NEWS RELEASE: Putting plant breeding in the spotlight at the Cambridge Science Festival

9 Mar 2012

Crop scientists will be making the science behind plant breeding fun, easy to understand and accessible at the Cambridge Science Festival on Saturday 17th March.

Kerry Maguire from the National Institute of Agricultural Botany (NIAB) said: “The bread you eat, the beer you drink, the oil you cook with, the grass and flowers in your garden, the medicines you use, and even the diesel in the bus that takes you to work, exist because of the work of a plant breeder.

“Our ‘Breeding back to the future’ display explains why it is needed, how it has developed over the years and the new technology used today by scientists. Try modifying our model plant cell using a ‘biolistic’ ping-pong ball, find out how important the right wheat variety is for baking bread and win a doughnut with our interactive challenge.”

Plant breeding develops crops better adapted to our food and fuel needs and its origins stretch back thousands of years. The crops of cereals, potatoes, and oilseeds that surround Cambridge have been adapted, through plant breeding, from many different parts of the world to grow in the UK.

‘Breeding back to the future’ will have some of the original ‘weeds’ that were used to develop modern bread wheat, and shows how modern varieties are better adapted to growing conditions today.

The NIAB exhibit is in the Plant Sciences marquee on Downing Street, open from 10am to 4pm on Saturday 17th March, and is part of the UK-wide National Science and Engineering Week.  This is the fourth year NIAB has taken part in the Cambridge Science Festival celebrating the national event. NIAB staff Kerry Maguire, Anna Gordon, Tony Chapman, Huw Jones, Lydia Smith, Pascal Dall-Aglio and Emma Wallington will be demonstrating plant breeding on the stand.