Today, the report UK Plant Science: Current status and future challenges is launched by the UK Plant Sciences Federation (UKPSF), a special interest group of the Society of Biology.
The report reveals that the UK’s position as a world leader in plant science is under threat from a shortage of funding and a lack of stable investment in essential skills. It lays out urgent actions needed to ensure the UK can respond to significant global challenges such as guaranteeing food security, coping with the threats from climate change, protecting biodiversity, and improving human health.
The report contains the first ever assessment of activities across the UK’s plant science sector. It calls for a doubling of investment in plant science, which currently receives less than 4% of UK public research funding, and urges Government and industry to work together to achieve this.
Professor Jim Beynon, chair of the UKPSF, says: “In addition to increased investment, we need a more concerted approach to ensuring progress in both fundamental scientific understanding and its application for all our benefit. This has not been the case for more than a decade and the adverse impact on skills supply, infrastructure and innovation is now becoming apparent.”
Concerns over skills shortages in UK plant scientists were expressed by 96% of organisations surveyed. The report warns that the loss of some skills could be irreversible in less than 15 years if not addressed.
“Currently, training in plant science is not meeting employers’ needs,” says Dr Mimi Tanimoto, UKPSF executive officer. “It is important that training is not confined to universities. We urgently need more targeted further education, apprenticeships, industry-linked studentships, and continuing professional development.”