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November 28th, 2017 / The biochemist blog

Plant science is a lot more important than you realise. It has often been cast as cell biology’s less exciting sibling. What is the point of studying root growth, flowering or stomatal aperture? There are way more important things to be researching… aren’t there?

Making crops for the future
Global warming is a huge problem that is coming for us. Over the last few years we have already started to see the impact of global warming on crops. In 2013, an extreme cold winter devastated wheat crops in the UK, this year supermarkets rationed lettuce and broccoli after severe floods and storms in the Mediterranean. Wheat, Corn and soybean harvests have been predicted to fall by 22% in the US by the end of the century because of water stress brought on by global warming.

What can we do to decrease the impact of global warming on crop production? We can’t change the weather, but as plant scientists we can look at the influence of long-term climate change on crops. By understanding how plants adapt to changing environmental conditions, we can help to breed crops that are more resilient to adverse environmental conditions such as water stress.

Human health
There has been a long history of using plants for medicines, with many of the most important medicines such as the anti-malarial artemisinin, and the chemotherapy drug Taxol having their origins in plants. Over the years drug discovery has moved away from plants to chemical based discovery, however, every year fewer new drugs hit the market. This has prompted researchers to look back to plants for new drugs – using traditional plant based medicines as a starting point for drug discovery. Read more