Cultivating the future: how plant science is tackling global challenges
17 October 2015
Cambridge plant scientists are pioneering biological solutions to some of the world’s most pressing problems: providing energy and food for a rising global population in a deteriorating environment.
In the surroundings of the award-winning Sainsbury Laboratory, laboratory director Professor Ottoline Leyser introduces fellow scientists who demonstrate the fundamental importance of plant science to our future wellbeing, highlighting novel approaches to harnessing the power of plants whilst preserving the natural environment.
Workshops illustrating the transformative potential of modern plant science, from the microscopic to the ecosystem levels:
• Sharing and Sparing
Sharing or sparing? What approach to meeting rising food demand would be best for nature – encouraging farmers to make space for wildlife within farms (land-sharing), or the more radical approach of increasing yields (production per unit area) so that less landed is needed for farming and more can be spared elsewhere for conservation? This workshop will introduce how we’ve tackled this question around the world and give participants the chance to explore our findings for themselves.
In spring, you stare at a plant over an hour and you may think nothing is happening. That hour has seen some of the most dynamic processes occurring in any organism, hormones and other molecules being shunted around the plant, a myriad of genes being switched on or off, new cells forming and changing shape, transport systems inside cells that package and deliver their cargo to their correct “addresses" – whether it be to the surface of the cell or to an organelle such as the nucleus. As plant scientists we want to see these processes happening in the living plant and we have, and are building, a range of tools that enable us to view processes throughout the plant, tissues, cells, inside cells.
For 2016 we hope to be able to visualise the chemistry of cells to really understand, in detail, how plants work. The workshop will demonstrate a number of techniques we use to see inside plants and their cells.
• Crop Pre-breeding
We highlight research underpinning our Cambridge Centre of Crop Science’ being developed jointly with NIAB and associated with the cross-disciplinary University Strategic Initiative in Global Food Security. The workshop will introduce pathways to enhance wheat productivity and resistance to stress, pests and diseases.
“Synthetic Wheats” have been developed by repeating one of the hybridisation events which led to today’s high yielding “hexaploid” bread wheats, and is opening up the genetic bottleneck imposed by that chance event 10,000 years ago. A more targeted approach to understanding the genetic regulation of crop productivity, grain quality and disease resistance is to modify gene expression by manipulating developing embryo cells. Demonstrations of both activities will be presented by our colleagues from NIAB.
Into Biology: Plant Science Education Programme
CambPlants Networking Hub exists to harness plant research excellence in Cambridge by facilitating knowledge exchange between business, policy makers, researchers, and the public on how plant research can help solve global issues.