Budding scientists at Writhlington School, Somerset, UK are learning the aseptic techniques required for orchid seed sowing, which may be of use to them in their future careers.
The Writhlington School Orchid Project, led by teacher Simon Pugh-Jones, grew out of the after-school Gardening Club for students, making use of old greenhouses in the school grounds. After a collection of orchids was donated to the club, it started exhibiting and selling plants at horticultural and local shows, then specialised in growing orchids. About 10 years ago, the club took the next step in orchid propagation and began growing from seed.
In the wild, orchid seeds rely on a fungal partner to germinate. In cultivation, identifying and inoculating seed with the correct fungus is extremely difficult, especially in normal greenhouse conditions, and so in vitro techniques are used. By sowing orchid seeds in sterile air provided within a laminar flow hood on a sterilised nutrient agar medium, it is possible to generate vast quantities of healthy orchid seedlings from a single seed pod.
The ‘mother flasks’ of seeds are placed in the school’s growth room, under rows of fluorescent lighting tubes. Once the seeds have germinated and developed into protocorms, they can be plated out onto fresh medium. As the seedlings grow and require more space and fresh nutrients, they are ‘reflasked’ into new jars of media, and replaced under the lights in the growth room in between transfers. Once large enough, the seedlings can be taken out of their sterile jars and media, the sugar rich agar washed off the roots, and potted up to be grown on.
Writhlington School selected Bigneat of Waterlooville, Hants as its cabinet supplier, which was purchased through laboratory distributor, Scientific & Chemical Supplies. “We think all schools should be working in clean air and teaching aseptic techniques so that students are prepared with skills which will be of use in a range of future careers in biological fields such as medical, chemical and life sciences,” said Pugh-Jones.
Bigneat laminar flow cabinets provide protection for process or experimental apparatus in a laboratory. The fan, which draws air though HEPA filters (BS EN1822 H14 grade), provides ultra-quiet operation and low vibration level.
Contact http://wsbeorchids.org.uk www.bigneat.com