Plants are essential to human existence, providing food, clothing, shelter, medicine, and the raw materials to meet many other needs. Research and conservation at in the Institute of Economic Botany includes a focus on useful plants, both those that are global resources with great economic impact as well as species used regionally by indigenous peoples and local communities.
The diversity of useful plants on Earth is inherently linked to cultural diversity. Garden scientists study biodiversity-based traditional knowledge systems around the world and the often complex relationships that exist between plants, people, and culture. In the 21st century, this understanding of plants and people at local, regional, and global levels is critical to finding solutions for conserving and sustainably managing the plant resources on which the well-being of humankind depends.