Leading Scientist Explores Vital Role of Plants in Public Lecture

Leading plant scientist, Professor Mahmut Tor, from the University of Worcester, says plants play a crucially important role in our world today, and could hold the key to a brighter global future for us all if science can win the fight against disease.

In a public lecture at The Hive on Wednesday, April 6th, Professor Tor will outline the historic battle between agriculture and disease that has raged through the ages, a battle, ultimately, to ensure we can feed the world.

"I think we tend to under-estimate how central plants are to our existence," Professor Tor explains. "We couldn't survive without them. They produce the oxygen we breathe, and they provide the energy we consume as food and burn as fuel. Besides which, they are amazing living organisms. Like us, they have evolved the ability to survive almost anywhere. Some have a life-span of five thousand years, whilst others can exceed 100m in size. The facts are fascinating."

But for Professor Tor, we face two major problems in our alliance with plants: hunger, and disease. As he explains:

"We will have nine billion people in 2050 and only one planet. Global agriculture is going to have to develop new approaches if we are going to feed the world, and central to that will be our ability to fight disease in the very crops that we rely on for our food. This is especially challenging with the climate change we face.

"There is a lot of interesting research in the plant sciences," Professor Tor continues. "Research to develop plants that are more tolerant of drought, plants that require less water or fertiliser, and plants that are more resistant to disease. This is all research that can go a long way towards helping to alleviate hunger."

In his talk which starts at 6pm, Professor Tor will explore the history of the fight against plant pathogens, from the ancient's belief in the displeasure of the gods, to the Irish potato famine and beyond. He will also outline the scope of the latest scientific developments in the field, and discuss the possibilities for a brighter future in global agriculture as the old chemical warfare approach of the twentieth century is replaced by more sophisticated techniques thanks to advances in genetic research and bioinformatics.