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April 2020​

Healthy Plants for a Healthy Planet​

All animals, even humans, depend on plants. Plants provide oxygen to breath. Plants are a source of fiber, feed, and food. And plants are a renewable source of fuel and building materials. Without plants, we literally couldn’t exist! But worldwide, diseases and pests impact plants. Annual losses in food crops alone amount to 15-30% globally. Changing global climate and a growing world population are putting more strain on our agricultural production systems while plant pathogens and pests continue to evolve and adapt, becoming more efficient at attacking the very plants we rely on.

Fortunately, plant health experts are at the forefront of protecting plant production, managing diseases and insects, and making forests, landscapes, fields, and gardens more sustainable. Levering knowledge of pathogen biology, biotechnologists aim to make crop plants more disease resistant and less dependent on pesticides. By manipulating plant gene regulation, biotechnology is being utilized to improve water-use efficiency, making crops less dependent on irrigation; enhance carbon sequestration; and improve mineral uptake from the soil, requiring less fertilizer. Microbiologists and ecologists are studying how beneficial microbes can be deployed to fight plant pathogens and pests and to improve crop yields. Plants and their microbial partners are also being adapted to clean up polluted soils and degrade organic pollutants at industrial sites. Together, plant pathologists and other plant scientists are defending our native and agricultural plants, making food production more sustainable, and fighting the impacts of climate change.

Plant science research requires public investment; partnerships between academic, industry, and government labs; and an engaged public willing to advocate for science-based solutions to plant diseases and pests. The world depends on healthy plants. Talk to your friends and neighbors about the benefits of publicly-funded plant science education and research. Learn about the importance of science-based solutions that make agriculture environmentally friendly. And ask your local, state, and federal representatives to support public initiatives in the plant sciences. Together, we can keep plants and the planet healthy.

Plant Health Is Your Health!

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