The top 100 crop science research questions tackle climate change, food security, medicine and a host of other issues – Zoo House News
- March 17, 2023
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Without plants we would have no air to breathe or food to eat, but plant science lingers in the shadowy wings while other realms take center stage. Aiming to put plants in the spotlight, a new study presents the 100 most pressing research questions in the field to address humanity’s greatest challenges.
“The study underscores the importance of plant science to society by revealing myriad questions and engineering challenges that, if solved, could sustainably support the growing human population on a planet under climate change,” said Sanna Sevanto, plant physiologist at the lot Alamos National Laboratory and co-author of the study recently published in the journal New Phytologist.
Questions cover a wide range of topics, including genetically modified organisms, plant fuels, food shortages, growing algae as a carbon sink, using algae to clean up oil spills, the impact of soil microorganisms on plant stress, and even growing plants in space to support human life.
Sevanto was one of 20 panelists selected from Europe, North America, South America, Asia, Oceania and Africa. Divided into four regional teams, panelists reviewed more than 600 questions submitted by everyone interested in plants, not just scientists, from around the world. Panellists edited these submissions into a final list of the top 100 questions facing plant science in 2022, from how plants can help fight climate change to plant defense and epigenetics. The paper picks up on a similarly named paper from 2011 on the same topic.
The authors hope the paper will stimulate additional research in this area, along with funding for it.
“Herbology is often overlooked as an ancient science of little importance in school curricula, so interested students often have trouble finding research questions that contribute significantly to the current state of the art in the field,” Sevanto said. “This study shows that plant science is a modern, highly technical field that can provide unique solutions to many of the challenges facing humanity and the planet.”
Areas of critical global importance
The panel selected 11 key questions, representing areas of crucial global importance in all crop science research:
Climate change: How will climate change affect plant abundance, productivity, bioregions and ecosystems? Science in the Community: How can we ensure that the diverse goals and needs of our diverse societies are understood and met by plant scientists? Food security: How do we use existing genetic diversity to create climate-resilient crops? Biodiversity: How does biodiversity develop in novel ecosystems such as renatured farmland, forests, grassland and gardens? Sustainability: Could plant-defense priming be a platform for a new green revolution? Plant-plant interactions: How are interactions between plant species regulated? Plant diseases: How should we prepare for new pathogens affecting trees, crops, and the natural environment? Plant-microbiome interactions: how does the plant microbiome affect stress tolerance? Plant adaptation: what is the plasticity of the epigenome of plants? Plant stress responses: How do plants deal with combined stressors? Ecosystem services: what natural materials could be invested in for a more sustainable future of manufacturing or housing?
Funding: Laboratory-led research and development program at Los Alamos National Laboratory