Third-year students Ciara Judge, Emer Hickey and Sophie Healy-Thow added to Kinsale Community School’s winning streak by capturing the top prize for their project which could have a major impact on speeding up the growth of crops.
The trio, all 15, looked at the effects of how some nitrogen-harvesting bacteria could speed up plant germination.
One of the head judges, Mary Kelly-Quinn said over 70% of the Earth’s atmosphere is made up of nitrogen, which is extremely important for plant growth and survival: “Only very few organisms can use nitrogen gas directly from the air. One is the bacteria Rhizobium which provides some plants with nitrogen. However, not all plants can access nitrogen in the air using Rhizobium. The three girls had the brainwave of testing the use of Rhizobium bacteria to accelerate the rate of germination in important food crops which don’t associate naturally with this bacterium.
“They demonstrated that adding Rhizobium in laboratory conditions reduced the time for the seeds of wheat and barley to germinate. 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.”
The girls were presented with a €5,000 cheque and a Waterford crystal trophy after beating off the challenge of 549 other entries at what was the 49th BT Young Scientist & Technology Exhibition.
The winners were announced at the BT Arena in the RDS by Minister for Education and Skills Ruairi Quinn and Colm O’Neill, CEO of BT Ireland.
More than 45,000 people visited the exhibition.
Ciara, Emer and Sophie will be hoping to emulate the performance of two Dublin students who went on to win the European Contest for Young Scientists last Sept.
Mark Kelly and Eric Doyle from Synge Street CBS, Dublin won the award for a mathematical project that could be of value to Nasa.