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Plant Detectives Manual: a research-led approach for teaching plant science

Preface for The Plant Detective’s Manual

Science’s contribution to revolutionising agriculture is well-known. In particular, chemistry, biology and genetics have allowed us to produce more and more, with less and less.

Now we face unprecedented global challenges – climate change, an estimated 925 million people without adequate nutrition, and an ageing farming workforce.i

On top of these, the world’s population is predicted to increase to 9.2 billion by 2050, requiring an increase in global food production of 70 per cent.ii

Providing enough food in this context will be an unprecedented scientific, economic and political challenge.

It is through the scientific method and evidence-based reasoning that our scientists’ capacity to respond to these challenges will grow.

The plant biologists and agriculturalists of tomorrow will learn from the experienced researchers of today.

I have long been advocating curiosity-driven and problem-based science teaching – science as it is practised – alongside the subject-specific knowledge that science requires. The Plant Detective’s Manual does just this.

Led on a journey of inquiry, students are presented with real-life problems. Students form hypotheses, design experiments and evaluate the collected evidence.

In learning science as it is practised, students will be armed with the critical-thinking skills needed to face the challenges of tomorrow.

I commend The Plant Detective’s Manual to teaching science and wish you well in your future endeavours.


Professor Ian Chubb AC

Chief Scientist for Australia

December 2014


i. World Hunger Education Service (2012) 2012 World Hunger and Poverty Facts and Statistics.

ii. Croplife (2012) Submission in Response to National Food Plan Green Paper. Introduction, paragraph 4.

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