Wetenschap - 3 oktober 2016

Busy day during open house Animals & Plants (video)

tekst:
Roelof Kleis

How do you create tomorrow’s plant? Like a chrysanthemum that lasts longer in your vase, or a bell pepper with even better taste? Last Sunday, the many visitors on campus were able to sneak a peek behind the scenes.

Photos: Sven Menschel

Chrysanthemums are not necessarily the prettiest of flowers, but that might be a question of taste. Plant breeder Geert van Geest tells us these flowers are very popular in Russia. Each year, many shipments of chrysanthemums are transported there from the Netherlands. This transport takes time. The plant needs to remain beautiful during that entire time, and even a bit longer once it reaches the consumer. They are bred for that. PhD candidate Van Geest is studying the secret of a long vase endurance.

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Van Geest was one of the many animal and plant scientists who showed the public what their research is about during the open house last Sunday. A colourful parade of science. Why does a flower look the way it does? How do we keep those darn thrips away from our plants? How can we ensure cows burp up less methane? And what is a present-day robot capable of in horticulture?

Answers were aplenty to these and many more questions. And the main audience it was thought for were the children. Thanks to a Pokémon game, drawings and handicrafts, and very accessible explanations, science had never been as much fun. Have you ever tried to milk a cow? Near Zodiac stood a gigantic inflatable cow with an udder filled with water, where you could compete with a milking robot. No one even came close to the robot’s speed (2.7 litres per minute).

DNA is boring and rather meaningless to most children. But this changes as soon as you can build a piece of DNA using coloured candy. The step to a double helix then becomes less of an abstract twist. It probably wasn’t the first time it had been done this way, but it works wonderfully. The open day was part of the Dutch Science Weekend, in which part of the Wageningen research participated this year.

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