A Day with a Plant Scientist: A report on a one-day session submitted by Amina Yaqoob: ASPB Ambassador in Pakistan

I want to share an exciting experience of conducting my first seminar as an ASPB Ambassador at a local high school (Beacon house school system, Lahore) on 12th March, 2018.

It was a beautiful sunny day when I visited a group of energetic young students at the high school. They were going to start a small pilot project of aeroponic plantation system at their school. I had been invited there as a plant expert to give them a brief overview of modern cultivation systems. I happily spent some exciting hours with that student’s group and we had a great interactive session.

Just after the formal start of the seminar, i.e. the headmistress’s welcome address and introductory session, I was invited to deliver a plenary lecture on modern growth culture techniques and their benefits over conventional farming. Due to depleting water resources and consequently food supplies, farming has been advanced by the introduction of many new trends which include hydroponics, aeroponics and aquaponics. These are soilless agriculture systems for plants in which an aquatic based environments are provided. Aeroponic farming allows a direct contact of plant roots with water spray. Hydroponic systems involve the spray of mineral nutrient solutions to feed the plants in water. Moreover, Aquaponics is the combination of both aquaculture and hydroponics. These modified farming systems could prove themselves to be sustainable alternatives towards conventional farming and provide different types of products under reduced supply of water, fertilizer and even farming space. The primary objective of such modern cultivation systems is to conserve water and minimize the use of agrichemicals.

After my lecture, an activity on measuring plant growth under aeroponic system was conducted. For this purpose, a small lentil plant, germinated in an aeroponic water tank, was taken as an experimental model and its growth parameters were compared with those of a control plant which has been grown in soil, under conventional conditions. These plant models were provided by the school. Small activity sessions on measuring plant growth were done including: counting the number of leaves, measuring leaf size,  measuring shoot and root lengths using “cm scale” and measuring the effects of pH and temperature in both soil and soilless media. Students were also taught about the role of plant hormones in promoting root and shoot lengths. Various interesting questions were raised by students and I enjoyed the general discussion session very much. Their level of enthusiasm was invigorating and I could easily see their thirst for learning. Overall, it was a very interesting and successful session which ended up in appreciation from the students and school staff.

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