School pupils contribute to crop science with BBSRC-funded GROW initiative

7th Dec 2012

Pupils at schools across the country will have the chance to get involved in authentic scientific research by taking part in a BBSRC-funded project to develop drought resistant wheat.

The GROW (Genetic Research On Wheat) project allows schoolchildren of all ages to contribute to genetic research into one of the world's most important food crops, which aims to help breed new drought-tolerant wheat varieties.

Initially pupils at Simon Langton School for Boys in Kent will use a variety of molecular biology techniques to investigate cross-bred wheat grown at the school.

They will be involved in every step of the discovery process from physically crossing wheat varieties in the greenhouse to gene mapping workshops in the laboratory.

Students around the country in primary and secondary schools will then work to analyse the growth, yield and appearance of the wheat, data which will become part of a peer-reviewed paper published in scientific journal.

Dr Andy Morris, a teacher at Simon Langton School for Boys, said: "Pupils sometimes have a rather distorted view of biology and overlook the importance of plants and plant science to mankind.

"However, when they are made aware of the need to increase food production by 60 per cent in order to meet the projected in growth in world population over the next fifty years, they quickly realise that there is a very real problem to be solved and are keen to get involved in researching possible solutions."

The BBSRC, commercial wheat breeder Limagrain Ltd and Simon Langton School for Boys are providing funding for the first year, but the project could run for several years.

As well as engaging the schoolchildren in plant science and ground-breaking research, the project aims to provide an insight into the careers available through further study of biological sciences and discuss the contribution of wheat research to solving long term food security concerns.

Simon Griffiths, from Norwich's John Innes Centre, said: "This is an exciting opportunity for school pupils to take part in real experiments in collaboration with scientists and be part of published research.

"We hope to inspire the students about science and in particular about crop genetics, which is an area that could help us meet the challenge of feeding nine billion people by 2050."

The GROW project is led by a partnership between the John Innes Centre and Langton Star Centre with support from Limagrain Ltd, JIC Germplasm Resources Unit and the Teacher Scientist Network.

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