Webinar series

Webinar series

GeneSprout Initiative hosted a series of webinars at the end of 2020 to share our love and passion for plant science with the general public. These webinars touched a handful of topics that are often unknown to most people except plant scientists. We have added the webinars below for the curious people, who want discover more about plant sciences and want to get a better insight into the fascinating topics plant scientists works on.

Webinar description

What did the food on our plates look like hundreds of years ago? Do plants need to go to the doctor when they get sick? What do plants eat and why do we eat them? We encounter plant science on a daily basis, yet we rarely stop and wonder about this. In our first webinar, “Plant breeding and its history” (December 7, 2020) we connect the history of plant breeding with new plant breeding techniques. What did bananas, carrots, cauliflower, and corn look like before we optimized them to our liking and how do we plan on improving them even more? In the second webinar, “Plant health and their medicines” (December 15, 2020), we will talk about how we can keep our crops free from pests and diseases. Even without our help, plants can protect themselves against certain natural enemies. The plant-made pesticides that make this possible might even be beneficial for us! In our last webinar, “Plants for human health” (December 22, 2020), we will zoom in on how plants can contribute to our health. We explain how new plant breeding technologies can help in providing everyone with enough good quality food while making agriculture more sustainable in our rapidly changing world.

Plant Breeding and its History

Did you know that plant domestication started some 10.000 years ago by farmers who selected the best performing plants in a field with desired traits like larger fruits, non-shattering seeds and early flowering? These farmers were unknowingly selecting plants with desired DNA alterations, changes in the genetic blueprint of plants that occurred spontaneously. With an increased understanding of plant biology and genetics, plant breeders have constantly improved their breeding tools to include a wide variety of breeding methods. Gene-editing is the most recent addition to the breeders’ toolbox: we now have a method to introduce a desired DNA alteration that specifies a certain characteristic of the plant. In this interactive webinar, we will dive deeper into the history of plant breeding, we will make a tour through recent discoveries of horizontal gene transfer in plants, and we will elaborate on recent developments and potential applications of gene-editing for crop improvement.


00:00 – Introduction

05:22 – History of plant breeding – Nick Vangheluwe

19:43 – History of plant domestication – Juriaan Rienstra

32:58 – Agrobacterium: Nature’s genetic engineer – Savio Rodrigues

42:19 – Q&A

Plant Health and their Medicines

Rotting strawberries, moldy bananas or broccoli being eaten by caterpillars – all of our crops are threatened by natural enemies. The common way to fight off diseases and insects is using pesticides but they can still lead to devastating yield losses. Are there alternative methods to remedy this? And did you know that plants are defending themselves without our help by producing their own pesticides? We might even be able to exploit their armor for our own health! In this webinar, three young researchers share their research about plant health and their medicines.


00:00 – Introduction

03:44 – Fighting plant diseases using UV-B light – Prisca Meyer

20:18 – Who doesn’t love a pinch of pesticides? – Gwen Swinnen

30:43 – Plants own pesticides – Barbara Berckmans

46:16 – Q&A


Plants for Human Health

Why do we eat plants? In our last webinar you will find out why plants are so important for our diet and how we can make them even more nutritious. Today, farmers face many challenges due to climate change and there’s a growing population to feed. If we want to obtain a more sustainable agriculture, farmers will have to produce more food with less, but how can this be achieved? Young researchers will talk about how plants can be improved to tackle these challenges. Finally, have you heard about phytoremediation? With this method we can erase some of the mistakes we humans made in the past that affect our health. Plants really are amazing!


00:00 – Introduction

05:06 – Hunger: why do we eat plants? – Maarten Houben

19:04 – Let’s improve our crops! – Ramon de Koning

32:24 – Phytoremediation: plants cleaning up our soils – Michiel Huybrechts

45:45 – Q&A