"Fascination of Plants Day" Celebrated on May 18th

17 May 2012

New Zealanders are being urged to get up close and personal with plants this week as the first ever ‘Fascination of Plants Day’ is celebrated around the world.

Launched under the umbrella of the European Plant Science Organisation (EPSO), Fascination of Plants Day is designed to get people enthused about the importance of plant science for agriculture, producing food, making products like paper, timber, chemicals, energy and pharmaceuticals, and the role of plants in environmental conservation.

It takes place on Friday, 18th May.

“This day is so appropriate for New Zealand,” says Elspeth MacRae, General Manager Manufacturing and Bioproducts at crown research institute Scion which is focused on developing new bio-based materials.

“Plants are the basis of New Zealand’s world-leading food and beverage industry and are also the raw material underpinning an up and coming export industry in materials and products for a greener world.

“We are lucky in New Zealand because we have the land, water and sunlight needed to produce crops for new bio-based industries.”

Plant & Food Research is also focusing on the future as it marks Fascination of Plants Day with activities including a public lecture on the evening of 17th May at the University of Auckland on how plants are likely to change over the next 50 years.

Dr Roger Hellens, Science Group Leader at Plant & Food Research, says through history, plants have been instrumental in discoveries and breakthroughs in scientific knowledge in many areas. “For example, cell biology was first done in plants and even much of what we know and understand about genetics itself was first discovered in plants.”

He says past natural mutations in plants, such as the one that reduced the height of wheat by several metres, have made crops suitable for commercial production.

“By emulating what happens naturally, scientists are aiming to create new plants that will meet future needs for food, fuel and a range of industrial uses.”

Dr Hellens is also the Programme Chair for ABIC 2012, the world’s top international agricultural biotechnology conference, which is being held in Rotorua in September.  

He says it is highly appropriate that New Zealand is hosting ABIC in the first year Fascination of Plants Day is held around the world.

“ABIC is bringing together the global royalty of plant biotechnology to discuss recent advances and has several streams demonstrating the very wide application of plants, in bio-based industrial sectors and issues such as sustainability, environmental protection and food production.”
But Fascination of Plants Day is not just for the scientists.

Richard Meylan, Education Manager for the Royal Society of New Zealand says plants are an engrossing thing to focus on.

“We wouldn’t be here without plants and learning more about them is not only fun and interesting, it also teaches us about the world around us.”

“I hope all New Zealanders, young and old alike, take time on May the 18th to marvel at the rich and varied plant life around us.”

 Find out more about Fascination of Plants Day at: www.plantday12.eu