Australian plant scientists reap congress win

Scientists will discuss how to feed a growing population in the face of climate change when 1,200 of the world’s leading plant molecular biologists meet in Australia in three years’ time.

Cairns Convention Centre will host the 2021 Congress of International Society for Plant Molecular Biology (IPMB) after a successful bid led by a group of 60 Australian plant scientists.

Associate Professor Joshua Mylne from the University of Western Australia spearheaded the bid for the triennial meeting supported by IPMB and the American Society of Plant Biologists.

Strong competition came from Canada and North America.

The congress will focus on multidisciplinary approaches to climate change, population increase and the pivotal roles that plant molecular biology will play in achieving efficient crop production systems.

Dr Mlyne said: “In the next few decades the world expects two billion more mouths to feed while our climate changes, so understanding how plant growth, development and crop yield respond to the environment has never been more important. This congress will bring together over a thousand plant biologists from around the world who are making the latest discoveries on how genes, proteins, metabolism and physiology influence plant growth.”

Plant science, increasingly underpinned by molecular biology approaches, contributes significantly to the agricultural sector in Australia. Nationally this sector provides 93 per cent of domestic food supply, employs more than 300,000 people and underpins AU$155 billion of production or 12 per cent of GDP. At present 77 per cent of what is grown and produced in Australia is exported, earning AU$45 billion annually. To reach Australia’s 2030 goal of AU$100 billion in exports, the industry will depend, in part, on a strong plant sciences research community in Australia.

Ross Steele, general manager, Cairns Convention Centre, said, “Attracting this event is a coup for Cairns and required significant collaboration between academia, government and industry which indicates how important the IPMB Congress is to Australia. Dr Mylne and the Convention Centre team’s tenacity in helping to bring these elements together will deliver around $6m in economic benefit to our region. More importantly, this event will have a positive impact on our agricultural community, which is Tropical North Queensland’s second largest industry.”