Top seeds win Young Scientist award

Three girls who speeded up germination of cereal crops by 50% have won the BT Young Scientist and Technologists of the Year award.

They demonstrated that adding rhizobia soil bacteria in laboratory conditions reduced the time for the seeds of wheat and barley to germinate.

Farmers know that legume crops such as clover, with rhizobia soil bacteria in their roots, extract nitrogen from the atmosphere — thus reducing the need to add expensive nitrogen fertiliser to fields.

An awards judge said the third year students from the Kinsale Community School “had the brain wave” of testing the use of rhizobia to accelerate germination in important food crops, not naturally associated with this bacterium.

Emer Hickey, Ciara Judge, and Sophie Healy-Thow won the top trophy, a cheque for €5,000 and a chance to represent Ireland at an EU-wide young scientist contest in Prague next September.

Emer Hickey said, “The germination stage is one of the riskiest times in crop growth because of losses particularly from adverse weather. These results may have implications for our ability to address food security issues. These are the first exciting steps, field trials should follow.”

Sophie Healy-Thow said, “Germination in seeds is usually six days but we brought it down to three days in wheat and barley by using the Rhizobium we found”.

It’s the third time in seven years that the Kinsale school pupils have won the top Young Scientist prize.

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