Vandals have damaged plants that students were raising in partnership with a local seed company in the Moses Lake, Wash., High School greenhouse.
The school’s agriculture teacher and FFA adviser, Tony Kern, told the Capital Press the damage occurred Dec. 29.
“Stuff was just chucked on the ground,” he said. “It’s just frustrating. You just want to go, ‘What are you doing? What is the purpose here? Really?’”
The vandals also spray-painted graffiti in the greenhouse.
Half of a science class’ geranium projects were also damaged.
School officials are reviewing security camera footage, Kern said.
The plants were part of a genetics study done in partnership with the McKay Seed Co. in Moses Lake. The seed company hoped to use the greenhouse space to help develop new lines of wheat, barley, buckwheat and quinoa, and partner with the school to provide experience and internship possibilities.
Kern said the seeds were planted in September.
Fabio Pedraza, a plant breeder at McKay Seed, estimated roughly 50 percent of the plants were salvageable.
Kern and Pedraza said the cost of the damage is relatively small.
Much of the damage is time lost, Pedraza said.
It takes a year to make an experimental cross, raise it in a greenhouse and have something to plant in field trials the following year, he said.
Some identification tags were also removed, making it difficult to tell which plant is which, Pedraza said.
Pedraza expects the partnership with the school to continue.
“Hopefully it will blossom into something that ends up being really neat and beneficial for our kids as well as McKay Seed,” Kern said. “It’s really a neat opportunity.”
McKay plans to update equipment and install new lights over three years in the school’s older greenhouse, Kern said.
The partnership will help FFA students learn from “real, true scientific studies,” Kern said.
“Tons of kids like science or think they like science, but they don’t really make that connection to a job,” he said.