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Plant science is becoming increasingly critical to society

Experts at Iowa State University have created a comprehensive guide to help plant scientists communicate their work to the world. 

Professor Gustavo MacIntosh predicts that plant science will play an increasingly important role in the world, but many people lack an understanding of plants – both their biology and their critical place in the functioning of human society. 

Climate change and population growth will increasingly threaten the global food supply. Without progress in the field of plant science, crop production will not be able to keep pace with such major changes.

It isn’t an overstatement to say that populations around the world will go hungry if plant science stagnates, said Professor MacIntosh.

“At the end of the day, either you eat plants or you eat food that ate plants. “Plants are the basis for the food we have.”

According to Professor MacIntosh, plant scientists are not doing enough to raise awareness of the discipline among the general population, which could slow the rate of progress in the future. To address this issue, he collaborated with about 30 other scientists for more than two years to assemble a guide for communicating about plant science. 

The 28-page guide identifies challenges to communicating the importance of plant science to a wide audience and provides some strategies for doing so. 

“We want people to be convinced that we need more outreach efforts, and we want this guide to make sure those outreach efforts are effective,” said Professor MacIntosh.

The work stresses the importance of humanizing plant science to make it accessible to a wide range of audiences. Professor MacIntosh said scientists and nonscientists seem to be growing farther apart for various reasons, but everyone benefits when more diverse voices enter the conversation.

The guide is published in the journal Plant Direct.

By Chrissy Sexton, Staff Writer

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