Sixth form students in Norfolk will take on the challenge of providing the first insights into how some plants resist a major wheat disease. They will work with scientists from the John Innes Centre on a project called Supermodel fights famine funded with 3000 from the Royal Society and 2000 from the British Society for Plant Pathology.
Their work from now until July could help reduce losses to Take-all, one of the most serious fungal diseases of wheat. The disease invades roots and is named for the fact that it can kill an entire crop.
We hope to introduce students to the excitement of scientific discovery and to inspire them to consider plant science as a degree choice, said Dr Paul Nicholson who is leading the JIC project.
Students aged 15-17 will receive seeds of an important model crop used to study wheat called Brachypodium. They will learn plant husbandry techniques to grow the seeds in the classroom under specific conditions. They will record the extent of root blackening on each root and compare it across different lines of Brachypodium.
Taken collectively, the data from schools and scientists will reveal differences in resistance to Take-all across 200 Brachypodium lines collected from across Europe and the Near East. Pupils will examine data sets from other participating schools to cross-check all the results.
The findings will be made available to plant breeders to help them develop new wheat varieties with greater resistance to the disease.
"We hope that the students' work will feature in peer-reviewed publications and make a real contribution to advancing scientific knowledge," said Dr Nicholson.
"The experience with enrich their education beyond the national curriculum."
Students will gain skills in plant biology, pathology, microbiology and statistics. The importance of such skills has been highlighted by the recent outbreak of ash dieback. They will also le
|Contact: Zoe Dunford|
Norwich BioScience Institutes