UK PlantSci 2013 & the Journal of Experimental Botany

Gary Foster
University of Bristol

Running time: 00:20:24 min

Plant Pathology: The Past, the Present, and More Importantly, the Future

ABSTRACT

In many subject areas, there is often a tearoom conversation or chat at the conference bar about the declining numbers of researchers and the reduction in taught courses, leading to the decline in the role of important areas, with plant pathology being no different. However, many of these conversations are often based on vague memories or anecdotal stories, with very few hard facts and figures. In 2012, the British Society of Plant Pathology (BSPP), also concerned about the decline of plant pathology, commissioned a full audit of plant pathology education and training in the UK. The survey revealed a sharp decline within the field of plant pathology, reflecting severe job losses, a decline in practical training in plant pathology, as well as a dramatic reduction in pathology teaching right across the UK sector. The audit, which is available from the BSPP website, has triggered similar exercises in other countries, with similar patterns emerging. Some of the ‘highlights’ of the audit will be presented, but perhaps more importantly, the BSPP response will be discussed. This has involved a deliberate dual approach, namely top-down and bottom-up. The top-down approach has included scheduled meetings with MPs and briefings to government ministers about the current state of plant pathology and its importance to the UK economy, something that was inadvertently helped by the unfortunate outbreak of ash dieback caused by Chalara fraxinea, in the same week as the release of the BSPP audit report. The talk will also cover the bottom-up approach, which has included the appointment of a funded BSPP Outreach Officer to promote the area of plant pathology to a much wider audience, from primary schools, secondary schools, through to the general public. Many related specialist subjects are in a similar situation, and we will share our experiences. To tackle global food security successfully, a multifaceted approach must be undertaken, from increased yields, to better supply chain and food preservation, through to new and innovative approaches to farm management and resources. Plant pathology can play an important role within global food security. To accomplish this, we need highly trained and educated scientists and practitioners with a sound knowledge of plant pathology.

 

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