Sci-Fi Science: Attack of the Killer Cabbage Clones
Around St. Patrick’s Day the color green seems to be everywhere, from hats to shamrocks and much more in between. For this St. Patrick’s Day, you could show off your own green creation… by cloning a plant! Many Sci-Fi tales of cloned organisms have been based upon the scientific method for cloning animals or plants. In the real world, the cloning of plants is a common method used in modern agriculture. How do you clone a plant? In this activity, you will get to find out by making your own cabbage clones!
This activity is not appropriate for use as a science fair project. Good science fair projects have a stronger focus on controlling variables, taking accurate measurements, and analyzing data. To find a science fair project that is just right for you, browse our library of over 1,200 Science Fair Project Ideas or use the Topic Selection Wizard to get a personalized project recommendation.
Unlike most animals, plants commonly use two different ways to reproduce, using one process or the other depending on conditions at the time of reproduction. These two different types of reproduction are sexual reproduction and asexual reproduction. Many plants we’re familiar with, such as flowering plants, undergo sexual reproduction by making seeds, where each seed contains an embryo that will grow into a mature plant under the right conditions. Sexual reproduction requires both male and female parts of a plant, which mix together to form the embryo.
Asexual reproduction in plants is when new plants are made without male and female parts mixing together, and it can be done without making seeds. The new progeny plant is a genetic clone of the parent plant. Even though asexual reproduction usually produces plants with relatively less diversity compared to through sexual reproduction, asexual reproduction has many useful applications. Cloning plants is very common in agriculture because a plant can often be made relatively quickly this way and it allows a farmer to grow more reliable produce, growing essentially the same plant from one year to the next.
Extra: You can try to continue growing the clones you started in this activity. To do this, remove the clones from the bags after they’ve been growing in there for about 10 to 12 days, have an adult help you carefully use a knife to cut off and discard any rotting pieces, and put the clones onto damp potting soil in a pot or other container. Keep the soil damp and observe how the clones grow and change over time. Do the leaves grow? Do they sprout roots? Do they turn into plants like the original cabbage you used, or are they different somehow?
Extra: You can try cloning other crops as well, such as by using parts of a celery stem, tubers of potatoes, slices of carrot, lettuce stems, separated garlic cloves, etc. Do clones come from the same part of the plant? Do other crops need different conditions to be cloned? Are some crops cloned much more easily than others?
Extra: Try comparing the time it takes to produce a mature cabbage by cloning to growing it from seed. How much faster is cloning a vegetable than growing it from seed? What is the yield from each method?
Observations and Results
Did the top stem piece grow green leaves and overall make a much better clone than the middle or bottom pieces? Did the middle piece grow at least a few small green spots, while the bottom had fewer green spots (if any)?
When you cut the stem into three pieces, you probably saw that all three pieces had had some leaves growing from them, as evidenced by the leaf stubs left from you removing the leaves. The piece that should have had the most leaves was the top piece, the only piece that had leaves on its top side. This is relevant because plants have a type of tissue called the meristem, which is where plants can grow from and is important for asexual reproduction. Meristem tissue is usually in the tips of a plant’s roots (which had been removed from the cabbage) and the stem’s tip, where it grows the stem, new leaves, and buds. You should have seen that after only a day the top piece looked greener than it had after you removed its leaves, and it became greener each day, growing several leaves mostly from the top of the piece. By the time the week was over, the middle piece should have sprouted a few small green spots where the leaves meet the stem. The bottom piece may have sprouted a few green spots as well, but it probably had rotted much more than the other pieces.
More to Explore
Teisha Rowland, PhD, Science Buddies
Science Buddies |
Cloning, reproduction, asexual reproduction
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