OSTP Ponders Plant Research Initiatives
DESPITE the souring outlook for science budgets in the next 4 years, a handful of federal agencies are garnering support for funding up to $50 million annually in new plant biology research at colleges and universities. The Office of Science and Technology Policy is reviewing about a dozen preliminary proposals ranging from training top-flight scientists to microbial research on the rhizosphere-top soil systems that interact with plant roots. The aim of this high-level effort is to ensure that American agriculture, which depends heavily on export income, realizes potential gains in plant productivity.
Thus far, the effort to fill critical gaps in basic plant research has been low-key, with no line-item requests contained in President Reagan's forthcoming fiscal year 1987 budget. But because these research proposals address some of the concerns of activists and environmentalists, as well as industry and the university communities, a push may emerge this year in House and Senate authorizing committees to turn these paper plans into actual research efforts.
"Science is critical to our plant production industry," says Robert Rabin, assistant director for life sciences at OSTP. "But its knowledge is not growing fast enough to sustain U.S. economic supremacy for the 21st century." This view is supported by the findings of the National Academy of Sciences, and other congressional, federal, and academic...