrients. “Soil as it is found outside is very different from soilless media, as soilless media is mostly peat, and can contain perlite and/or vermiculite and generally contains no nutrition,” Ms. Hanbidge explained.
As students made their cuttings, they learned that plants will not grow if the cutting does not contain meristematic tissue, and that every plant has preferred methods of propagation, so not all types of asexual propagation will be successful.
To follow up on the lab, students will measure and record the growth of the plants. Eventually, they will transplant the plants and take them back to their Houses.
“All plants are individual, so they take different times in which to grow,” Ms. Hanbidge said. “Some take years, and some need to go through additional steps in order to grow. The plants we used will grow quite quickly and propagate easily.”
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