Ecology and Plant Sciences
The green plants (as well as algae and photosynthetic bacteria) are the basis for life on earth: They are the only ones capable of absorbing solar energy, and "fixing" it in energy-rich chemical compounds, on which the entire food chain in nature then feeds. Plants are also endowed with wonderful biochemical abilities, and thousands of compounds and products which they produce for us include paper, rubber, cotton and linen fibers, drugs and spices, tea, coffee and cocoa. Plants maintain delicate and sophisticated interactions with their environment. Developmental processes such as regulation of flowering, ripening of the fruit, shedding of leaves and leaf senescence, creation of plantlets in tissue culture, are investigated in-depth using innovative molecular tools. The interrelations between the plant and fungi, bacteria, viruses and insects, what are the plant's enemies and their evolutionary "allies", are researched by hundreds of research groups around the world. The genome of plants – how it changes by natural evolution and following domestication of agricultural crops by man – expose their secrets to us. Genetic engineering of plants, such that they will express foreign genes with new functions, is an essential research tool for examining the function of certain genes in the plant, and in order to impart new properties to the plant, which have an economic or nutritional value. Botanical (plant) research is unique in that the distance between the laboratory and the field is short. The botanical researcher maintains reciprocal relations with variety cultivators and farmers on the one hand, and with nature preservers on the other hand, both of whom may implement his discoveries for the benefit of agriculture and for preservation of the environment.