Welcome to the Future Crops Call for Papers

– To be considered for this Collection, articles must be submitted by September 27, 2019 –


– Guest Editors –

Gert Kerma

Lee Hickey

Sean Mayes

Rob Sharwood

Zerihun Tadele

Sieg Snapp

Olivia Wilkins

Kate Tully

Sophien Kamoun

Along with our team of Guest Editors, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology are excited to announce a Call for Papers on the theme of Future Crops. Guaranteeing global food and nutritional security over the coming decades is widely recognised as one of the grand challenges facing contemporary science. Overcoming the barriers to enhanced food production requires innovative and interdisciplinary research programmes, spanning plant breeding, biotechnology, biotic and abiotic interactions, and agronomic production systems.

We are calling for submissions that contribute to progress towards the goal of resilient, climate-smart crops and cropping systems for the 21st century. From the utilisation of neglected crop species and wild relatives to the turbocharging of photosynthesis, and from disease surveillance to yield modelling, this Call for Papers will bring together timely research into the many routes to improved crop production. We especially welcome studies of crops and cropping systems that bridge disciplines, present new methods and technologies, utilise data-driven approaches, or demonstrate real-world impacts.

Articles must be submitted by 27 September 2019 and accepted submissions will be featured in a cross-journal Future Crops Collection in early 2020.

Example of themes covered:

  • Biology and utilisation of neglected, lost and novel crops, and of crop wild relatives
  • Accelerating genetic gain in breeding programmes
  • Breeding and biotechnology for enhanced climate and pest resilience
  • Dissecting the molecular genetic basis of valuable traits
  • Leveraging plant-microbiome interactions
  • Turbocharging photosynthesis and plant metabolism
  • Methods for phenomics and ecophysiological screening
  • Pharming technologies for high-value products
  • Innovations in sustainable agronomic practice
  • Resilience in agroecology and forestry
  • Systems modelling and bioinformatics for understanding crop production and resilience
  • Elucidating plant stress signalling
  • Boosting crop disease/pest resistance and surveillance measures
  • Harnessing volatiles and plant communication for production
  • Developing value chains and building the evidence base in crop production economics
  • Sustainable, high-yielding bioenergy systems
  • Emerging strategies for weed management
  • Perennial crops for multiple ecosystem services
  • Biofortification to enhance nutritional content
  • Crop diversification and agronomic or product fortification to enhance nutritional content and sustainability
  • Novel methods of controlling post-harvest losses


Meet the Editors

Gert Kema

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology 

Gert Kema (1957) has 33 years of experience in plant pathology, host and pathogen genetics and genomics, specializing in foliar diseases of cereals and banana. Since five years major lead of international programs on Fusarium wilt in banana. Published over 100 peer reviewed scientific articles, holder of patents and international speaker. Interests are plant diseases (in the tropics) and their management and food security. He obtained a BSc degree in agronomy and a MSc in plant breeding. He obtained his PhD in 1996 on research into Zymoseptoria tritici, the septoria tritici blotch fungus of wheat. Currently he also holds a special chair as professor of tropical plant pathology and heads the Department of Phytopathology at Wageningen University, The Netherlands. His research focus is currently on banana and the fungal pathogens causing Panama disease (Fusarium spp.) and Black Sigatoka (Pseudocercospora fijiensis). He is a co-founder of three companies related to banana crop and cultivation innovation. Dr. Kema is also a Channel Editor for the PLOS Crops, Food Security and Food Systems Channel?. 


Lee Hickey

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology

Dr. Lee Hickey is a Senior Research Fellow and ARC DECRA Fellow at The University of Queensland in Australia who conducts discovery and applied research on major food crops like wheat and barley. This includes the genetic dissection of key traits that limit productivity on farms and the development of novel technologies to assist plant breeders. Dr Hickey has played a pivotal role in developing crop ‘speed breeding’ technology for rapid generation advance, which enables growing up to six generations of major crops per year and dramatically reduces the length of the breeding cycle. Speed breeding is adopted by research institutes and companies around the world and is fast-tracking development of more productive and robust crop varieties for farmers. For his speed breeding innovation, Dr Hickey was awarded the 2017 Queensland Young Tall Poppy Scientist of the Year. He is passionate about training the next generation of plant breeders and communicating plant science to the broader community.

Sean Mayes

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology

Sean Mayes BA (hons), PhD, is an Associate Professor in Crop Genetics in the University of Nottingham and Theme Leader/Mentor with Crops For the Future in Malaysia. He joined the University in 2004 and was made an Associate Professor in 2008. During a leave of absence between 2012 and 2015 he was based in Malaysia while helping to establish Crops For the Future as a programme and theme leader. He still runs research groups in both UK and CFF, as well as collaborating with researchers at the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus and is co-director of the CFF-UNMC-Doctoral Training Partnership. His research interests are focused around the use of marker assisted selection within crop species and he has research in wheat, oil palm and a number of minor or underutilised crops, including bambara groundnut; an African drought tolerant legume. He has developed and applied genetic markers to a wide range of species (including studying population structures within insect populations) and many tropical crop species. In 2016 he took over the chief editor position for Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering Reviews and has just co-edited a comprehensive book on oil palm breeding, genetics and. To date, he has published over 100 peer reviewed journal articles


Rob Sharwood

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology

Dr Sharwood completed his PHD at ANU in 2006 in Plant Sciences and then moved to the Boyce Thompson Institute at Cornell University to understand the intricacies of chloroplast gene regulation. In 2010 he returned to the Hawkesbury Institute, UWS to continue an independent photosynthesis research program focusing on C4 grasses, Eucalypts and Cotton. Currently, he is a Senior Lecturer within the ARC Centre of Excellence for Translational Photosynthesis at the Research School of Biology, ANU. The overarching theme of his research is to improve plant productivity under future climates. This will be achieved by deciphering chloroplast gene regulatory mechanisms critical for engineering chloroplasts. The second theme of his research is to understand the adaptive evolution of Rubisco catalysis within food and fibre crops to provide the next generation solutions for tailoring CO2 fixation to variable future climate conditions. He also works within the Cotton Industry to translate fundamental research into future cotton crops to improve resource use and mitigate climate extremes. Dr. Sharwood is also a Channel Editor for the PLOS Crops, Food Security and Food Systems Channel

Zerihun Tadele

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology and Academic Editor, PLOS ONE 

Dr. Tadele is Group Leader at the Institute of Plant Sciences, University of Bern in Switzerland and Adjunct Associate Professor at Addis Ababa University, Institute of Biotechnology in Ethiopia. He is also a member of CDE (Centre for Development and Environment) at the University of Bern. He received PhD from the University of Basel and habilitation from the University of Bern. He is interested in contributing to global food security through improving productivity of orphan crops from the developing world. His current research focuses on tef (Eragrostis tef), an important indigenous cereal in the Horn of Africa which is annually cultivated on over three million ha of land and is a staple food for over 60 million people in Ethiopia alone. Tef is a versatile crop which performs better than most other cereals under extreme climatic and soil conditions. It is also considered as a life style crop due to its nutritional- and health-related benefits. Using genetic and genomic tools, his group focuses on tackling major yield limiting factors in tef. Dr. Tadele’s group closely works with the Ethiopian Agricultural Research System in developing and disseminating improved tef varieties to farmers. Dr. Tadele is also a Channel Editor for the PLOS Crops, Food Security and Food Systems Channel.

Sieg Snapp

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology and Academic Editor, PLOS ONE

Sieglinde Snapp is a Professor of Soils and Cropping Systems Ecology and Associate Director of the Center for Global Change and Earth Observations, Michigan State University. She has been a member of the American Society of Agronomy and Soil Science Society of America since 1983, was elected a fellow in 2010, awarded the International Service Award in 2015, and Fulbright Fellowships in 2009 and 2016. She has published two text books, 128 journal articles and dozens of extension bulletins as well as an innovative learning lab website for sustainable land management and food security in Africa.She carries out participatory action research and extension in Malawi and the region, to support co-generation of agronomic knowledge, and disseminate. Her highly collaborative approach to sustainable systems science has brought to the world’s attention the inadvertent negative consequences, tradeoffs and synergies of sole versus diversified cropping, and the urgent need for biologically sound soil and crop management. She co-edited the text book ‘Agricultural Systems’ and is ‘Mother of the Mother and Baby Trial Design’, used in over 30 countries by agricultural scientists to communicate with farmers and extension educators, in support of relevant, adaptive research. Open science to engage stakeholders in agricultural systems design is her current focus, as a key component of contested agronomy approaches to sustainable agriculture.

Olivia Wilkins

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology

Olivia Wilkins leads the Plant Systems Biology research group at McGill University. She received her PhD from the University of Toronto in 2010. From 2011 to 2015, she was an NSERC postdoctoral researcher at the Centre for Genomics and Systems Biology at New York University where she collaborated extensively with scientists at the International Rice Research Institute. In 2015, she was a Visiting Scientist at the Broad Institute of Harvard and MIT. In 2013, she was awarded a Basic Research to Enable Agricultural Development Award from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Her lab studies the effect of water and temperature extremes on early development of cereal crops. She is particularly interested in regulatory network prediction and the interplay between episodic stressors and photoperiod. Her research group will be moving to the University of Manitoba in July 2019.

Kate Tully

Guest Editor, PLOS ONE and PLOS Biology

Dr. Kate Tully is the Assistant Professor of Agroecology in the Department of Plant Science and Landscape Architecture at the University of Maryland. She earned a bachelor's degree in English, Spanish, and Biology from Kenyon College and a master's and doctorate in Ecology from the University of Virginia. She conducted her postdoctoral research at Columbia University's Earth Institute, where she studied the environmental impacts of the African Green Revolution. Her research assesses the sustainability of food production systems by examining how they affect the interactions between plants, soils, carbon, nutrient, and water cycles.

Sophien Kamoun

Guest Editor and Academic Editor, PLOS Biology

Sophien Kamoun grew up in Tunisia where he developed a passion and curiosity about nature. He studied genetics in Paris and Davis, California, before working in Wageningen, Ohio and Norwich, where he is currently a Senior Scientist at The Sainsbury Laboratory and Professor of Biology at The University of East Anglia. He is known for his seminal contributions to our understanding of plant diseases and plant immunity. Professor Kamoun pioneered genomics and molecular biology methods to reveal fundamental insights into the biology and evolution of eukaryotic plant pathogens. He discovered virulence effector families from pathogenic oomycetes and fungi, and showed how they can modulate plant immunity. He demonstrated how antagonistic coevolution with host plants has impacted the architecture of pathogen genomes, accelerated the evolution of effector genes, and drove the emergence of immune receptors networks. His inventive work in plant pathology has resulted in new approaches to mitigate some of the world’s most serious crop diseases. Professor Kamoun has received many awards and recognitions, notably the Kuwait Prize and The Linnean Medal.

PLOS ONE Handling Editors

Diego Gomez-Casati Mark Gijzen Guangyuan He Yuan Huang
Qian Qian Haitao Shi Guangxiao Yang Peng Zhang
Vijai Gupta Thierry Chardot Debasis Chakrabarty Mukesh Jain
Shashi Kumar Siva Ramamoorthy Mohar Singh Raman Meenakshi Sundaram
Carl Ng Serena Aceto Emidio Albertini Raffaella Ballestrini
Sabrina Sarrocco Abidur Rahman Lam-Son Phan Tran Jong-Seon Jeon
Paul Struik Sara Amancio Ricardo Aroca Leandro Peña
Benedicte Albrectsen Khawar Jabran Ive De Smet Rainer Bussmann
Heping Cao Vitaly Citovsky Sarah Davis Timothy Devarenne
Frank Alexander Feltus Henry Nguyen Prasanta Subudhi Haibing Yang
Olga Zabotina Baohong Zhang Jianwei Zhang Kandasamy Ulaganathan
Federico Brilli Walter Chitarra Sean Prager Dengcai Liu
Yonggen Lou Yuan-Ming Zhang Ramon Espinel Mathilde Causse
Abel Chemura Til Feike Tunira Bhadauria Pawan Kulwal
Muthamilarasan Mehanathan Arun Jyoti Nath Birinchi Sarma Anil Kumar Singh
Jay Shankar Singh Ying Ma Allah Bakhsh Shahid Farooq
Ahmet Uludag Matthew Hegarty Jaime Blair Hon Hing Ho
Ramasamy Perumal Richard Wilson Yacob Zereyesus Swarup Kumar Parida
A.Gururaj Rao Hiroshi Ezura Qiang Chen Hector Candela
Chengdao Liu Esmaeil Ebrahimie Hikmet Budak Antonio Biondi
Pankaj Jaiswal Hon-Ming Lam Krishnendu Acharya Girdhar Pandey
Benedetto Marelli Pingfang Yang Yulin Gao Jin-Song Zhang
Sergio Saia Sangeeta Dhaubhadel Turgay Unver Hernâni Gerós
Meixue Zhou Wagner Araujo Hong Zhang Tzvetanka Dinkova
Debalin Sarangi Luke Moe Genlou Sun Maria Lourdes Gomez
Pilar Hernandez Chunxian Chen Robert Bradley Pirjo Mäkelä
Mali Mahalingam Martina Stromvik Alessio Aprile Amit Dhingra
Rattan Yadav Vincent Vadez Gerhard Buck-Sorlin Marco Molina-Montenegro
Pedro Gundel Jeon W.H. Yong Kristiina Himanen Rodomiro Ortiz
Marcos Egea-Cortines Thomas Roitsch Roberto Fritsch-Neto Sudhir Shukla
Mohan Shri Jain Festo Massawe Sebsebe Demissew Didier Bazile
Marcello Donatelli Serge Savary Laetitia Willocquet Paul Esker
Kris Audenaert Marcos Lana Claudio Soregaroli Paloma Mas
Matthew Paul

Publishing Process

We aim to be as transparent as possible about our publishing and peer review processes. Papers submitted to PLOS ONE and under consideration for the Future Crops Collection will be specifically handled by hand-selected active researchers from our Editorial Board working in plant ecophysiology, phenomics, neglected crop species and wild relatives, plant stress biology, plant breeding, biotechnology and bioinformatics, phytopathology, agroecology, and agricultural economics, in partnership with PLOS ONE Staff Editor Dr. Jamie Males.

Papers submitted to PLOS Biology will be handled with our standard editorial process. The PLOS Biology professional editors and the Editorial Board partner to oversee all manuscripts that are reviewed.

Authors are advised to select the appropriate journal based on each journal’s scope criteria above. Submissions that do not meet PLOS Biology’s criteria or scope may be offered the opportunity to transfer to PLOS ONE.

For more information please see the PLOS ONE Editorial and Peer Review Information page or the PLOS Biology Editorial and Peer Review Information page, as relevant.

Submission Instructions

Articles must be submitted by September 27, 2019. 

Are you ready to submit or want to learn more about how the submission process works? To make it as easy as possible for our communities, we have all of our submission instructions posted online. If there are any details you can’t find, please email us at

Submission instructions for PLOS Biology are posted here and questions can be directed to

When submitting to the Collection, please specify that you are submitting to the Collection “Future Crops” in your cover letter. For PLOS ONE, please also select the Article Type “Research Article” and enter “Future Crops” in the Collections field in the Additional Information section of the submission form.

Highly Cited PLOS Papers in Future Crops Research

A large-scale pedigree resource of wheat reveals evidence for adaptation and selection by breeders

Authors: Nick Fradgley, Keith A. Gardner, James Cockram, James Elderfield, John M. Hickey, Phil Howell, Robert Jackson, Ian J. Mackay

Published: February 28, 2019

Nitrogen fixation in a landrace of maize is supported by a mucilage-associated diazotrophic microbiota

Authors: Allen Van Deynze, Pablo Zamora, Pierre-Marc Delaux, Cristobal Heitmann, Dhileepkumar Jayaraman, Shanmugam Rajasekar, Danielle Graham, Junko Maeda, Donald Gibson, Kevin D. Schwartz, Alison M. Berry, Srijak Bhatnagar, Guillaume Jospin, Aaron Darling, Richard Jeannotte, Javier Lopez, Bart C. Weimer, Jonathan A. Eisen, Howard-Yana Shapiro, Jean-Michel Ané, Alan B. Bennett

Published: August 7, 2018

Global economic trade-offs between wild nature and tropical agriculture

Authors: Luis R. Carrasco, Edward L. Webb, William S. Symes, Lian P. Koh, Navjot S. Sodhi

Published: July 21, 2017

Enhanced Rice Blast Resistance by CRISPR/Cas9-Targeted Mutagenesis of the ERF Transcription Factor Gene OsERF922

Authors: Fujun Wang, Chunlian Wang, Piqing Liu, Cailin Lei, Wei Hao, Ying Gao, Yao-Guang Liu, Kaijun Zhao

Published: April 26, 2016


Integrating Crop Growth Models with Whole Genome Prediction through Approximate Bayesian Computation

Authors: Frank Technow, Carlos D. Messina, L. Radu Totir, Mark Cooper

Published: June 29, 2015


PROTEIN TARGETING TO STARCH Is Required for Localising GRANULE-BOUND STARCH SYNTHASE to Starch Granules and for Normal Amylose Synthesis in Arabidopsis

Authors: David Seung, Sebastian Soyk, Mario Coiro, Benjamin A. Maier, Simona Eicke, Samuel C. Zeeman

Published: February 24, 2015


Genome-Wide Delineation of Natural Variation for Pod Shatter Resistance in Brassica napus

Authors: Harsh Raman, Rosy Raman, Andrzej Kilian, Frank Detering, Jason Carling, Neil Coombes, Simon Diffey, Gururaj Kadkol, David Edwards, Margaret McCully, Pradeep Ruperao, Isobel A. P. Parkin, Jacqueline Batley, David J. Luckett, Neil Wratten

Published: July 9, 2014


High-Throughput Phenotyping to Detect Drought Tolerance QTL in Wild Barley Introgression Lines

Authors: Nora Honsdorf, Timothy John March, Bettina Berger, Mark Tester, Klaus Pillen

Published: May 13, 2014


Drought-Tolerance of Wheat Improved by Rhizosphere Bacteria from Harsh Environments: Enhanced Biomass Production and Reduced Emissions of Stress Volatiles

Authors: Salme Timmusk, Islam A. Abd El-Daim, Lucian Copolovici, Triin Tanilas, Astrid Kännaste, Lawrence Behers, Eviatar Nevo, Gulaim Seisenbaeva, Elna Stenström, Ülo Niinemets

Published: May 8, 2014


Targeted Genome Editing of Sweet Orange Using Cas9/sgRNA

Authors: Hongge Jia, Nian Wang

Published: April 7, 2014