A New Focus on Plant Sciences

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Science  19 Nov 2010:
Vol. 330, Issue 6007, pp. 1021
DOI: 10.1126/science.1198153


Plants are essential to the survival of our planet—to its ecology, biodiversity, and climate. They maintain human health by providing the basis for nutrition, shelter, clothing, and energy. The study of plants has yielded fundamental insights that have reshaped our understanding of the world and has enabled major human needs to be addressed. But the world population is expected to increase from six billion to nine billion people by the year 2050, challenging humanity to develop more efficient ways to harness plants for meeting growing global needs. Vigorous high-quality scientific research in the plant sciences will be crucial for the world's future. Yet basic plant science research has struggled to take root in the United States. For more than a decade, agricultural research writ large has received only 2% of total federal spending on R&D. Federal support for fundamental plant science research has been even less: The amount awarded on a competitive basis to academic and research institutions constitutes only about 2% of extramural spending for life sciences research ($382 million out of $17 billion in 2005).