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The PLOS Crops, Food Security & Food Systems Channel – Meet the Editors

Gert Kema, Molly Jahn, Zerihun Tadele and Robert Sharwood announce the launch of the PLOS Crops, Food Security & Food Systems Channel!

Food security, which encompasses food availability, access, utilisation, and stability, is a global issue affecting all populations around the world. To achieve several of the United Nations’ food security-related Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), key factors include overcoming boundaries in both crop sciences (crop development & maintenance) and food systems (food manufacturing processes & infrastructure). From concerted research efforts in host-parasite relationships to molecular breeding to natural resource management, SDGs such as “Zero Hunger” and “Life on Land” could make significant progress. However, with over 3 million articles published each year*, it can be near impossible to locate, read and utilise the most relevant work in these fields. As a solution, PLOS is delighted today to launch the PLOS Crops, Food Security & Food Systems Channel with our Channel Editors – distinguished scientific experts in their field – to hand curate the latest and most impactful research in crop science and food systems to better understand their implications for food security.

PLOS Channels are resources for research communities: a single “one-stop-shop” destination to discover and explore content from PLOS journals as well as the broader literature, supplemented by preprints, blogs, news, events, commentary and more to keep readers up to date with the latest research in their field.The scope of the PLOS Crops, Food Security & Food Systems Channel was developed with the Channel Editors who will be responsible for curating the content that goes into the Channel. They will highlight research that meets some or all of the following criteria:

Plant Biology

  • Biology and utilisation of neglected and novel crops and crop wild relatives
  • Molecular breeding to boost breeding throughput
  • Genetically dissect valuable traits
  • Turbocharging photosynthesis and plant metabolism
  • Modelling and bioinformatics for understanding crop production

Health and Disease

  • Leveraging plant-microbiome interactions
  • Methods for phenomics and ecophysiological screening
  • Elucidating plant stress signaling
  • Emerging strategies for weed management
  • Host-parasite relationships

Advances in Technology

  • Pharming technologies for high-value products
  • Boosting crop disease surveillance measures
  • Next-generation bioenergy crops
  • Green manufacturing
  • Biotechnology for enhanced climate and pest resilience
  • Sustainable energy distribution systems
  • Biofortification to improve nutrition

Food Security

  • Innovations in sustainable agronomic practice
  • Resilience in agroecology and forestry
  • Developing value chains and building the evidence base in crop production economics
  • Conservation and postharvest biology
  • Climate change and its effects on future crop production

Food Systems

  • Food manufacturing infrastructure development
  • Natural resource management (e.g. water, timber, minerals)
  • Food standards, policies and oversight

Meet the Editors

Gert Kema: I have 33 years of experience in plant pathology, host and pathogen genetics and genomics, specializing in foliar diseases of cereals and banana. For five years I’ve been the major lead of the international programs on Fusarium wilt in banana. With over 100 published peer reviewed scientific articles, holder of several patents and as an international speaker, my interests are plant diseases (in the tropics) and their management, and food security. I obtained a BSc degree in agronomy and a MSc in plant breeding. In 1996 I earned my PhD on research into Zymoseptoria tritici, the septoria tritici blotch fungus of wheat. Currently, I hold a special chair as professor of tropical plant pathology and heads the Department of Phytopathology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. My research focus is on banana and the fungal pathogens causing Panama disease (Fusarium spp.) and Black Sigatoka (Pseudocercospora fijiensis). Also, I am a co-founder of three companies related to banana crop and cultivation innovation. (Website & Twitter @bananaresearch)

Molly Jahn: I hold appointments at the University of Wisconsin in the Department of Agronomy, the Nelson Institute, and the Global Health Institute. I am also Adjunct Senior Research Scientist at Columbia University, and Guest Scientist at Los Alamos National Laboratory. My research groups at Cornell University (1991-2008) and University of Wisconsin (2006-present) have generated crop varieties grown commercially on six continents and for subsistence. With >100 peer-reviewed publications, >60 active commercial licenses, and several patents I have as well authored a series of influential reports on implications of changing risk profiles of local, regional and global food systems with partners such as Lloyd’s of London, Cargill, the Geneva Association, Thomson Reuters, the US Army War College, the US National Geospatial Intelligence Agency, the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis, the International Food Policy Research Institute and NASA. I currently teach Agronomy 365 Systems Thinking and have advised dozens of major and minor graduate and undergraduate students. In addition, I consult globally for business and finance, governments, philanthropic organizations, and international multi-lateral institutions focused on agriculture, food systems, risk, life sciences, development, national security and environment. (Website)

Zerihun Tadele: I am Group Leader at the Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern in Switzerland and Adjunct Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University, Institute of Biotechnology in Ethiopia. I am also a member of CDE (Centre for Development and Environment) at the University of Bern. I received PhD from the University of Basel and habilitation from the University of Bern. I am interested to contribute to global food security through improving productivity of orphan crops from the developing world. My current research focuses on tef (Eragrostis tef), an important indigenous cereal in the Horn of Africa which is annually cultivated on over three million ha of land and is a staple food for over 60 million people in Ethiopia alone. Tef is a versatile crop which performs better than most other cereals under extreme climatic and soil conditions. It is also considered as a life style crop due to its nutritional- and health-related benefits. Using genetic and genomic tools, my group focuses on tackling major yield limiting factors in tef. My group closely works with the Ethiopian Agricultural Research System in developing and disseminating improved tef varieties to farmers. (Website & Twitter @ZerihunTadele1)

Robert Sharwood: I completed my PHD at the Australian National University (ANU) in 2006 in Plant Sciences and then moved to the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University to understand the intricacies of chloroplast gene regulation. In 2010 I returned to the Hawkesbury Institute, UWS to continue an independent photosynthesis research program focusing on C4 grasses, Eucalypts and Cotton. Currently, I’m a Senior Lecturer within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis at the Research School of Biology, ANU. The overarching theme of my research is to improve plant productivity under future climates. This will be achieved by deciphering chloroplast gene regulatory mechanisms critical for engineering chloroplasts. The second theme of my research is to understand the adaptive evolution of Rubisco catalysis within food and fibre crops to provide the next generation solutions for tailoring CO2 fixation to variable future climate conditions. Also, I work within the Cotton Industry to translate fundamental research into future cotton crops to improve resource use and mitigate climate extremes. (Website & Twitter @RobertSharwood)

The Editors will regularly update the Channel to showcase the most up to date and impactful research and resources of interest to the crops, food security and food systems community, and look forward to engaging with the community to build a useful resource for all. To nominate content for the Channel email or tweet us @PLOSChannels with the hashtag #PLOScrops


*Source: The STM Report, October 2018

Featured Image Credit: Phil Hearing (Unsplash)


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