Hot Bot…

Image: USDA Economic Research Service.

Botany is officially ‘hot’ (or even ‘really cool’…), according to no less a publication than the FT (Financial Times) Magazine, where Clive Cookson lists ‘plants to feed the world’ amongst his ‘Science’s 10 hottest fields’. Musing on the projected global population increase from 7 billion later in 2011 to 9 billion mid-21st century, Cookson argues for a major role of both GM (genetic modification) of crops AND use of conventional breeding technologies to develop crops to feed the burgeoning population. Which links in nicely with Timothy Walker’s third programme in his Botany: A blooming history series (see ‘Bigging up botany’ news item, above). For completeness – and in the interest of balance, and indicating the illustrious company in which botany finds itself – the other nine fields were: understanding the genome; extra planets – and extraterrestrials?; the composition of the cosmos; leap for quantum computing; graphene, the ‘wonder material’; embryonic stem cells and regenerative medicine; global warming: the future; the ‘plastic brain’; and disaster management. Nevertheless, hot or not, it all seems rather hollow when we read that the UK no longer offers degrees in Botany, as discussed by Sinéad Drea of the University of Leicester (UK),and one wonders where the next generation of ‘hot botanists’ will come from. Botany may be hot, but are we in danger of barely being able to rake over its embers in future? The world – not just the UK! – needs more botanists/plant biologists/plant scientists…


Nigel Chaffey

I am a botanist and former Senior Lecturer in Botany at Bath Spa University (Bath, near Bristol, UK). As News Editor for the Annals of Botany I contributed the monthly Plant Cuttings column to that august international botanical organ - and to Botany One - for almost 10 years. I am now a freelance plant science communicator and Visiting Research Fellow at Bath Spa University. I continue to share my Cuttingsesque items - and appraisals of books with a plant focus - with a plant-curious audience. In that guise my main goal is to inform (hopefully, in an educational, and entertaining way) others about plants and plant-people interactions, and thereby improve humankind's botanical literacy. Happy to be contacted to discuss potential writing - or talking - projects and opportunities.
[ORCID: 0000-0002-4231-9082]

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