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New technologies are redefining how plant biology will meet societal challenges in health, nutrition, agriculture, and energy. Rapid and inexpensive genome and transcriptome sequencing is being exploited to discover biochemical pathways that provide tools needed for synthetic biology in both plant and microbial systems. Metabolite detection at the cellular and subcellular levels is complementing gene sequencing for pathway discovery and metabolic engineering. The crafting of plant and microbial metabolism for the synthetic biology platforms of tomorrow will require precise gene editing and delivery of entire complex pathways. Plants sustain life and are key to discovery and development of new medicines and agricultural resources; increased research and training in plant science will accelerate efforts to harness the chemical wealth of the plant kingdom.