This week, the Botany and Plant Science Discipline in NUI Galway hosted the Irish Plant Scientists Association Meeting (IPSAM2013), where up to 100 Irish plant scientists met to discuss their research and its importance for future sustainable development in Ireland and internationally.
Plants and plant derived products are essential to human life on earth. Plants supply food, energy, health and medicines, and also supply industry with raw materials and are a vital component of our natural environment. People are not only dependent on plants for food, but also as fodder for livestock and fuel for energy. All of the coal, gas and oil reserves are derived from photosynthetic organisms (e.g. plants) that have decomposed over millions of years. In addition, people are dependent on plants to make clothes, paper, paints, oils, medicines, timber, and biodegradable plastics, among many other things. Although underappreciated by policymakers, the Irish economy, society and environment is completely reliant on products (and services) derived directly and indirectly from plants for its existence.
Professor Charles Spillane, Head of Botany and Plant Science at NUI Galway, said: “The annual IPSAM meeting is a key annual event that brings together plant scientists across Ireland’s universities and research centers. These scientists are studying plants from many different perspectives including both fundamental and applied topics such as plant chemistry and genetics, paleobotany and climate change, algal and lichen biology, crop and soil science, forestry and tree biology, plant-derived medicines, biodiversity and ecology.”
Keynote speakers at the IPSAM2013 included Professor Liam Dolan from University of Oxford who presented the latest findings regarding how root biology evolution allowed plants to move from aquatic environments to the land over 450 million years ago. Professor Dolan also highlighted how such fundamental "blue skies" research on plant roots is informing new applied science strategies to double the yields of crop plants to meet the doubling of food production that is necessary by 2050. In addition, keynote speaker Professor Bob Crawford from the University of St Andrews discussed the types of physiological constraints that limit the geographic distribution of different plant species, a key issue facing humanity in the face of climate change impacts on both wild and cultivated plants.
The IPSAM 2013 Conference was sponsored by NUI Galway’s School of Natural Sciences, Bord Bia, Science Foundation Ireland (SFI), New Phytologist and QIAGEN. For more details on IPSAM2013 visit www.ipsam.org
Also promoting global awareness of the importance of plants, the second international ‘Fascination of Plants Day’ will take place across Ireland on Saturday, 18 May. Dr Zoe Popper from NUI Galway Botany and Plant Science is the National Coordinator of Fascination of Plants Day. Facilitated by the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), of which NUI Galway is a member institution, the goal of this activity is to get as many people and policymakers as possible worldwide fascinated by plants and to appreciate how humanity is completely dependent on plants for its survival.