Plant tissue culture technicians work in laboratory environments and use aseptic (sterile) technique to propagate plants.
The process of growing plants in vitro is also known as micropropagation. Plant tissue culture technicians perform micropropagation by taking clippings from plants and using them to inoculate agar media in sterile containers. This type of work is performed in a laminar flow hood to prevent contamination from bacteria or fungi. Growing plants in a sterile environment allows growers to mass produce certain types of plants and prevents transmission of disease.
In some cases, technicians also grow plant cells in culture in a bioreactor.
Growing plants in tissue culture from plant material also allows growers to produce clones. When plants are produced through cloning, they are better able to maintain their genetic characteristics because they avoid pollination.
It is helpful for plant tissue culture technicians to have experience in horticulture, plant biology, and genetics. Plant tissue culture technicians might be expected to recognize the signs of plant disease and be able to identify important traits.
It should be noted that many plants and plant products are regulated. Technicians must be aware of and comply with industry regulations and certification requirements.
Biotechnology-related skills and knowledge are important in plant tissue culture. Plant technicians should understand traceability and logistics. They are likely to be involved in planting, maintaining, and evaluating plants for disease resistance and other traits. They will be expected to keep follow SOPs (Standard Operating Procedures), to keep exact, detailed records, and collect data. They will probably be asked to enter data in spreadsheets and analyze that data. Some employers ask that technicians be proficient in cloud-based electronic notebook software and platforms like Google Suite (Mail, Docs, Sheets, and Drive).
Plant tissue culture technicians may be in charge of maintaining an inventory of chemicals, media, and stock solutions, and safely disposing chemical and biological waste. They may also be expected to order the supplies and reagents needed for conducting experiments and growing plants and to keep detailed records of all orders.
In many cases, plant tissue culture technicians will prepare agar media and stock solutions and use an autoclave to sterilize media.
Since plant tissue culture technicians often work as part of team, a positive attitude and the ability to communicate effectively with team members are desirable.
Plant tissue culture technicians with more advanced degrees (Bachelors, Masters, PhD) will be in charge of designing experiments and research projects and may be in charge of supervising others. Some roles will require experience with greenhouses and indoor growing operations.