Grant Made by the ARS to Support Research on Tissue Culture
R. L. Ticknor, President ARS
After several years of discussion the American Rhododendron Society has made its first research grant. A grant of $1000 per year for two years has been awarded to Dr. W. C. Anderson, Northwestern Washington Research and Extension Unit, Washington State University, Mount Vernon, Washington. Dr. Anderson's project is entitled "Investigations on the use of tissue culture for propagation and rapid multiplication of rhododendrons."
Tissue culture is now commercially used in the production of orchids to rapidly increase one desirable seedling into several thousand plants for cut flower production. Several other types of plants have been successfully grown by tissue culture from a few cells on a nutrious media under sterile conditions. Since different plants develop best with different nutrients, liquid or solid media, and light or dark, these factors will be studied.
Dr. Anderson had been working with rhododendron tissue culture with Briggs Nursery of Olympia, Washington, before receiving this grant, which will permit him to expand his efforts. He had been able to maintain shoot apex explants alive for three months, during which time some had developed leaves before growth ceased. Our grant will enable him to determine the conditions necessary for growing rhododendrons by this method. Of course, all research is a gamble since if the results were known before starting, it wouldn't be research.
The promise of this method is the faster increase of new varieties. It would also be of great value for the increase of some of the large-growing species which, because of their sparse branching, produce only a very limited supply of propagation wood. In other plants where virus diseases are a problem, it has been found that the newly formed cells at the shoot tip often do not contain the virus. By culturing these cells it has been possible to obtain plants free of the virus.
Profits from the Seed Exchange have been set aside for several years to build a fund to support research. Since the need for research is much greater than the ability of the Seed Exchange to support it, contributions to this fund would be very welcome. Contributions to the American Rhododendron Society are tax deductible.