Where does the bread come from?: Girls Day at the ScienceCampus Halle
On April 27, 2017, the ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-Based Bioeconomy (WCH) exposed girls to the topic of agriculture and agricultural science on the occasion of the so-called "International Girls Day".
Maria Umann, who is a WCH scholarship holder at the KWS, explained to the 12-year-old girls in a short introduction where bread and rolls are coming from and the importance of plant breeding in agriculture. Afterwards the schoolgirls Martha and Anouk helped the master student to evaluate her barley experiment. The two sixth-graders enthusiastically examined in the greenhouse the plants for semi-sterility. This spontaneous occurrence of non-fertilized flowers is still a mystery in research. After the numerous impressions on the experimental field of the Martin Luther University, the girls could also attend a seminar about the basis of plant breeding and got to know the theory after practice.
At the Girls'Day, companies, businesses and universities throughout Germany open their doors to schoolgirls from the 5th grade. Every year the young girls learn about qualified jobs and studies in IT, crafts, natural sciences and technology in which women are rarely represented. Or they encounter female models in leadership positions in business and politics.
International research and science collaboration: commencement of cooperation with French partner organisation
The ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-based Bioeconomy (WCH) and the French research institute “L’Institute National de la Recherche Agronomique” (INRA) have met to discuss an international research and science collaboration. Representatives from both organisations met to discuss future collaboration opportunities at a meeting on 17 March 2017 at the Leibniz Institute of Plant-based Biochemistry (IPB), which was initiated by the president of the Leibniz Association and professor of engineering, Dr Matthias Kleiner.
Together with the INRA’s vice president, Dr Jean-François Soussana, common ground could be found for the improvement of the European infrastructure and integration with respect to phenotyping cereal plants, hyperspectral images, drought stress tolerance for wheat and for studying the socioeconomic aspects of innovations.
Further meetings and agreements are planned which will take place in thematic groups.
Regional Network for Global Challenges: Leibniz President visits the ScienceCampus Halle
From molecule to the market: ScienceCampus Halle connects Science with Industry
International Green Week Berlin
From 20 to 29 January 2017 the WCH exhibited at the booth of the Fraunhofer Gesellschaft at the International Green Week in Berlin. Represented at the booth were the Fraunhofer Institute for Applied Polymer Research (IAP), for Interfacial Engineering and Biotechnology (IGB), for Wood Research (WKI) and the Fraunhofer Centre for Chemical Biotechnology Processes (CBP) which is a member of the WCH. The booth was ideally situated in the hall of “nature.tec – Fachschau Bioökonomie”. The Fraunhofer Gesellschaft and the booth of the German Bioeconomy council jointly arranged a policymaker walkabout on the topic of the bioeconomy. Parliamentarian staffers showed great interest in the WCH, as well as in the International Bioeconomy Conference.
1,614 exhibitors from 67 countries were represented at the world’s largest trade fair for the food industry, agriculture and horticulture. At total of 400,000 visitors, including 90,000 industry visitors, came to the event. The next International Green Week will take place from 19 - 28 January 2018.
Willingmann: Seminal Joint Research at the ScienceCampus Halle
On 1 November the former state secretary and now minister of economy and science, Professor Armin Willingmann, visited the ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-based Bioeconomy. The two spokesmen for the WCH, Professor Klaus Pillen and Professor Ludger Wessjohann, informed him about the new WCH joint research projects. The seven research projects focusing on sustainable management commenced at the end of the year.
The joint research projects, funded by the WCH, are devised so that their specific findings can be applied as quickly as possible, which is why an industry partner is assigned to each project. The ScienceCampus Halle had already funded five excellent joint research projects during its first funding period (2012 – 2015).
“The bioeconomy is among the leading markets of Saxony-Anhalt’s innovation strategy and the ScienceCampus makes a decisive contribution to this. Through the seminal joint research projects under the umbrella of the WCH, knowledge is created so that future social challenges can be met with practical solutions,” stated Minister Willingmann, summarising the meeting.
Open House at the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture (BMEL)
The ScienceCampus Halle and the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transitional Economies (IAMO) were on hand at the open house of the Federal Ministry of Food and Agriculture in Berlin on 27 and 28 August 2016. Minister Christian Schmidt and the Parliamentary State Secretary Dr Maria Flachsbarth stopped at the WCH booth to find out about the work currently being conducted on the topic of the bioeconomy. Visitors were given the opportunity to find out more about the topic of the bioeconomy through compostable straw bags and violet-coloured biscuits, which were coloured by the health-promoting plant-based dye anthocyanin found in an old variety of grain. During the stage discussion, Nadja Sonntag, press officer at the WCH, answered questions pertaining to the topic of sustainable management. This was followed by a quiz on the bioeconomy at which three hand-made straw bags, made by former WCH scholarship holder Christin Mannewitz, were raffled off.
Other institutions promoted the topics of energy supply, tourism and environmental management at booths near the WCH and the IAMO. This, and a varied programme for young and old, attracted around 4,000 visitors.
What’s on your plate?: The Long Night of the Sciences
On 1 July the ScienceCampus Halle and the Leibniz Institute for Agricultural Development in Transitional Economies (IAMO) organised a bicycle cinema at the IAMO as part of the 15th Long Night of the Sciences Halle, showing the film “10 Billion – What’s on your Plate?” The audience used muscle power to generate the electricity needed to project the film onto the screen. The equipment for the bicycle cinema was provided by Postkult e.V. and enthralled the audience who promptly started pedalling in order to generate the 600 watts needed to power the projector. The film “10 Billion” by the German documentary filmmaker Valentin Thurn (“Taste the Waste”) examines the question of how a growing world population will be able to feed itself in the future. It travels the world looking for answers by speaking with industrial food producers and small farmers.
The Long Night of the Sciences, organised by Martin Luther University, numerous research institutions and the City of Halle, attracted several thousand visitors to its 340 events in 2016.
On the path towards the best of the possible worlds: an excursion to IPK Gatersleben
According to forecasts, the world’s population is set to increase to nine billion by 2050. During the same time period, however, yields on the agricultural land available worldwide will decrease as a result of climate change. This will further intensify the problem of global food security. In addition, the aspiration of doing away with fossil fuels raises the question of how ecological, sustainable food security and socially acceptable energy production can be ensured in light of these conflicting goals. The bioeconomy aims to meet these challenges with knowledge-based solutions. Genetic engineering is being offered up as one type of solution; however, it is not being perceived as such by the wider public. On the contrary, problems related to, or only ascribed to, genetic engineering, such as monocultures, seed monopolies or resistance to pesticides, lead to a strong defensive attitude among the population due to reservations and strong fears. This means debates surrounding genetic engineering are becoming less objective and rational.
In order to shed light on and objectively discuss the risks and opportunities of genetic engineering, the ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-based Bioeconomy (WCH), the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) and the Heinrich Böll Foundation of Saxony-Anhalt invited those interested in the topic of genetic engineering on an excursion to Gatersleben on 17 June 2016. The excursion took place as part of the theme year Leibniz 2016 with the motto: “The best of the possible worlds”. The twenty participants from different professions and age groups were highly interested and paid great attention at each stop on the excursion. After a brief welcome statement and introduction to the institute by Dr Sabine Odparlik, Dr Ulrike Lohwasser led the group into the world-famous plant gene bank. Here 151,002 samples from 3,212 species and 776 classes of plant material are stored at -18° C with the aim of preserving the plant genetic resources and using them in research. Afterwards Peter Schreiber explained IPK’s cultivation trials and reproductions in the fields. With a host of information and new impressions, and after vegan refreshments in the Casino, the Leibniz Institute’s culinary establishment, the event moved on to its discussion round. First Prof Nicolaus von Wirén made a brief presentation explaining the modern processes of plant breeding and their opportunities. Then Christof Potthof, scientific expert at the Gene Ethics Network (GeN) spoke about genetic modifications and their risks. The subsequent discussion delved into the role of plant genetics in future food and energy security as well as the genome editing procedure. Also under discussion was the contentious question of whether this molecular technique should be classified as conventional genetic engineering and how genetically modified organisms should be labelled. To round off the excursion there was a brief visit to the lab before the participants nearly missed their train owing to their keen curiosity.
Educational excursions of this kind are consequently regarded by the WCH as a very meaningful and successful way to transfer knowledge from science to the wider public. Further excursions are planned.
The value of crop plant diversity
As shapers of their environment, humans have always been prone to interfering with nature. This has led to a worrying loss in the biodiversity of species, populations and habitats, with visible negative effects on human life. At the same time, humans create a new biological diversity through their creative actions. One evident sign of this is the large variety of crop plants that have developed over the millennia. Yet, even this diversity is endangered by changes to breeding and agricultural practices. This loss in cultivated plants is considerably less represented in the public consciousness than the loss in the diversity of wild species.
In response, the ScienceCampus Halle and the Leibniz Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research (IPK) hosted an informational event entitled “The Value of Crop Plant Diversity – Yesterday – Today – Tomorrow” at the State Museum of Prehistory in Halle (Saale) on 26 April 2016. More than 120 interested participants packed the lecture hall of the State Museum that evening.
At the start of the event some of the many attendees got a chance to tour part of the museum’s permanent exhibition which offers insights into the history of the Early Neolithic Period and, hence, the history of the first farmers in present-day Saxony-Anhalt. After the tour, various talks explored the question of how important preserving the diversity of the old and new crop plants in gene banks is to our future. After a welcoming statement by the director of the State Museum of Prehistory, Professor Hartmut Meller, and an introduction to the topic by Dr Sabine Odparlik from IPK, Dr Monika Hellmund from the State Museum of Prehistory reported on the archaeobotanical finds of cereals, such as emmer und einkorn wheat. These finds have enabled changes in the spectrum of crop plants to be identified. Following this, Olaf Christen, professor of general crop cultivation and organic farming at Martin Luther University, gave a clear illustration of the reasons for the decrease in the biodiversity of crop plants today. Professor Andreas Graner, managing director of IPK and head of its gene bank department, spoke about the future of the diversity of crop plants. Those present learned about the function and importance of a gene bank in preserving diversity so that this preservation of diversity is available for future generations. At the end of the event participants had the opportunity to delve deeper into the topic through discussions over wine and barley bread.
The event served to strengthen the partnership between the State Museum, the University of Halle and IPK.
Hugo-Junkers-Award: ScienceCampus Halle honored twice
The ScienceCampus Halle – Plant-Based Bioeconomy (WCH) has been awarded with the Hugo-Junkers-Award for research and innovation from Saxony-Anhalt 2015. In the Ständehaus Merseburg Hartmut Möllring, Minister of Science and Economy of Saxony-Anhalt, presented on the 15th of December the award for the 3rd place in the category "Most Innovative Alliance". The prize is endowed with 3,000 Euros. In addition, the junior research group of the WCH by Dr. Nico Dissmeyer at the Leibniz Institute of Plant Biochemistry (IPB) also received in this year's special category "Chemistry and Bioeconomy" the 3rd place with 2,000 Euros in prize money.
"The award is credit to our previous collaborative work in the field of plant-based Bioeconomy and a good incentive for our future projects," says Prof. Dr. Klaus Pillen, co-speaker of the ScienceCampus Halle. The seven-headed and independent jury of experts from science and business of the Hugo-Junkers-Award honored with the award the inter- and transdisciplinary collaborative research of the ScienceCampus Halle. The so far unique combination of plant science and economy under the roof of the WCH takes up with the pressing social issues of our time. Existing biological resources must be used more sustainable than before through innovative methods. Here the WCH with its interdisciplinary research can help to meet these challenges. The prize money will now be used to develop an event format to integrate further potential industrial partners in the research network and to realize innovative and sustainable product ideas.
For the past 25 years, the Ministry of Science and Economy praises industry with this innovation award. With the Hugo-Junkers-Award for Research and Innovation in Saxony-Anhalt, the proficiency of innovative entrepreneurs and scientists is honored and their work is supported. A total of 74 applications from companies, universities and research institutions have been received, of which 15 were recently awarded. The competition is endowed with a total of 90,000 Euros and is awarded in five categories.