Victoria Nichols, of Rangi Ruru School, asks :-

When cloning plants from one cell, how do scientists get the cell to multiply?

David Leung, a plant physiologist at the University of Canterbury, responded

I think it would be helpful to use a specific example, namely cloning carrot plants. First, scientists need to prepare the plant cells for the cloning purpose in a plant tissue culture laboratory. Carrots (obtained from a supermarket) cut into about 50 mm long pieces should be treated with a synthetic chemical that acts like a natural plant hormone called auxin. This plant hormone is known to play an important role in control of cell multiplication. As a result, some of the newly formed carrot cells which are suspended in a nutrient medium containing the synthetic auxin are ready to develop into miniature plants each with a stem and root.

For this to become a reality, scientists have to do one more thing though. A suspension of carrot cells should be transferred to another nutrient medium which is free of the synthetic auxin. It has been estimated that as little as one gram of plant cells after many rounds of multiplication in several months could yield thousands if not millions of clonal plants.

While carrots have been used to work out the basics of this plant cloning technology, our staple food and vegetable crops will still be produced using the hugely cost-effective traditional agricultural practices. However, clonal pine forests and other plants of economic importance with qualities that command premier monetary returns are within the realm of this plant cloning technology.