• Comment |

    Although the ‘rebound effect’ is well established in environmental economics, the sometimes paradoxical effects of yield increase are rarely questioned within the plant science community. Acknowledging the curse of efficiency can help us to reframe our societal goals from performance at all cost to resilience.

    • Olivier Hamant
  • Comment |

    Keeping pace with food demand and climate change requires continuous genetic improvement of crops that, in turn, relies on the availability of genetic resources. Access to these resources is complicated by the need to establish benefit-sharing arrangements when accessing and using such genetic resources.

    • Brad Sherman
    •  & Robert James Henry
  • Comment |

    Humans have been using biodiversity for hundreds of thousands of years, but at no time in our history has it been more crucial to accelerate our exploration of the useful properties of the species that inhabit the world around us.

    • Alexandre Antonelli
    • , Rhian J. Smith
    •  & Monique S. J. Simmonds
  • Comment |

    Extinct, or just extinct in the wild? Plants lost from in situ habitat, but represented in seed banks, are labelled extinct despite the potential for restoration. A change in the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List definition of extinct in the wild is needed to improve the status and prospects of threatened plant species.

    • Sarah E. Dalrymple
    •  & Thomas Abeli
  • Comment |

    The Global Strategy for Plant Conservation requires 75% of threatened plant species conserved ex situ by 2020. Currently, ex situ conservation focuses on conventional seed banking, yet this method is unsuitable for many threatened species. The 75% target is unattainable without urgent investment into alternative techniques.

    • Sarah V. Wyse
    • , John B. Dickie
    •  & Katherine J. Willis
  • Comment |

    Like all living organisms, without exception, plants integrate many external signals to adapt to their environment and increase their fitness. Is this a proof of intelligence? It depends on the meaning of the word; and it really does not matter.

    • Daniel A. Chamovitz
  • Comment |

    Next-generation sequencing technologies have significantly changed the scope of ancient plant DNA research, moving from analysis of a few loci to generation of ancient genomes. Future research could refine our understanding of plant evolution and adaptation, and provide information for conservation, crop breeding and food security.

    • Oscar Estrada
    • , James Breen
    • , Stephen M. Richards
    •  & Alan Cooper
  • Comment |

    Diversity in plant genomes remains largely unexplored. The 10,000 Plant Genome Sequencing Project is a landmark effort to catalogue plant genomic variation, representing a major step in understanding the tree of life. The project offers new opportunities to study biological processes and address fundamental research questions.

    • Alex D. Twyford
  • Comment |

    The recently published reference genome of Aegilops tauschii provides new insights into the originator of the D genome donor of hexaploid wheat. This will be a foundation for exploring the genomic diversity underpinning adaptive traits in wheat, and ultimately advance wheat improvement efforts.

    • Awais Rasheed
    • , Francis C. Ogbonnaya
    • , Evans Lagudah
    • , Rudi Appels
    •  & Zhonghu He
  • Comment |

    Modern plant biology relies heavily on genetic sequence information from species with a diversity of origins. Could proposed changes to the terms of use of this digital sequence information threaten the development of new crop varieties and improvements in global agriculture?

    • Emily Marden
  • Comment |

    The European infrastructures EMPHASIS and AnaEE aim to collaborate in bringing innovative solutions for a sustainable intensification of agriculture. By integrating the study of plant phenomics and agricultural ecology they hope to foster the development of novel scientific concepts, sensors and integrated models.

    • Jacques Roy
    • , François Tardieu
    • , Michèle Tixier-Boichard
    •  & Ulrich Schurr
  • Comment |

    Plant research produces data in a profusion of types and scales, and in ever-increasing volume. What are the challenges and opportunities presented by data management in contemporary plant science? And how can researchers make efficient and fruitful use of data management tools and strategies?

    • Sabina Leonelli
    • , Robert P. Davey
    • , Elizabeth Arnaud
    • , Geraint Parry
    •  & Ruth Bastow
  • Comment |

    The biodiversity of food plants is vital for humanity's capacity to meet sustainability challenges. This goal requires the rigorous integration of plant, environmental, social and health sciences. It is coalescing around four thematic cornerstones that are both interdisciplinary and policy relevant.

    • Karl S. Zimmerer
    •  & Stef de Haan
  • Comment |

    In 1916, Swedish geologist Ernst Jakob Lennart von Post delivered a provocative lecture in Oslo, Norway, advocating the use of pollen grains in bog sediments as indicators of past vegetation and climate. The lecture spawned many applications and represents a landmark in multidisciplinary science.

    • Kevin J. Edwards
    • , Ralph M. Fyfe
    •  & Stephen T. Jackson
  • Comment |

    Global demand for coffee is constantly rising while the security of its production is increasingly threatened by disease and a changing climate. Is the genetic diversity of coffee in Ethiopia, its site of origin, robust enough to provide solutions to these challenges?

    • Zia Mehrabi
    •  & Philippe Lashermes
  • Comment |

    Prolonged and intensive breeding of wheat has produced varieties that would be unrecognizable to our ancestors. Such artificial selection can risk prioritizing traits of value to producers over those of importance to consumers. So is there evidence that crop improvement has left modern wheat nutritionally impoverished?

    • Peter R. Shewry
    • , Till K. Pellny
    •  & Alison Lovegrove
  • Comment |

    Climate change will pose diverse challenges for pollination this century. Identifying and addressing these challenges will help to mitigate impacts, and avoid a scenario whereby plants and pollinators are in the ‘wrong place at the wrong time’.

    • Josef Settele
    • , Jacob Bishop
    •  & Simon G. Potts
  • Comment |

    The need for GM crops is growing rapidly as a consequence of the overriding priority for the sustainable generation of vastly increased food production. Although demands for energy and raw materials from the bioeconomy remain, they may become eclipsed by the quest for more food.

    • John A. Pickett
  • Comment |

    Transgenic biotechnology offers great opportunities for food security. But the potential effects on human health and the environment are a major concern to the public, which hinders the application of the technology. Along with continually implementing rigid biosafety assessment, educating the public is critical for promoting transgenic crops in China.

    • Bao-Rong Lu
  • Comment |

    Boosted by next-generation sequencing technology, there is now an ever-growing list of fully sequenced plant genomes. Recent additions to this list are two presumed ancestors of Petunia hybrida, the most popular bedding plant worldwide. These genome sequences provide new information on a species at a key position in plant phylogeny, and support the use of petunia as a research model plant species.

    • Alexander R. van der Krol
    •  & Richard G. H. Immink
  • Comment |

    Sustainable intensification is a concept of growing importance, yet it is in danger of becoming scientifically obsolete because of the diversity of meanings it has acquired. To avoid this, it is important to consider the various scales on which it can aid progress towards feeding human populations while also protecting the environment.

    • Richard M. Gunton
    • , Leslie G. Firbank
    • , Alex Inman
    •  & D. Michael Winter
  • Comment |

    The world's ecosystems are losing biodiversity fast. A satellite mission designed to track changes in plant functional diversity around the globe could deepen our understanding of the pace and consequences of this change, and how to manage it.

    • Walter Jetz
    • , Jeannine Cavender-Bares
    • , Ryan Pavlick
    • , David Schimel
    • , Frank W. Davis
    • , Gregory P. Asner
    • , Robert Guralnick
    • , Jens Kattge
    • , Andrew M. Latimer
    • , Paul Moorcroft
    • , Michael E. Schaepman
    • , Mark P. Schildhauer
    • , Fabian D. Schneider
    • , Franziska Schrodt
    • , Ulrike Stahl
    •  & Susan L. Ustin
  • Comment |

    Agriculture is often viewed as a source of problems needing innovative solutions. But agriculture can actually be a source of innovations for the bioeconomy, if researchers embrace the cultural changes needed.

    • Angela Karp
    • , Michael H. Beale
    • , Frédéric Beaudoin
    • , Peter J. Eastmond
    • , Andrew L. Neal
    • , Ian F. Shield
    • , Belinda J. Townsend
    •  & Achim Dobermann
  • Comment |

    Plant science has an important part to play in meeting the global food security challenge. But, advances will be most effective if better coupled with agronomic science and the broader food security agenda.

    • John S. I. Ingram
    •  & John R. Porter
  • Comment |

    In October 1865, Julius Sachs published a monograph entitled Experimental Physiology of Plants, and so initiated a new, quantitative branch of basic and applied botany. In our current post-genomic era the legacy of Sachs is re-emerging as a key discipline of the botanical sciences.

    • Ulrich Kutschera
  • Comment |

    The tremendous gains in crop yields seen over the twentieth century were underpinned by fertilizer use and manipulation of the aboveground parts of the plant. To meet the food demands of the twenty-first century, plant scientists must turn their attention belowground.

    • Anthony Bishopp
    •  & Jonathan P. Lynch
  • Comment |

    Raising the water productivity of crops, such that they yield more with less water, is one route to raising food production over the coming century. To achieve this goal, breeders must look beyond the conservative strategies that plants employ to cope with drought in the wild.

    • William J. Davies
    •  & Malcolm J. Bennett
  • Comment |

    The newly launched Diversity Seek initiative emphasizes the importance of state-of-the-art phenotypic and genotypic information. But to achieve its aims, it will also need to encourage the management of historical data, such as the metadata on the germplasm collections themselves.

    • Rachel S. Meyer
  • Comment |

    Consistent with their historical focus on the functional utility of plants, botanical gardens have an important opportunity to help ensure global food and ecosystem security by expanding their living collections, research and education programmes to emphasize agriculture and its impacts.

    • A. J. Miller
    • , A. Novy
    • , J. Glover
    • , E. A. Kellogg
    • , J. E. Maul
    • , P. Raven
    •  & P. Wyse Jackson
  • Comment |

    Arabidopsis has provided significant insights into the molecular workings of plants. Agriculturally aligned model grasses can be used to bridge the gap between this basic understanding of plant biology and real world challenges.

    • Thomas P. Brutnell
  • Comment |

    Increasing the yields of crops requires the investigation, and subsequent exploitation, of the genetic diversity preserved beyond the narrow range of commonly cultivated varieties. Such an undertaking requires a partnership of academia and industry.

    • Graham Moore
  • Comment |

    Buried in a notebook from his undergraduate days lie Newton's musings on the movement of sap in trees. Viewed in conjunction with our modern understanding of plant hydrodynamics, his speculations seem prescient.

    • David J. Beerling
  • Comment |

    Africa south of the Sahara is going through a major agricultural transformation. Low crop productivity, hunger and pessimism are being replaced by a rapid rise in food production, an increasingly vibrant agricultural value chain and convergence towards a common goal.

    • Pedro A. Sanchez
  • Comment |

    Genome editing opens up opportunities for the precise and rapid alteration of crops to boost yields, protect against pests and diseases and enhance nutrient content. The extent to which applied plant research and crop breeding benefit will depend on how the EU decides to regulate this fledgling technology.

    • Huw D. Jones