The basis of speed breeding is giving the
plants a better quality of light, a higher intensity light and a longer daylength. Speed
is important just like in many walks of life and in this institute there’s about 500 scientists
who are in a virtual race against time to produce better crops to face tommorrow’s challenges
and one of the great limitation’s we face is growing the plants from seed to seed. If
we can do that faster we can get results faster and produce those crops faster. When everyone
in the institute heard about this success we’d had they all wanted to do speed breeding
and we were able to scale up speed breeding into our glasshouses so now effectively we’ve
doubled the capacity of plant growth in the John Innes Centre I work within the molecular agronomy programme for Brassica here at the John Innes Centre.
We decided that we were going to test speed breeding in some of our brassica plants. So when we’re growing Brassica napus in the glasshouse generally it takes us about 9 months to go
from seed to seed. Speed breeding allows us to shorten that amount of time so we can get
through more generations per year. I heard about speed breeding some two and
a half years ago from a colleague in the University of Queensland, Lee Hickey. Behind me you can see literally hundreds of different experimental wheat and barley lines
that we’ve rapidly created in the speed breeding system. When we first published the speed breeding paper we had emails from colloborators all
over the world who were interested in using it as a tool for their research and/or breeding
programmes but they didn’t have access, some of them didn’t access to expensive growth
chambers or big glasshouses like we had here in John Innes and also our colloborators in
UQ and so it was important that we developed something that they could quickly buy the parts
off the market very cheaply and then put it together with minimum skill. As we got more and more ideas we decided to apply for an OpenPlant grant which gave us
enough money to produce three prototypes. The idea is then this technology becomes
accessible. It’s democratic now. Anybody can set it up on their desk and have a speed breeding
system running to get their crosses growing and their research programme accelerated.
So that was the main idea for the small cabinet. Well of course we’d like to go even faster
and see if we could get down the generation time to say just 6 weeks, then we would get
a theoretical maximum of 9 generations per year. Of course we always want to go faster if we can I think we’ve got a very respectable BMW, but can we turn that into a ferrari and then
can we one day turn the ferrari into a spaceship and go even faster.