Fast Plants Newsletter

What's the buzz about pollination?


Fourteen days passed since you planted Fast Plants, and yellow flowers are opening! Ready your bee sticks; it's time to pollinate!!

Pollination is the transfer of pollen from the pollen-bearing, male anthers to the pollen-receptive, female stigma of flowers, resulting in fertilization. Pollination can occur via self-pollination or cross-pollination.

Self-pollination is the transfer of pollen among flowers on one individual plant.

  • Self-pollination is only possible when plants are self-compatible.
  • Some plants are able to self-pollinate automatically, without needing the transfer of pollen by a pollinating agent (such as insects or wind).

Cross-pollination is the transfer of pollen between at least two individual plants.

  • Cross-pollination is necessary when plants are self-incompatible.
  • Cross-pollination requires that pollen be transferred by a pollinating agent such as an insect or wind, or through human-mediated pollination or plant breeding. 

A plant that is self-incompatible can detect and reject pollen from itself. Therefore, even if pollen from one of it's own flowers is...

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From Our Lab to Your Classroom


Wisconsin Fast Plants Program Research Notes

The Wisconsin Fast Plants research team is continually improving and developing new lines of Fast Plants and other Rapid-cycling Brassicas. One of our current breeding projects aims to re-stabilize the genetics of the Rosette-Dwarf Fast Plants stock. This project began after observation of a low frequency off-type trait, a green stem, that is undesirable for this stock. The goal is to breed out any plants with the undesirable green stem trait, thus ensuring that the Rosette-Dwarf stock is true breeding for high purple anthocyanin pigment expression.

To accomplish this project, we need to produce a Rosette-Dwarf population without any green stems. This poses a challenge, because the green stem trait is controlled by a recessive gene. Therefore, a plant may appear purple (the dominant trait) while still being heterozygous for the undesirable green stem, making visual identification of off-types difficult. A unique approach was needed to identify and remove off-types from the population.

Stem color phenotypes, for given dominant/recessive...

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Investigating Brassicas Around the World with Fast Plants


NEW! Lesson plan, video, experiment, & more!!

Sometimes, in teaching, we hit a real sweet spot with a lesson that is brimming with learning opportunities folded into one investigation. Brassicas Around the World is exactly that. Interwoven seamlessly you’ll find support for learning about:

  • Environmental influences on how plant populations change (both through human selection and natural selection).
  • Genetic diversity and allelic variation influences in plant breeding and natural adaptation.
  • History of agriculture and appreciation for how early humans shaped crops we depend on today.
  • Appreciation for how cultural diversity is at the heart of Brassica diversity (along with genetic and environmental diversity).

There you have it, a beautiful blend of fundamental biological concepts with valuable knowledge about food production and cultural connections that can be taken as deep as you wish. Here are just a few of the resources we developed for this robust investigation:

  1. Comprehensive, NGSS- and Ag standards-aligned Open Source Investigation, written in Brett Moulding’s Gather, Reason, Communicate and BSCS’s 5E Models. This is a Google Doc lesson plan that you can copy to...

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Ukrainian - Fast Plants Collaboration featured in UW-Madison Wednesday Night at the Lab Presentation


Dan Lauffer will present for WN@TLScience, politics, and school children: Reflections on a special UW-Ukrainian collaboration. Paul Williams will join in for a Q&A to conclude the presentation.

Both global and local in scope, this talk recalls the serendipitous events leading up to a Ukrainian and US collaboration in space research and education. Dan Lauffer recalls and presents the story of roles played in 1997 by UW-Madison, NASA, and Ukrainian scientists in a shared, large-scale project, involving Wisconsin Fast Plants and experiments in space. Situated during the end of the Cold War, this collaboration entwined facets of politics, plant sciences, and high school science learning across Ukraine and the United States

Access the recorded presentation on the WN@TL YouTube Channel here.

Open Source Fast Plants Lessons via Google Drive



 Lessons available (for free) in editable Google Doc templates

With each Fast Plants webinar in 2020 and '21, we featured an updated Open Source Fast Plants lesson. These new lessons are synthesized from legacy Fast Plants materials, freshly designed to specifically align with Next Generation Science Standards. In this lesson development process, we are using an adaptation of the "Gather, Reason, and Communicate" lesson template. We had the opportunity to learn this template from NGSS and Framework writer, Brett Moulding (you may be familiar with the "Gather, Reason, and Communicate" instructional model from the book Moulding co-authored with Rodger Bybee, called Teaching Science is Phenomenal). 

To edit these new Fast Plant lessons and adapt them for your students, simply make a copy of the lesson document and save it to your own Drive. Then, you can make any changes you wish and add your own links to extension activities and resources.

At this time we have four new lessons, and along with each, we include a link to a recording of the original webinar when the lesson was introduced.

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Polycots: A new Fast Plants seed stock for teaching & learning about selection


Fast Plants in our new Polycot seed stock display a trait that students easily notice and tend to be curious about (much like four-leaf clovers catch attention). In addition, the polycot trait appears to be determined by genetics with little or no environmental influences (as far as we understand it after 10 years work). So, this new seed line offers a strong alternative to "hairs" or trichomes as a trait for selection experiments (for example, in the AP Biology selection investigation).


We're also extra-enthusiastic about Polycots because cotyledons can be observed in very young seedlings; therefore, distinguishing and counting dicots and polycots can be done in a young population during the first week after planting or germinating on paper towel. Also, after years of work, we developed a method for producing at scale both Generation 1 Polycot seed stock (with ~25% polycotyledons) and Generation 2 (aka the offspring of polycots selected from Generation 1). Generation 2 seed stock expresses the increased frequency that is typical from polycot selective breeding (~45% polycotyledons). As a result of being able to offer packets of both Generation 1 and Generation 2 Polycots ...

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