Plant science gets short shrift when it comes to research funding compared to the booming biomedical field, say many in the discipline, especially in light of the fact that through photosynthesis, plants are the source of life on earth. According to a recent government report, most funding goes toward research on agricultural problems and pests. The report says that research on plant genetics, biochemistry, and physiology in the United States needs help to avoid being trapped in a downward spiral of decreased funding, declining opportunities, and, ultimately, abandonment of the field by promising graduate students.

"The concern is for people getting started," says Elaine Tobin, a biologist at the University of California, Los Angeles, who is studying gene expression in plants. Tobin says that recently one of her more talented graduate students struggled with his decision over whether to continue in plant science in spite of the adverse research funding...

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