Plant science research strategy highlights plant power
Yet for too long plant science has been the unsung hero, languishing low down in the list of popular University courses and generally attracting less research funding than other disciplines (in 2018/19 just 3 % of UKRI’s total research budget of nearly £8bn was spent on plant sciences).
The report, “UK Plant Science Research Strategy: A green roadmap for the next ten years” is authored by Oxford University’s Prof Jane Langdale, and provides a roadmap for how the UK can invest more effectively in research, training, the commercialisation of scientific discoveries and international partnerships.
The roadmap highlights four central questions:
- What plant species should be planted where and when and how should they be managed?
- How can yield and quality be enhanced with significantly reduced chemical inputs?
- How can plant health be sustainably protected?
- How can plant products be used to improve human health and environmental resilience?
Answering these questions is not cheap, rapid, or easy. And the solutions lie across many players and organisations, from funders, to scientists, entrepreneurs to end-users. And we see the role of a network such as ours in helping convene those conversations.
There is a skills shortages around growing plants – vertical farming businesses for example, need staff who understand the fundamentals of plant biology and how flavours, structure and life cycle of crops can be altered by changes to controlled environment growth conditions.
The commercialisation journey – getting scientific discoveries out into the hands of end-users – is not just a plant science issue, but one where funding to de-risk adoption, supportive regulation and investment in more applied research can help accelerate the process.
We’ll be talking more about this at our Focus on Funding event in June where we’ll be bringing together the network to try and tackle it.
We’ll be talking about advanced breeding techniques for plants (and livestock) later in the year, as well as our upcoming conference on industrial hemp and medicinal cannabis, and in case you missed it, we talked about on-farm nitrogen generation in March 2021.
And as for the “time” element – well, you’ll have to watch this space, but one hint … save the date of 10th November!