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One potato, two potato, three potato, four…

Posted 5 July 2004

You say potato, I say ….potato nematodes?? Well, that’s what pupils at Dothill Junior School say now they are mini-experts on potato diseases, thanks to Harper Adams University College.

Pupils with nematode stunted plants (left) and healthy plants (right), healthy plants are much bigger
Pupils with nematode stunted plants (left) and healthy plants (right). From left to right are: Alanna Bacon, Tammy Horler, Coral Brookes, Alice Astley, Sebastion Dixon-Smith and Steven Thornton.
Pupils from Dothill Junior School have been taking part in scientific experiments with Dr Pat Haydock, Reader on Nematology from the Newport-based university college. He explained: “The children have been growing potatoes in soil containing microscopic nematodes - tiny worms that invade potato crops - and comparing the growth and potato yield with plants grown in healthy soil. The pupil’s experiment has revealed that potatoes in the nematode infested soil are slower to emerge through the soil and then are smaller and stunted producing less yield of potatoes when compared with the healthy plants.”

He added: “The children’s experiment reflects the situation faced by many commercial potato growers in Shropshire, and throughout the UK, who have an ongoing problem with potato cyst nematodes in their crops, costing millions of pounds each year.”

“The children have enjoyed the experience of growing potatoes and learning about nematodes. Each week plants have been measured, weighed and the results recorded on spreadsheets,” says Mr Peter Bridger, Head of Science at Dothill. Class teachers Mrs Linda Brench, Debbie Taylor and Biddy Haydock are looking forward to pupils presenting their work to parents at an open afternoon this Wednesday, July 7.

The joint venture between Dothill Junior School and Harper Adams University College is funded by a £2500 grant from the Royal Society as part of its Partnership Grant programme to allow teachers and school children to work on projects with practising scientists.

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