Plant Science Research Summit

Research Priorities

What are the three most critical plant science research priorities over the next 10 years?  Why?

Please leave your response in comment section, located below “Leave a Reply” on this page, or email PlantSummit@aspb.org.

18 thoughts on “Research Priorities

  1. a. Food sufficiency for increasing population
    b. Impact of climate change on crop productivity
    c. Energy sufficiency
    These three areas are related to each other. Food sufficiency is linked to a great degree to impacts of climate change. As is energy sufficiency. Evolution is too slow to compensate for the effects of climate change so modern genetic tools will have to be wisely used to prepare plants to deal with the vagaries of climate in order to increase productivity for an increasing population.

  2. Plant biology has much to contribute to the crises we confront as a species.
    1) we need to develop crops capable of feeding the one billion hungry people in developing nations
    2) we need to develop crops capable of sustaining production in the face of climate change in rich nations (mainly drought and heat as Dawn noted above).
    3) we need to develop crops capable of providing ecosystem services and healing functions such as reflective albedo, biofuels, etc.

  3. The plant biotechnology which should ease the study of life plants in Q. Make them available in short period as the future seeks stable agro climatic condition and stable nutrition which is in danger now plant genetics to have small but valuable plants diversified in nature suit to all status of life any ways could save the world from starvation of climate and nutrient soil water management and plant nutrition to look in to the non renewable resourses and vs the fate of our future world ‘fit to survive’

  4. What are the three most critical plant science research priorities over the next 10 years? Why?

    Think big:

    1) Food security for the 9 billion people global population (UN prediction for 2050).
    Why: Plant science has a major role in addressing this issue. The consequences of not addressing this priority / not solving this problem is likely to have catastrophic consequences for a generation now growing up.

    2) Protect global biodiversity through protection of ecosystems in which plants are key components.
    Why: All other priorities directly or indirectly relate to issues associated with loss of biodiversity.

    3) To accomplish 1) and 2) foster a culture of (plant) research and training that is based on cooperative behavior as opposed to competitive behavior of scientists in the non-profit space.
    Why: The global issues mentioned above require cooperative approaches of the brightest minds in plant biology and beyond.

  5. Abiotic stress (heat and drought), resistance/tolerance to changing pathogens and pests, and adapting existing crops to reproduce in higher latitudes, or elevations, are important adaptations to climate change.

  6. I thought that I was old fashioned and out of date because I rely on my knowledge of metabolism, not computers to put enzymes in the appropriate pathway.

  7. Crop responses to the abiotic stresses of heat and drought are the most critical. It’s clear that global warming is devastating crop production not only in the US, but worldwide. I think it is time that we incorporate what we have learned from model systems and apply this knowledge to crop plants.

  8. Converting rice from a C3 to a C4 plant is a major priority, along with ensuring continued funding and research into stress tolerance for the top 3 global crops – rice, wheat, and maize.

  9. For plant science to be relevant to the public (and therefore to policy makers and granting agencies) over the next ten years it needs to focus on meeting societal needs and concerns from basic through applied research. As such, I believe the most critical priority is:

    1. Identifying traits, genes, alleles and networks to meet the grand challenge of producing more food, for more people, that is more nutritious, on less land, with fewer inputs in a less hospitable environment, while protecting our natural environment.

    To do this and apply all of the amazing basic science discoveries into real world results, a critical research priority is:

    2. Translational plant improvement, not just identifying traits, genes, alleles and networks but taking them to the next step of altering relevant cultivars through either conventional plant breeding or transformation (with caveats). This can only happen when basic and applied researchers work together.

    Finally, a major reason that this is so often not done (ignoring funding and publication constraints on this type of work) is because of a knowledge gap which is also certainly a critical science research priority:

    3. Understand context dependency’s effects on traits, genes, alleles and networks. Genetic diversity and variation is critical for discovery and crop improvement so if a major basic research discovery only works in one (potentially irrelevant) genetic background it fails to address priority #1 of creating impact – but I will agree it is certainly better than nothing.

  10. The main issue is the extinction of expertise in areas vital to plant science and agriculture. Try to find a plant anatomist or a real seed physiologist. People are not being trained in these areas because the ‘big bucks’ needed by administrators are not available. There is no real academic freedom anymore to pursue vital research questions, as the direction and technical approach to a problem are governed by funding agencies, rather than an investigator perspective.

    Generally, we need research supported to answer questions about how real plants function in the real world. It’s time to broaden our view and deal with native plants, weeds and crops (beside corn and soybean). Physiological ecology can now benefit from new perspectives.

    We also need to get away from the ‘gene expression’ view of the world. It is clear in many cases that there is no one-to-one correlation between gene expression and protein synthesis/activity.

  11. Many plant productivity issues simply cannot be solved by non-transgenic approaches due to the genetic constraints of many crop species. This is especially true to feed the world in the generations to come with the increased populations. In addition, U.S. and many other countries have invested so much in basic plant science study. These investments wouldn’t be cost-effective, if research programs in transgenic crop plants couldn’t be strengthened. Therefore, how to make safe and productive plants employ transgenic approach through the best discovery and utilization of basic research related the above goal should be in a very high priority, even if not in the very top priority.

  12. Understanding how plants interact with their immediate environment is one of the major challenges facing plant science in the face of climate change. We understand alot about how molecular mechanisms operate in the laboratory but appear to have very little knowledge about how they operate in the real wolrd. This was brought home to us in our recent work looking at the operation of hormone signalling pathways in seeds when we compared laboratry data with data obtained from seeds that had been buried in the soil seed bank. Operational differences can also be seen between different ecotypes within a species. How can we use this to understand the impact of a changing climate on plant communities and the interaction between crops and weeds.

    Low tech applied plant sciences are the poor relation of the plant sciences yet these approaches to acheiving sustainable weed control and yield enhancement have enormous potential yet funding is inextricably drawn to the techno fix of GM crops.

  13. To me, understanding priming for plant immunity and stress tolerance is the most important topic to address in future plant science. The topic includes phytopathology, biochemistry, molecular biology, and genetics. It also supports sustainable plant production for the future.

  14. At present plant researches should be focused on the topic towards transferring C4 properties to C3 crops and effort must be made achieve a major increase in global production of major crops like rice wheat. Although improved photosynthetic efficiency has played only a minor role in the remarkable increases in productivity achieved in the last half century. But further increases in yield potential will rely in large part on improved photosynthesis. Specifically, understanding the molecular biology and biochemistry of the major C4 enzymes will be crucial for successfully introducing functional proteins into the metabolic context of C3 plants and the discovery of the key genes controlling the expression of C4 photosynthesis can dramatically accelerate the success of this challenging topic.

  15. I think one of the priorities should be to make sure graduates and postdocs in the area of plant science research get job offers as soon as they finish their projects. I could see a lot of talented people are on the road looking for a job. Faculty jobs are very few and highly competitive and industry jobs are only for those who have previous industrial experience. In this situation, it is very important for the PI’s and mentors to guide their students in a proper fashion so that candidates are better prepared to face the harsh job market in plant science research. If this is not possible, it would be better to stop encouraging young minds to take up science as a career option.

  16. I’d like to see research focus on three questions:

    1) How will climate change affect plant interactions with other species and organisms (from pollinators to pathogens)?

    2) How can we shift the focus of genetic engineering from improving yield to improving stress tolerance (although of course improving the latter could improve the former)?

    3) Can inherently stress tolerant plants (such as agaves, cacti) be made more productive?

  17. Ajjamada Kushalappa, December 12, 2012
    Identification of candidate genes in plants controlling specific traits, in the time of budget cuts: Significant advances have been made in non-target metabolomics and proteomics. Since metabolites are closer to phenotype they are the best leaders to explain gene function. The gene function is a science in itself, such as Plant Pathology of biotic stress. In plant pathology metabolomics may be new but not the metabolites. Thus, the identification of metabolites related to plant resistance can right away give its role in plant defense and mapping them in metabolic pathways can identify responsible genes. Thus, the use of plant pathology concepts can increase the chance of identifying a potential gene in shorter time and money, which can be very attractive to funding agencies who receive overwhelming number of projects.

  18. A common theme that runs through the Genomics and Post-Genomics periods of plant biology is the attempt to ignore metabolism. It’s not important. It’s “old science.” It’s too difficult. And most egregiously, metabolism and metabolomics are really the same thing. No. No! Perhaps. Absolutely NO! Highlighted by the Introductory Perspective, “Metabolism Is Not Boring,” by L. Bryan RayIn, the 3 December 2010 issue of Science celebrated a resurgence of interest in metabolism and its central role in disparate areas of cell biology, physiology, growth and development, signaling, and systems biology. Approximately half of the meta-genome encodes proteins of unknown function, probably because our understanding of metabolism is so terribly incomplete. Surely the metabolism of E. coli is the most thoroughly-studied and best understood of all organisms. And yet only last year a completely new pathway of purine metabolism was discovered! Many aspects of “plant metabolism” are unusual if not unique, at least partially because of the enormous chemical diversity typically referred to as “secondary” (= we do not understand it) “metabolism.” As more is actually learned about this aspect of metabolism, there is, naturally, a greater appreciation for its’ importance to understanding plant growth, development, differentiation, signaling, host:pathogen/host:symbiote interactions, etc.
    HUGE amounts of time, energy, and MONEY have been spent developing computational resources (e.g., KEGG) that can be used by “Omics Biologists” in place of understanding metabolism. (None of which would have been necessary if they had all taken 8362, my Introduction to Plant Metabolism course!) 

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