Since 1924, the American Society of Plant Biologists has been dedicated to the pursuit of its mandate: “…to promote the growth and development of plant biology, to encourage and publish research in plant biology, and to promote the interests and growth of plant scientists in general.”

In the years since its inception, the scope of this mandate has continued to evolve and expand to embrace new technologies, emerging fields of discovery, and a global membership that spans academic, government, industrial, and commercial environments.

Faced with rising demands on food production from a growing population on a warming planet, the role of today’s plant biologist is more vital than ever before. From the lab to the field, from the corporate office to the local elementary school classroom, plant scientists develop and share innovative, interdisciplinary, and collaborative strategies to solve global problems, while nurturing the next generation of explorers in a connected, supportive, and inspired community.

ASPB is proud to bring this community together at our annual Plant Biology meeting — the preeminent science event — that, this year, will bring together over 1,300 leading plant biologists, students, and industry leaders, from 40 countries. The conference will feature five major symposia, a wide array of interactive workshops, career and networking sessions, e-posters, and mentoring opportunities.

The major symposia focus on a global approach to research and community within the plant science world, featuring award-winning, dynamic speakers who are leading the way forward with integrative and inclusive strategies toward both their science, and the individuals behind it.

Plant Biology 2019 opens on August 3rd, with the ASPB President's Symposium 2019: Biological and Personal Networks: Why They Matter for Plant Biology. This opening plenary is organized by Rob Last from Michigan State University, and features David Asai (Howard Hughes Medical Institute), Manajit Hayer-Hartl (Max Planck Institute of Biochemistry) Gaurav Moghe (Cornell University), and Beronda Montgomery (Michigan State University).

Plant biologists revel in the diversity and complexity of form and function among the hundreds of thousands of documented photosynthetic organisms on earth. Technological and conceptual breakthroughs in recent decades provide opportunities to understand these themes and variations. We increasingly are harnessing the genetic and functional variation within the plant kingdom to inform approaches for making plants more productive and agriculture more environmentally friendly. Just as our science benefits from embracing biological complexity, our community is made stronger by inclusion of scientists who represent the breadth of human culture. This symposium will explore approaches to harness biological diversity and complexity in the systems that we study, and ways to strengthen our community by broadening participation.

Next up, on Sunday, August 4, 2019, is the Plant Cell Editor's Symposium: Receptor Signaling in Plants, organized by Giles Oldroyd (University of Cambridge) and featuring Cyril Zipfel (University of Zurich), Jenny Russinova (VIB – UGent Center for Plant Systems Biology), and Julia Santiago Cuellar (University of Lausanne).

Plant survival requires an integration of developmental status with the nature of the surrounding environment. Cell surface receptors allow plant perception of both biotic and abiotic signals, as well as cell-to-cell coordination for the integration of developmental responses. The huge expansion of plasma membrane-associated receptors in the genomes of most plant species is testament to the diversity of signals that plants can recognise in their extracellular environment. Despite this diversity of receptors, there is much integration in the mechanisms of signal transduction. In this symposium, we will explore cell surface receptors that function in both plant-microbe interactions and in plant development, covering the commonalities and differences that exist in receptor signaling in plants.

On Monday, August 5, 2019, we welcome Crispin Taylor (American Society of Plant Biologists) and Andrew Bent (University of Wisconsin-Madison) who serve as co-organizers for Future of Food and Agriculture, featuring Timothy Griffin (Tufts University), Tom Osborn (Bayer Crop Science), Celeste Holz-Schietinger (Impossible Foods Inc.), and David Slaughter (University of California, Davis), who will cover a range of topics related to sustainably feeding a growing human population as the planet’s climate continues to warm.

Beginning with a broad-brush focus on food system sustainability and resilience, the symposium will then delve more deeply into the challenges and opportunities afforded by modern approaches to plant breeding and the rapidly growing area of plant-based meats. The symposium will conclude with a talk on the ways in which big data can inform and improve agricultural practices.

On August 6, it’s time to talk about Plant Disease and Resistance Mechanisms. This symposium, organized by Wenbo Ma (University of California, Riverside) will also feature Xinnian Dong (Duke University), Sophien Kamoun (The Sainsbury Laboratory), and Brian Staskawicz (University of California, Berkeley).

Pathogens and pests are major threats to global food security. Although plants have evolved a myriad of defense mechanisms, they are defeated by successful pathogens through functions of dedicated virulence proteins called effectors. Dynamic interactions between pathogen effectors and the host immune system determine whether diseases will occur. This symposium will present recent breakthroughs in understanding the governing principles of host-pathogen arms race. New discoveries on regulatory mechanisms of the immune system, immune receptor networks, and molecular details of effector-mediated susceptibility set the foundation for enhancing disease resistance. Application of this knowledge is enforced by innovative engineering strategies to achieve sustainable agriculture.

Finally, on August 7, we wrap up PlantBio19 and launch the inaugural Plant Synthetic Biology meeting with the joint symposium: The Future of Plant Synthetic Biology, organized by Andrew Hanson (University of Florida) and featuring Pamela Silver (Harvard University), June Medford (Colorado State University), Tobias Erb (The Max Planck Institute for Terrestrial Microbiology) and Sean Cutler (University of California, Riverside).

Synthetic biology (SynBio) is a transformative combination of DNA technology, engineering principles, and computational tools that makes it possible to design new life processes and to repurpose existing natural ones for useful purposes. SynBio is a conceptual and operational revolution that promises to be even more creatively disruptive than the recombinant DNA revolution that   began in the 1980s. This is because SynBio both (i) opens access to the vast ‘design space’ that no organism has yet explored, and (ii) industrializes biology by replacing slow, artisanal work with computationally guided, automated, and standardized engineering procedures. SynBio is already creating new jobs and is likely to keep doing so. This symposium will convey a sense of SynBio’s power and potential by showcasing cutting-edge research from the microbial and plant worlds, and its implications for biotechnology and agriculture.

The plant science world will be in San Jose, California, August 3-7, 2019. We hope you will join us!

Register today at https://plantbiology.aspb.org/, and follow #PlantBio19 and @ASPBPlantBioMtg on Twitter for more information.

Keywords: Plant Biology 2019, ASPB, plant science, community, symposium, workshop, e-poster, climate change, food production, collaboration, diversity, complexity, receptor signaling, agriculture, disease resistance, host-pathogen interaction, plant synthetic biology, SynBio, DNA technology, AgTech.

Written by Michelle Woodvine for Peridot Scientific Communications.