On the Horizon: Xylella fastidiosa — Microbe Post

3 August 2016

By Benjamin Thompson, Head of Communications at the Microbiology Society

It’s not just humans and animals that are affected by emerging diseases. In this latest addition to the On the Horizon series, we learn about a poorly understood bacterium that causes significant hardships to farmers across the world. The Apulia region, a thin strip of southeast Italy that stretches out into the Ionian and Adriatic […]

via On the Horizon: Xylella fastidiosa — Microbe Post

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How does a flower come to be?

16 August 2016

By Ian Street, Research Associate at Dartmouth College

A flowering world

There are around 369,000 known flowering plant species on Earth today, by far the most numerous group of plants living on Earth by an order of magnitude. The next largest group is the ~15,000 species of bryophytes. Humans are 100% reliant on flowering plants for food, medicines, wood, air, culture, and our environment.

Death Valley, California super bloom, spring 2016. Photo by Nat Prunet.

Death Valley, California super bloom, spring 2016. Photo by Nat Prunet.

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The Nagoya Protocol: The fair and equitable use of genetic resources

3 August 2016

By Katie Beckett, ABS Project Manager at the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy

KBeckett Photo 2The world’s flora has been studied for millennia. The first plant records known to exist are from the Neolithic Revolution, about 1000 years ago, the same period that is often described as the Agricultural Revolution. Fast forwarding through history, from the work of Mendel to new drug discovery and advances in molecular biology, plant science is at the cutting edge of research and development (R&D) in many sectors around the world.

Pharmaceutical, food & beverage, cosmetic, textiles and agriculture are just a selection of those sectors that would not be where they are today without research into plants, their derivatives and by-products. Alongside industries researching plant material to develop innovative commercial products, the UK is home to several leading plant science university departments and research institutions, accessing plant genetic resources from around the world for their own research purposes. Continue reading

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Plant pest detection technologies: from research to real life

26 July 2016

By Barbara Agstner, economist at Fera Science

Barbara Agstner Fera science economistAs an economist working in a research organisation, part of my daily bread and butter is to assess costs and benefits of new technologies. A current example I am working on are detection devices, as part of a project on new approaches for the early detection of tree health pests and pathogens. To carry out such assessment, I need to know who is going to use these new technologies, in what way, and what the consequences are. In the case of a handheld ‘scanner’ for diseased plants, for example, will someone regularly scan all plants at an airport or nursery, and what will they do if they find a potentially diseased specimen? Is it an effective way to keep novel diseases out of our country, or can it help to manage a disease which is already here? What are current plant health measures, and how would the new technology sit with these?

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Plant IP – how the sands are shifting

27 June 2016

By Penny Maplestone FRSB, Chief Executive of the British Society of Plant Breeders

Penny 19Say the words broccoli and tomato to a group of European plant breeders and the chances are you will spark an excited and at times furious debate about the best way to protect Intellectual Property (IP) in plants.  Key decisions taken last year by the European Patent Office may have changed the plant IP landscape in Europe for ever.

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Building a vision for the future: creating a roadmap for UK plant sciences

9 June 2016

By Micha Hanzel, science policy intern, and Alessandro Allegra, senior science policy officer at the Royal Society of Biology

RoadmapPlant science has a central role to play in so many of the global challenges facing the world today, including our future food security, the conservation of biodiversity, sustaining ecosystem services, improving global health and mitigating impacts of global climate change. The UK is internationally recognised for its excellence in plant science, and as such is well positioned to help provide solutions across the range of challenges facing the planet now and in the future.

The UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF), a special interest group of the Royal Society of Biology, plays a key role in this endeavour by providing a unified voice and a forum for the whole UK plant sciences community. The aim of the group is to increase understanding of the significance of plant sciences and formulate a coordinated strategy and vision that is used to inform policy. Continue reading

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State of the World’s Plants

31 May 2016

By Richard Deverell – Director, Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew

The Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew recently published the first annual report on the State of the World’s Plants, alongside an international science and policy symposium on the topic. Kew’s Director, Richard Deverell reflects on how it all began and why the work is so important.

stateoftheworldlandscape - small

Photo: Andre Dib

Why not plants?

Birds, amphibians, mammals have all been done – but not plants?  Why?

This was the simple question posed by Mike McCarthy, a writer and journalist, when Kathy Willis (Kew’s Director of Science) and I met him at Kew Gardens two years ago.

That was when the seed that became ‘State of the World’s Plants’ was planted – and I think we all owe Mike a debt of gratitude for his simple but important observation.

There was an important gap, one that Kew, working with our partners, could fill.

As ever in science – and in life generally – it is just as important to know what you don’t know as much as to know what you do know.

Science progresses only by individuals with imagination and curiosity asking questions – and then doing the hard work to answer them. Continue reading

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3 reasons I attend scientific conferences. What are yours?

10 May 2016

By Keir Bailey, a PhD student at the University of York

What was the last conference you went to? Did you take time to think about what gained from it? Here are my top 3 things I took from attending UK Plant Science Federation (UKPSF) Conferences.

  1. Expose yourself to cutting-edge science

Exciting science from excited scientists.

Keir Bailey 2I remember my first UKPSF conference, in 2014, at York University, it was one of the first ever conferences I attended. The theme was ‘Sustaining Life on Earth’ and I was terribly eager to hear Cathie Martin, ‘the mother’ of the purple tomato, speak. Her lab had engineered tomatoes to make anthocyanins, the chemicals that make blueberries a super food, offering a promise of affordable health benefits. It had been in the news that these tomatoes were one step closer to reaching the UK supermarket shelves, so everyone was excited. Over the two days I heard not only Cathie’s talk but many others. I was in awe of the researchers who spoke so passionately and confidently about their work and how they aimed to help sustain life on Earth. This theme and passion continued in this years’ Molecules to Ecosystem’ conference. Continue reading

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PlantSci2016 conference: Plants in a changing world, from molecular to ecosystem

19 April 2016

By Geraint Parry, GARNet Coordinator

Geraint Parry

Geraint Parry

Five years after the inaugural meeting of the UK Plant Science Federation took place at the John Innes Centre (JIC) in 2011, the UK PlantSci 2016 conference returned to this worldwide centre for plant biology.

A glance through the schedule for this two-day meeting highlights the enormous breadth of interests found within the UKPSF membership. The topic of the meeting was ‘Plants in a Changing World, from Molecular to Ecosystem‘, and it truly covered all bases with talks on topics as diverse as on the wheat epigenome through to ecological studies of chalk grasslands. Each session was supported by different member organisations. Continue reading

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Actions for plant science in the UK – UKPSF Working Group reports

A personal overview – by Dr Sandy Knapp FRSB

Sandy A. paradoxaPlant science has a broad reach – from molecules to ecosystems, and from blue skies to near-market research and practical applications. The UKPSF was formed to bring the plant science sector together and to harness the power of our community to map out a future for plant sciences in the UK that ensures its continued growth and innovation, while fostering its key underpinning role in economic growth and helping the nation meet its needs and obligations. Continue reading

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