Expert Report

Achievements of the National Plant Genome Initiative and New Horizons in Plant Biology (2008)

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Life on Earth would be impossible without plants. Humans rely on plants for most clothing, furniture, food, as well as for many pharmaceuticals and other products. Plant genome sciences are essential to understanding how plants function and how to develop desirable plant characteristics. For example, plant genomic science can contribute to the development of plants that are drought-resistant, those that require less fertilizer, and those that are optimized for conversion to fuels such as ethanol and biodiesel. The National Plant Genome Initiative (NPGI) is a unique, cross-agency funding enterprise that has been funding and coordinating plant genome research successfully for nine years. Research breakthroughs from NPGI and the National Science Foundation's Arabidopsis 2010 Project, such as how the plant immune system controls pathogen defense, demonstrate that the plant genome science community is vibrant and capable of driving technological advancement. This report from the National Research Council concludes that these programs should continue so that applied programs on agriculture, bioenergy, and others will always be built on a strong foundation of fundamental plant biology research.

Key Messages

  • Because photosynthetic organisms play a central role in all of the Earth's major ecosystems, understanding how plants function, and how to modify and improve their ability to carry out specific physiological processes the goals of plant genome research are likely to have deep and far-reaching ultimate environmental impacts.
  • IWG should capitalize on the research capacity built and important knowledge gained via NPGI to date and expand the program so that the member organizations current and future agency-specific and mission-oriented programs will always be built on a strong foundation of fundamental plant biology research.
  • NPGI demonstrates that the plant genome science research community is vibrant and capable of continued imaginative breakthroughs that will drive technological advancement.
  • Plant genome sciences, and plant biology as a whole, are vital enterprises that contribute significantly to human health, energy security, and enlightened and careful environmental stewardship.