On 3 and 4 September 2018, scientists from around the world met for a session of B·Debate (an initiative of Biocat and the “la Caixa” Foundation to promote scientific debate) to lay the groundwork for a new discipline: personalized agriculture. This new field has two facets: on one hand, studying plant development (how they grow and how this growth can be controlled) and, on the other, how plants defend themselves against pests.
This advance has come about as a result of techniques like mass DNA sequencing, which are responsible for the technological revolution we are experiencing now, becoming more affordable.
So, it is now possible to predict which diseases will affect plants each year (and how they will defend themselves), to suggest which plant variety (of rice, for example) could be more resistant the following year.
The goal is to get greater yield from less land, using fewer chemical treatments and pesticides, with clear benefits for the environment: as this lowers the impact on the environment, it curbs the loss of biodiversity while feeding a larger population. Other plants that could benefit from these advances are tomatoes, corn, lettuce and wheat.
The debate, entitled
When development meets stress: Understanding developmental reprogramming upon pathogenesis in plants, was organized in conjunction with the Center for Research in Agricultural Genomics (CRAG).
• Personalized agriculture is a new discipline that studies both how plants grow and develop and how they defend themselves against pests.
• Research in this field promises to develop new, more effective fungicides that are longer-lasting and more eco-friendly. Another advantage is that more food could be obtained from less land.
• Research is currently focused on plants like rice, tomatoes, corn, lettuce and wheat.
• Advances in genomic studies, on top of the techniques used becoming more affordable, are promoting this area of science.