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Plant Biology Research and Training for the 21st Century
fundamental and exploratory science through application of molecular genetic techniques. Scientists now can transfer genes easily among plant species, and because the genomes of some plant species are quite small they can be studied readily. Plants can be used to answer many general questions in biology in such diverse subdisciplines as development, metabolism, gene regulation, symbiosis, and chromosome structure.
It is not within the scope of this report to describe a research agenda for plant sciences. Other National Research Council reports have contained pertinent research agendas, for example, Investing in Research (NRC, 1989a), Opportunities in Biology (NRC, 1989b), and Forestry Research: A Mandate for Change (NRC, 1990).
In recent years, the scientific community has shown significantly increased interest in research with plants. The power of modern methods to answer important questions in plant biology has stimulated the interest of scientists in leading universities and other research institutions in the United States and abroad. Well-funded plant-biology laboratories here and elsewhere are making research contributions at the cutting edge of biology. This heightened interest has generated more worthy research proposals than public agencies can fund. An informal survey of the private sector in agricultural biotechnology indicates that in the late 1980s about $250 million (exclusive of development costs) each year was being spent on basic plant-biology research by companies whose work was primarily or exclusively with plants.
The fertility of modern plant-biology research is demonstrated in special issues of Science (November 16, 1990) and Cell (January 27, 1989). Developmental biology, cell-to-cell recognition, signal transduction, the molecular basis of disease, plant-microbe interactions, gene regulation, transposition, and photosynthesis are some of the areas covered in these issues. Several new plant journals have been launched recently; three leading examples are: The Plant Cell, The Plant Journal, and Plant Molecular Biology.