Johanna Carlsson received the scholarship from SNS and NordGen Forest last year. She used the funding to go to Germany to explore the plant propagation processes there.
When Johanna applied for the scholarship, she did one year of industrial internship at the company Svenska Skogsplantor in Sweden and worked with propagation of Norwegian spruce through somatic embryogenesis.
– People can plant anything in their gardens, but when it comes to forest trees, they suddenly become very worried and for many it is important that the trees are grown from seeds. We must get around that attitude, she says.
Instead of planting a seed, she is propagating Norwegian spruce by growing a piece of tissue in the lab. The genetics of the seedling derived from embryogenesis does not differ from that of a cutting. However, since the product is called a clone, the link to GMO, Dolly the sheep and synthetic, mutated monsters becomes linguistically significant.
– We do have laws and rules for planting that ensure that we will never cover the whole of Sweden with the same spruce clone, there is no risk!
The biotechnology company Piccoplant in Germany has specialized in micropropagation. They use an in vitro method where they take offshoots from an elite mother plant and place it in a sterile container with a solution of nutrients. Under adjusted growing conditions new small plants are developed. Johanna was guided around their lab and nursery.
“I was impressed by the logistics behind this big operation” she writes in her report. “I got the impression that there is a difference in awareness between the forest plant customers and the ornamental/flower plant customers.”
Handle the prejudices
– The most important thing that I brought with me from the trip was to learn more about how to propagate with the alternative methods without making it too hard and that communication is needed! If we can eat cultured meat and produce children in a lab, spruce plants made in the same way should not be that hard to accept.
Johanna thought it was easy to apply for the scholarship, but it took some more time to write the report afterwards.