Yesterday I spent most of my time looking into plant cell culture or micropropogation (plant multiplication in vitro). It has a number of parallels with animal cell culture, but carries a lower risk for participants, particularly in a public space like The Edge.
From information available online there are several ways of propagating plants in the lab.
One of the more simple cell culture processes simply involves removing a piece of plant material (an explant) and culturing it in media that contains growth factors that induce root and shoot formation.
Since the process involves culturing small plant sections or individual plant cells, the culturing environment and media must be kept sterile to avoid bacterial or fungal contamination.
In the the US there are a number of micropropogation kits available for plant enthusiasts from including the Phytocultures Kit (for professionals), LED Grow Master Kit (from beginner to intermediate) and the Kitchen Culture Kit (for beginners and hobbyists). While these are not available in Australia, the Kitchen Culture Kit Website still has some great info about how to set up a basic culture environment at home using supermarket supplies (agar, vinegar, bicarb, bleach, sugar, rubbing alcohol, microwave and jars etc.) and only a few specialist media components (plant preservative mixture (PPM – biocide), Murashige and Skoog (MS- medium), Benzlaminopurine (BAP -shoot formation), Naphthaleneacetic acid (NAA – root formation). They also have some good info on setting up a basic sterile area or ‘clean box’ using large plastic containers.
In Australia the choice is more limited, but both Sigma-Aldrich and Austratec have plant biotech supplies available. Of the two Austratec is perhaps the better option – their prices are more competitive and they specialise in plant biology. They stock most of the Phytotechnology range including basic micropropogation kits for African Violets, Lilies and Orchids.
One of the nice things about doing plant cell culture is that you are able to effectively create clones of a single plant which reduces genetic variability in plant experiments.