Although the buzz words “food security” and “sustainable agriculture” have been hot topics in plant science for quite some time now, they remain as important as ever. Climate change is happening, and the world’s population isn’t getting any smaller, so just how are we going to feed almost 10 billion people by 2050 in the face of such serious environmental challenges? 

That’s the question being asked––from a uniquely informed plant biology perspective––at one of the major symposia being hosted at this year’s ASPB Plant Biology 2019 conference (San Jose, CA, USA, August 3–7).

Co-organized by ASPB’s Crispin Taylor and the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Andrew Bent, “The Future of Food and Agriculture” symposium takes place on Monday, August 5. Crispin Taylor writes: “The intent for this symposium is to paint a big picture, but to also include some focus and detail. We’ll incorporate everything from large-scale agroecosystem thinking, economics, and perhaps a dash of social science, to molecular sciences, digital farming, big data, and modern approaches to crop plant breeding.”

In his research at Tufts University in the Division of Agriculture, Food and Environment, Timothy Griffin explores the environmental impacts of agriculture and their effects on agricultural policy. He’ll open the symposium talks with a discussion of food system sustainability and resilience in the broadest sense, before handing over to molecular breeding expert Tom Osbourn, Head of Vegetable Analytics and Pipeline Design at Bayer Crop Science. 

The politics and ethics of food production are not always popular or comfortable conversations, but, says Andrew Bent: “We must not be shy about discussing how plant science can help society, and––I have to say it––plant genetic engineering can make very positive contributions.”

Moving on, Director of Research Celeste Holz-Schietinger will talk about her fascinating work at Impossible Foods Inc., a manufacturer of plant-based “meat” products, and finally, David Slaughter from the Department of Biological and Agricultural Engineering at UC Davis will provide insights into his work on the use of robots and machine learning in the agricultural industry-- check out the UC Davis Phenotyping robot in this video

Crispin Taylor writes: “Clearly, the future of food production is likely to be very different from the past––and this means an increasing number of novel career opportunities for plant scientists.”

It’s an exciting time for plant biology––register for Plant Biology 2019 to get inspired at The Future of Food and Agriculture symposium.

Written by Lisa Martin for Peridot Scientific Communications.