As the human population increases, so too do the demands and stresses on agriculture. In the January 2013 issue of International Journal of Plant Sciences, Penn State University Waller Professor of Plant Biology Dr. Sarah Assmann explores how the responses to environmental stresses by one small, genetically diverse plant species might illuminate possible approaches to addressing growing human demand for crop products amid decreasing resources.
In the article, Dr. Assmann describes how human population growth presents new challenges to twenty-first-century agriculture, especially since such abiotic stresses as climate change and poor-quality soils can disrupt the ability of many crops to flourish and provide sufficient calories, nutrients, and other resources. According to the U.N.’s Food and Agriculture Organization, the Earth's population will reach nine billion people by the year 2050. To meet the needs of this population, Dr. Assmann says, plant biologists must study how and why some plants are heartier and more capable than others of tolerating these stresses.