Sunny fieldwork

Science is about discovering all kinds of cool new stuff! Or science is boring and for geeks! That’s what people think and both are true.

I think it’s a mixture. Sometimes it’s ‘yippy!’ and sometimes it’s ‘blèh’. However, I have never heard a scientist say ‘Eureka!’, we keep this for Archimedes. 😉


My work is 99.9% of the time behind the computer, so I was glad that my colleague asked me to help her out in the field. I took proper shoes and my rain gear, because I’m still in the UK and ‘you never know’. It was windy, but sunny 🌞.


We had to measure the stem height of my colleague’s wheat in her disease trial. She is doing research on Fusarium, a fungus that causes a disease in wheat, but this time it was about the height of the wheat.

In the picture: A wheat ear with a orange/pink spot of Fusarium. My colleague told me that it’s not recommended to eat it, but you have to eat kilograms of it to become ill. So, no worries! 🙂

Practically it was like this: my colleague measured the stem height of the wheat and told me the height and I wrote it down. She has an enormous field trial; in 2,5 days we recorded 4500 measurements.

Why would we do this?

In the name of science of course! …and to find more genes for plant height. I’ll try and explain. How we look like (P) and how plants look like, is a combination of our genes (G) and our environment (E). Let’s talk about hair colour first. Imagine being born with brown hair, this is because of our genetics. – We are born with it!

But if you go to the hairdresser and dye your brown hair blond, this is because of your environment.

Now about body height; this is partly because of the genes (G) you got from your parents. If they are tall, most likely you will get tall. And partly how well you are fed and how healthy you are – the environment (E).

Now about plant height; this is partly because of the genes and partly because of the environment. Like how fertile the soil is and how nice the weather is 🌞.


P = G + E

How we look like is genetics + environment. As scientists we want to know more about the effect of the genes (G) on how the plants look like; how tall they are (P).

Genes are in our cells, in our DNA and take care of what happens in your body. It also makes you blond or gives you brown eyes…

Genes are a bit of a secret, which makes them exciting. We cannot see them and still they are so important in how they shape our life!

For the height of wheat we already know two genes that have a big effect on it, but we also know that these two are not the only ones and these measurements are the start of the quest in finding the other genes involved in wheat height!


Height in wheat

The height of wheat is important for farmers. Short wheat is sturdier and is more resilient against wind than tall wheat. Also short wheat often yields more grain to make more bread and cookies… Yummy!

But we are not there yet… The field work not only resulted in a lot of measurements, but also in the sore back of my colleague – that bending is killing – and we invented some new numbers; ‘seventy-wait…’ and ‘ninety-something’. 😉


  • Pictures by me.

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