Research Article: New Horizons for Plant Translational Research

Date Published: June 10, 2014

Publisher: Public Library of Science

Author(s): Jane Alfred, Jeffery L. Dangl, Sophien Kamoun, Susan R. McCouch

Abstract: In this issue, we launch a new article collection “The Promise of Plant Translational Research,” featuring articles from leading plant researchers and call for additional plant translational research to be submitted to PLOS Biology for inclusion in this collection. We also discuss in this Editorial why this field has a vital role to play in meeting the challenges of sustainably feeding a growing world population.

Partial Text: The world’s human population continues to expand and is predicted to reach ∼9 billion by 2040, up from its current level of just over 7 billion [1],[2]. Some estimate that with this rate of population growth, accommodating the increased demand for food will require the world’s agricultural production to increase 50% by 2030 [3]. The planet’s water resources are also under pressure. As Pamela Ronald highlights in her accompanying Essay [4], the amount of fresh water available per person has decreased 4-fold in the last 60 years and of the water that is available, ∼70% is already used for agriculture [5]. Thus, agricultural production must be intensified to feed more people with less water on the same amount of land (given that little undeveloped arable land remains and what does is being lost to urbanization, desertification, and environmental damage [5]). Furthermore, pathogens that cause devastating crop losses continue to spread in the face of increased global commerce and climate change [6]. Given these challenges, there is a pressing need for plant research to produce solutions to ensure food security in a sustainable and safe way. The need is acute in both developed countries and in the less developed parts of the world, where many people endure chronic malnutrition and suffer the long term consequences on their health and well being. Plant scientists, therefore, urgently need to increase the productivity, pathogen resistance, and sustainability of existing crops, and are challenged to domesticate new crops [7].