HISTORY

History of the Wisconsin Fast Plants Program

Fast Plants® were developed by Professor Emeritus Paul H. Williams, in the Department of Plant Pathology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Dr. Williams bred these rapid-cycling Brassica rapa plants as a research tool that could be used for improving disease resistance of cruciferous plants (a large group of plants that includes mustard, radish, cabbage, broccoli, kohlrabi, and more). In order to speed up the genetic research in the crucifers, he began breeding Brassica rapa and six related species from the family Cruciferae for shorter life cycles. The end result: petite, quick-growing plants known as Fast Plants®.

Dr. Williams continued to select plants that had characteristics most suitable for laboratory and classroom use, such as:

  • Speed: Short time from planting to flowering (about 2 weeks); rapid seed maturation with no seed dormancy required
  • Productive: Ability to produce seeds at high planting density
  • Small: Petite plant size
  • Easy to grow: Ability to grow under continuous fluorescent lighting in a standard potting mix

After about 20 years of planting, growing, and selecting, his breeding process had reduced a 6-month life cycle to 5 weeks. Further breeding refined the population of plants so they were relatively uniform in flowering time, size, and growing conditions - but the remaining variation among the plants is what serves today as the launching point for investigations in classrooms and research. The shortened life cycle has proven effective in reducing the time required for traditional breeding programs, which has led to advances in cellular and molecular plant research.

Today, over 150 genetic traits have been described that are useful in research, many of which are used in thousands of classrooms worldwide to study many aspects of plant growth and development.

For more information on the development of Fast Plants® and other rapid-cycling Brassicas, download the article from the Science journal:

Fast Plants® is a registered trademark of the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation.
Website Developed and Designed by: Swarming Technology