More than 20 members of the Forest Molecular Genetics (FMG) programme in FABI had a front-row seat to the latest research and technological advances across a variety of plant biology disciplines attending this year’s American Society for Plant Biology (ASPB) Plant Biology Worldwide Summit 2021 (PB21), held online between 18-23 July. This global summit hosted some 1700 attendees from all over the world, providing opportunities to network, collaborate and explore employment opportunities with international plant science facilities. The FMG programme contributed five interactive posters and four talks. Most sessions were in the form of a pre-recorded movie, which will be accessible until July 2022, followed by a live Q&A session. Mary Ranketse and team participated and won the Hackathon on Improving Orphan Crops to Foster Bio-Economies with their hack “Genomics and breeding of Eragrostis tef (teff), an orphan crop native to Ethiopia”. The prize was $1000 project seed money towards implementing some of the solutions they hacked as an international collaboration led by the American Society of Plant Biologists (ASPB) African Researchers Network (ARN).

This year saw a strong emphasis on communication and inclusivity with various interactive sessions including themes on Delivering Better Presentations, Meeting Mentors from Plantae, Women in Plant Biology, Early Career, and daily casual networking in the virtual lobby. The scientific programme covered, among other topics, gene-editing, breeding, every kind of plant ‘omics including holo-genomics, robotics, and artificial intelligence. The star kid, Arabidopsis, rightfully took centre stage as the original model plant, but this year also showcased ground breaking research on various tree species, microbes, and even orphan crops. There were special keynote symposia for winners of prestigious honours, such as the Charles Albert Schull Award presented to Zachary Lippman. The Plantae page, together with social media handles #PlantBio21 and #ASPBForward can provide more information on the key events of the ASPB and future worldwide summits.