Plants, People, Planet publishes research at the interface between plants, society, and the planet. We provide a forum for highlighting and discussing new, exciting, and innovative plant-focused research across disciplines.

Research falls within six categories: Plants and Society, Plants and Global Change, Plant Conservation, Plant Diversity, Plant Genomics Applications, and Plant Natural Assets.

Plants, People, Planet is owned by the New Phytologist Foundation, a non-profit organisation dedicated to the promotion of plant science.

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Open access

Human management of ongoing evolutionary processes in agroecosystems

  •  11 June 2024

Graphical Abstract

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Agricultural sustainability depends on the adaptation of crops to their local environment. Smallholder farmers who save seed provide an essential “evosystem” service by growing locally adapted seed varieties that can recruit biodiversity to enhance their growth and defense. While professional plant breeding has diverted evolutionary processes away from local adaptation, smallholder farmers, particularly those in centers of origin for crops, benefit society by selecting and propagating diverse crop varieties that allow local adaptation processes to perpetuate. Given that smallholders support society through the generation of evosystem services, changes in policy and practice are needed to support the livelihoods of smallholder farmers in ways that mitigate risk and recognize their important contributions to agricultural sustainability.

Open access

Data blanks by design: Intellectual property and restrictions on genetic diversity assessments of the maize standing crop in the USA Upper Midwest

  •  11 June 2024

Abstract

All US commercial maize (Zea mays) is a single race, “Corn Belt Dent,” and its genetic base has been in decline for at least 40 years. Independent genotyping can only be conducted after patent and licensing restrictions have expired, a period of 20 years. These restrictions also impede a molecular-based assessment of the standing crop by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) as recommended by experts. Data blanks about landscape vulnerability put farmers at risk of crop failure and the public at risk of food insecurity. Understanding maize diversity experts' perspectives and analysis helps describe the contours of these data blanks and inform policy recommendations.

Open access

Constraints of commercially available seed diversity in restoration: Implications for plant functional diversity

  •  9 June 2024

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Large quantities of diverse native seeds are required to scale up global restoration efforts. However, it remains unclear for many ecosystems how the diversity of available seed in commercial stocks reflects the composition of the ecosystems where vegetation is being remade. This study highlights existing shortfalls in the diversity of seed presently available for use in restoration and identifies gaps in the seed supply chain while providing a new method for optimising species selection given these constraints. This work underscores how improved collaboration between stakeholders is required to strengthen the seed supply chain and help remake functionally diverse vegetation.

Open access

Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium co‐limitation in terrestrial ecosystems: A global meta‐analysis

  •  27 May 2024

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Nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium are essential elements for plant growth and are the primary nutrients in commercial fertilizers. However, the extent to which these nutrients individually limit plant growth is still unclear, as is the influence of their interactions. Using a meta-analysis approach, plant growth was found to be co-limited by nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium. Furthermore, these findings demonstrate that multiple nutrient additions are primarily additive, with the exception of synergistic effects observed with NP additions on plant growth. These findings are important as they provide a timely and valuable reference for assessing the ecosystem-scale consequences of increasing nutrient deposition caused by human activities.

Open access

Global potential distributions and conservation status of rice wild relatives

  •  24 May 2024

Graphical Abstract

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Rice wild relatives (RWR) provide valuable genetic resources for modern rice breeding, yet knowledge gaps constrain their conservation and further utilization. To address these gaps, the potential distributions of 22 RWR taxa were modeled, and their conservation statuses were assessed. Most taxa were identified as a medium priority for further conservation. Further ex-situ collecting hotspots are in Southeast and South Asia, Northern Australia, West Africa, and tropical Americas, while habitat protection lies in Southeast and South Asia, Northern Australia, and West Africa. Climate change may shift equatorial habitats to higher latitudes and mountain habitats to higher altitudes.

Open access

Innovation in plant and soil sciences to tackle critical global challenges

  •  21 May 2024

Abstract

Innovations in plant and soil sciences are revolutionising our approach to sustainability, offering solutions with broad societal impacts. Discoveries in these fields hold great potential for combatting, mitigating and adapting to climate change; enhancing food security; and revitalising urban environments. By harnessing the power of plants and the soils they grow in, it is possible to cultivate resilience in the face of environmental challenges, informing policy and practice, and thereby guiding us towards a more sustainable future.

Open access

2D and 3D visualization of herbaceous plant–plant contact zones using high‐resolution X‐ray computed tomography (HRXCT)

  •  14 May 2024

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Parasitic plants that deprive crops of water and nutrients are an increasingly concerning food security issue, affecting the livelihood of millions of subsistence, small- and mid-scale farmers. An in-depth understanding of parasite–host interactions is required to develop species-specific and ecologically sustainable parasite management methods. The non-invasive visualization of herbaceous contact zones, applicable to diverse parasite–host pathosystems presented in this study, brings methodological advance to the research of biotic interactions between crops and plant parasites belonging to the most devastating parasitic plant family (Orobanchaceae). This work also provides first insights into how the parasites' feeding organ displaces host tissue beyond the direct parasite–host interface.

Open access

Sequencing complex plants on a budget: The development of Kalanchoë blossfeldiana as a C3, CAM comparative tool

  •  13 May 2024

Graphical Abstract

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Research efforts in plant biology have often been focused on sequenced and well-studied ‘model’ organisms. Despite the advent of relatively inexpensive genome sequencing, most plant taxonomic groups are underrepresented, with few species that ‘represent’ the diversity of whole genera. This study describes an economical guide to sequencing a non-model organism, which may be useful in reducing the cost of sequencing more species within genera and across plant life. This method was used to develop Kalanchoë blossfeldiana as a resource for comparing C3 and the water-conserving mode of photosynthesis known as Crassulacean acid metabolism (CAM) within the same plant.

Open access

Indigenous and colonial influences on Amazonian forests

  •  9 May 2024

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Global climate models that incorporate carbon sources and sinks usually consider that forest uptake of carbon is in a state of equilibrium. Both historical and paleoecological records suggest that this is commonly not the case for Amazonia. Here, the impacts of colonial practices on Amazonian Indigenous peoples and forests are reviewed. Human activities affect forests' successional stages, trajectories, and species composition. By increasing the spatial coverage of paleoecological records that focus on pre- and post-Columbian periods, the long-term interactions between humans and Amazonian forests and their role in affecting Earth's climate may be better understood.

Open access

Earwigs and woodlice as some of the world's smallest internal seed dispersal agents: Insights from the ecology of Monotropastrum humile (Ericaceae)

  •  8 May 2024

Graphical Abstract

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This study illuminates the underappreciated role of invertebrates in seed dispersal, extending beyond the well-documented contributions of ants. Focusing on Monotropastrum humile (銀竜草 [silver dragon plant] or 水晶蘭 [crystal orchid]), a non-photosynthetic plant known for its minuscule, dust-like seeds, the present research uncovers their seed dispersal roles of woodlice and earwigs in Japan. Remarkably, these invertebrates include the smallest known endozoochorous seed dispersers.

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