Plant Tissue Culture

Activities in Plant Biotechnology

Plant research often involves growing new plants in a controlled environment. These may be plants that we have genetically altered in some way or may be plants of which we need many copies all exactly alike. These things can be accomplished through tissue culture of small tissue pieces from the plant of interest. These small pieces may come from a single mother plant or they may be the result of genetic transformation of single plant cells which are then encouraged to grow and to ultimately develop into a whole plant. Tissue culture techniques are often used for commercial production of plants as well as for plant research.

Tissue culture involves the use of small pieces of plant tissue (explants) which are cultured in a nutrient medium under sterile conditions. Using the appropriate growing conditions for each explant type, plants can be induced to rapidly produce new shoots, and, with the addition of suitable hormones new roots. These plantlets can also be divided, usually at the shoot stage, to produce large numbers of new plantlets. The new plants can then be placed in soil and grown in the normal manner.

Many types of plants are suitable for use in the classroom. Cauliflower, rose cuttings, African violet leaves and carnation stems will all easily produce clones (exact genetic copies) through tissue culture. Cauliflower florets in particular give excellent results since they can be grown into a complete plant in the basic tissue culture media, without the need for additional growth or root hormones. Green shoots are generally observable within three weeks, and roots develop within six weeks.

The most important part of this activity, however, is to maintain as sterile an environment as possible. Even one fungal spore or bacterial cell that comes into contact with the growth medium will rapidly reproduce and soon completely overwhelm the small plant piece that you are trying to clone.

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