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Leading UK plant scientists are gathering at UK PlantSci 2015 in Shropshire today for a two day discussion of the latest advances in research and policy making.

Issues to be discussed at Harper Adams University include the widening UK trade gap; harnessing biofuels for climate change mitigation; and radioactive plants.

Anthea McIntyre MEP will chair a panel and open floor discussion on building a roadmap for UK plant science.

Today, keynote speaker Guy Smith, Vice President, National Farmers Union, will discuss ‘the worrying fact’ that our food and drink trade gap has continued to widen over the past two decades. In his talk he will express concern that ‘we’re increasingly looking overseas to meet our own food needs’.

Guy will speak about a ‘key driver’ of this widening trade gap being the regulatory framework in which UK agriculture has to operate: "The regulations to test and approve agrochemicals have become prohibitively expensive and time-consuming, leaving farmers and growers with a reduced spectrum of products, reduced availability of new alternatives and an increasing threat of resistance."

David Beerling from the University of Sheffield, will talk about his research into a macro-engineering strategy to offset human carbon emissions. He predicts that distribution of pulverized silicate rocks across tropical landscapes could lower end-of-century atmospheric CO2 by up to ~260 ppm.

Anthea McIntyre MEP for the West Midlands will chair a panel and open floor discussion on building a roadmap for UK plant science.

Guest panellists; Simon Leather, Harper Adams University; Rick Mumford, Food and Environment Research Agency; Huw Jones, Rothamsted Research; and Elizabeth Warham, UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) Agri-Tech Investment Organisation; will discuss education, training, regulatory frameworks, funding, and putting research into practice.

On Wednesday, Beth Penrose from the NERC Centre for Ecology & Hydrology will present her work on radioactive plants. Radioactive isotopes enter the food chain primarily through plant roots, including indirectly via animal derived food products. Their research has shown that the accumulation of radiocaesium and radiostrontium in the food chain, eg. via the grass-milk pathway, could be reduced by substituting certain lines of plant species with others. These results may have application in remediating land contaminated by the Chernobyl and Fukushima accidents.

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