The John Innes Centre and the British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) are getting ready to inspire the next generation of plant scientists at the Big Bang Fair in Birmingham this week (13-16th March 2014).
Their stand, Plant Doctors, is designed to address the serious decline in teaching and research on plant diseases in British universities and colleges, a gap identified by the BSPP.
Prof James Brown, of the John Innes Centre in Norwich and also past BSPP president, said:
“Plant diseases have a great significance for food production and food quality both at home and overseas. Our joint exhibition will introduce young people and families to some of these diseases and to the research being carried out by plant scientists at the John Innes Centre.”
Some 60,000 visitors are expected over the four days of the Big Bang Fair. They will be able to find out how to identify plant diseases and how to help plants survive, using microscopes to identify symptoms and establish the cause of the infection.
They will learn the differences between fungal, bacterial and viral infections and discover why some plants may be more resistant to diseases than others.
History tells us that plant diseases can have a devastating effect on mankind, including the Irish Potato Famine, virus attack in papaya plantations, the vulnerability of banana crops due to their genetics, and the recent establishment of ash dieback disease in the UK. EU pesticide regulations are also reducing the armoury available to combat plant disease so there is an even greater need to understand how plants react to infection.
Prof Brown added: “Inspiring the next generation of plant scientists is absolutely essential if we are to continue to address these and other challenges.”