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For my high school science project I am doing an experiment involving cloning vegetable plants. I was wondering how to get a clone induction medium or a callus initiation medium? How would I purchase these? Also, Do you have any good ideas for this type of project? Thank you.
Answer 1:

I have only a passing familiarity with plant biotechnology, and unfortunately I don't know of anyone who is doing this at UC Santa Barbara. There is a professor at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo, Dr. Jankay, who does this sort of work. Dr. Christoffersen, Dr. Cooper, or Dr. Finkelstein at UCSB might be able to help also, though I'm not sure how much they actually work with calluses or clones.

My understanding is that most researchers prepare their own callus and clone induction media. They will publish the recipes in the papers they publish. Sigma-Aldrich is a good source for the various components (such as 2,4-D, coconut water, etc.), though they are probably pretty expensive. They may also make some generic media.

One of the main problems in this kind of work is sterility. It is almost impossible to successfully initiate and grow a callus without using a laminar flow hood and very, very rigorous sterile technique, including autoclaving all equipment and working inside the sterile hood. Otherwise, bacteria and mold can get in and ruin everything! Therefore, in addition to producing the right media, you will need to have access to these kinds of facilities and learn these procedures. Hopefully your school has a room or something that will work for this. If you cannot find these sorts of things in any schools there are many private companies that grow plants this way as a matter of routine-- perhaps you can contact one of them and see if you can get a tour of their work area, or maybe get some sort of an internship to work with them.

Plant biotechnology is a very exciting and fun field to work in. Unfortunately it can be hard to do a successful experiment without the right equipment! If it turns out that there is nobody around who can help you with this, I have a suggestion for you: have you considered grafting? This is a very old procedure but it is also very neat to do, and you will learn a lot. It's not easy either, but it is the sort of thing you can experiment with using very basic equipment and only a few chemicals. Using this procedure you can make a tree, for example, that grows many different kinds of fruits-- that would be something pretty cool for your backyard, too!


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