Newswise — December 10, 2019 – North America’s agricultural and natural landscapes are vital to feeding humanity. They are home to many populations of important food plants and their wild relatives. Climate change is projected to significantly impact the agricultural sector, and any efforts to adapt food and agriculture systems today will benefit us both now and in the future.

In order to look for ways to collaborate on both public education and scientific studies, the American Public Gardens Association partnered with the American Society of Agronomy, Crop Science Society of America and the Soil Science Society of America. The results are published in a special section of Crop Science, released in November 2019.

“The need to engage urban audiences in agricultural research has never been greater,” says Ari Novy. Novy is the former Executive Director of the US Botanic Garden and led the efforts to create the collaboration. He is now directing the San Diego Botanic Garden.

“Many of the agricultural researchers and farmers of tomorrow will come from urban areas,” says Novy. “They will not have grown up living on the land. We must do everything we can to serve urban markets at all stages of agricultural production. This includes bringing agricultural education to our urban centers to ensure informed democratic decision-making and to create agricultural opportunities for urban populations.”

Tara Moreau is associate director at the University of British Columbia Botanical Garden. According to Moreau, “botanic and other public gardens have become areas of interaction between agricultural sciences and the urban audiences public gardens serve. Collaborating with researchers, other leaders from botanic gardens, universities and other interested parties helped us develop this special section.”

“There is much work to be done to safeguard North America’s agriculture and food system,” says Moreau. “Connecting agricultural researchers, botanical gardens and others to bring together diverse perspectives, expertise, approaches and solutions is essential for biodiversity in food and agriculture, and for conserving food plants and their wild relatives in our natural landscapes."

Last April (2019), these groups worked together to create a symposium hosted by the World Food Prize Foundation and the Greater Des Moines Botanical Garden in Des Moines. It drew over 100 participants from more than 26 botanical/public gardens, 18 colleges and universities, and four federal agencies, as well as professionals from science centers.

This special issue of Crop Science represents the published proceedings from this landmark meeting. The 12 papers contained herein cover topics such as crop wild relative conservation, crop breeding and genetics, research and education, public engagement, plant conservation approaches and more.