The plant cultivation facility is run by Karin Köhl with the help of the 'greenteam', a group of gardeners and technicians. This unit of skilled people and controlled environment facilities forms the basis of our research on higher plants. The main research objects are Arabidopsis thaliana, tomato, potato and tobacco; special aspects are studied in Medicago truncatula, rice and sugar cane.
The greenteam service runs plant cultivation on 1000 m² fully climate controlled greenhouse, 500 m² phytotrone area plus a summer greenhouse and a 5 ha field side. We routinely cultivated Arabidopsis thaliana, tobacco, tomato, potato, rice, maize, Cucurbitaceae, sugar cane, Medicago, Lotus, Oenothera and Thellunginella species 365 d per year. This includes controlled production of seeds e.g. for various Arabidopsis accession. The service includes the development of cultivation protocols for new species, including the establishment of hydroponics protocols. The service runs a successful integrated pest management system that controls pest predominantly by hygiene and biological control systems.
The greenteam routinely performs Arabidopsis transformation by the floral dip method and provides Col-0 plants for 20 transformations each week. Agrobacteria-mediated nuclear transformation for tobacco, tomato, potato and Medicago is performed in tissue culture. Scientist hand over transformed Agrobacteria, receive feedback on the vector quality and finally obtain transformants from the service.
Data Base System
The plant transformation and cultivation group developed a plant data base system based on a LIMS (Köhl et al. 2008). This stores information on all transformations and all plants cultivated in the Max Planck Institute. It allows easy identification of plants, location tracking, and it fulfills the regulatory requirements for storage and cultivation of GMOs. A document management system links files entries to LIMS entries. Flexible and easy-to-use search tools on web pages facilitate the information retrieval. Tutorials to new LIMS users are offered regularily by Karin Köhl.
Additionally, standard operations procedures (SOP) in plant cultivation and plant transformation service have been documented in database format (Köhl & Gremmels 2010). The system also documents the composition of all media and provides media labels with time stamps for the entire institute.
On the basis of the SOP system, we developed a resource management system for work and space. The work organiser produces standardised job schedules that make work peaks visible and facilitate handover between technical staff. This basis for efficient work-share allowed introducing team work successfully in the service groups. The same system is used to optimise use of the limited and expensive space in the cultivation facilities and to provide semi-automatically reports on service and space use by research groups.
Gardner apprentices perform the practical part of their apprenticeship in the greenteam under the guidance of Helga Kulka.
Tutorials on “Experimental design and statistics” and “Plant cultivation techniques” are provided for doctoral students of the institute by Karin Köhl.