Plant Science for Climate Emergency VIB Conference

Climate change is one of the most serious threats humanity has ever faced.

Developing crops that are more resilient to rapidly changing and harsher environments will be crucial for tomorrow’s food production. Green biotechnology offers solutions to maintain high food productivity while preserving the earth’s valuable ecosystems. In addition, plants may also play an important role in mitigating the rising levels of greenhouse gases.

This VIB conference ‘Plant Science for Climate Emergency’ (7-9 June 2021, Virtual edition) aims at reviewing current research on adapting plants to climate change as well as on using plants for mitigating the accumulation of greenhouse gasses.

Twenty leaders in plant biotechnology will present the latest developments in sessions focused on drought tolerance, tolerance to high temperatures, salt and flooding tolerance, the effects of climate change on defense systems against insects and pathogens, carbon capturing plants, crop engineering and improvement, nitrogen use efficiency, and much more.

Besides an inspiring scientific program, conference participants will have ample networking opportunities during the poster sessions and networking moments.

How do the European Green Deal and the goals of plant research line up?
Dirk: “The Green Deal is an ambitious EU program that aims for carbon neutrality by 2050. EU leaders recently honed it even further, targeting a 55% reduction in greenhouse gas emissions by 2030. In this context, it’s important to acknowledge that agriculture is a significant contributor to climate change. Converting land to make it arable generates CO2, as do agricultural practices themselves. The use of farming machinery, fossil fuels, and fertilizer lead to emissions. Fertilizer is particularly harmful, as it produces N2O, a greenhouse gas that is 300 times more potent than CO2. Livestock produce methane, which is 100 times as efficient at retaining heat as CO2.

“By its nature, agriculture can never be 100% free of emissions. However, if we can develop new and innovative ways to make it more sustainable, we can reduce its harm significantly, in line with the ambitions of the Green Deal.”

How can plant science offer solutions to tackle the climate emergency we’re facing?
Sue: “In addition to playing a huge role in meeting the targets set out by the European Green Deal, plant science offers crucial tools and strategies to improve and safeguard the health of the entire planet. Several areas of plant science contribute in big ways, such as improving agricultural practices, as Dirk mentioned, and the improvement of plants themselves. Huge volumes of pesticides and fertilizers are used today, which harm biodiversity, destroy biomes, and produce greenhouse gases. Even more, it takes a lot of energy to synthesize these chemicals.
Plant scientists actively seek innovative ways to make plants more resistant to pests and enable them to use resources more efficiently. This, in turn, leads to a healthier environment and higher crop yields using fewer chemicals and smaller areas of land.”

“By its nature, agriculture can never be 100% free of emissions. However, if we can develop new and innovative ways to make it more sustainable, we can reduce its harm significantly, in line with the ambitions of the Green Deal.” - Dirk Inzé