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Abstract - Botanical Journal of Scotland

Three apparently disparate topics are brought together to focus on ways in which science and even technology have often been insulated from pressing human needs. A notable example is the 20th Century's down-grading of the value of tropical trees in practice, before rediscovering it in theory. A series of brief, general guide-lines is developed that questions policy misapprehensions, charts mental blocks and encourages clear thinking and choice. Examples are cited of the author's research on forest trees that has direct or indirect practical potential as well as adding a little to our as yet sketchy understanding of their physiology. These include studies of factors affecting shoot growth and branching, flowering and phase-change. Vegetative propagation is stressed as a hitherto under-used tool for direct genetic improvement of forest trees, many of which are still ‘undomesticated’. If opportunities for exchange of ideas and techniques are fostered, and obvious pitfalls are avoided, biodiversity could be maintained and sufficient improved trees planted to counter the present rapid loss of tropical forests.