BSPP News Spring 1998 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 32, Spring 1998

Not just a pretty tulip- Spreading the news about plant pathology

Plant pathologists world-wide are now aware that 1998 is the `Year of the Edinburgh Congress' and British Pathologists look forward to welcoming their colleagues to an exciting and stimulating event in August. Regrettably, so far as the world at large is concerned, this is a non-event, especially since Edinburgh at that time focuses exclusively on the build-up to the annual Edinburgh International Festival of Arts.

Communication by scientists to the wider lay public, in terms which are intelligible, is gaining major importance. It is no longer acceptable to make experiments, test hypotheses and report the undoubtedly vital results solely via the peer reviewed literature. Revitalising public interest and awareness in the manner by which science benefits everyday life and helps build national and international wealth and welfare is an essential part of the process of discovery and publication.

A vehicle for public awareness is the Edinburgh Science Festival which has become a major event each April, whereby news and views on science and its developments is propagated to as wide an audience as possible with especial emphasis on school age students. The obvious intent is to kindle interest and excitement in various disciplines with the intention of encouraging ambitions to join the scientific community through further and higher education.

With these objectives in mind preparations are coming to fruition to mount a major `Plant Pathology Spectacular' during the Edinburgh Science Festival held in April as a precursor to the Congress later in the year. Under the general banner of `Healthy Plants - Healthy Planet' a group of enthusiasts has brought together an exciting and interesting programme. This will illustrate the social and economic impact of plant diseases, provide a series of hands-on workshops, plant clinics and an interactive computer game designed to test skills and understanding in producing solutions to disease problems.

The diseases and their consequences to be highlighted include: potato blight and the Irish famine; coffee rust, which resulted in the British tea drinking habit; tulip breaking virus and the `Dutch Tulipomania'; ergot and the need for close regulation of food quality; and Dutch elm disease which has destroyed much of the parkland landscape of lowland Britain (and which now is yielding an anti-inflammatory drug). A key statement will emerge at the end of these examples which relates pathology to world food supply. This message relates directly to one of the major plenary symposia which will start the August Congress.

Workshops will illustrate: the causes of disease; DNA and disease diagnosis; and the use of monoclonal antibody techniques. The interactive computer game poses a series of options for disease control in a crop and following a protocol of opportunities, allows players to select the most environmentally acceptable solutions. Points and prizes will be awarded for the most sustainable and least damaging outcomes. Throughout this event, local and some visiting pathologists will be on hand to answer queries, identify diseases and more generally stimulate interest in plant biology. The event will run from 2nd-19th April in the Education Centre of the Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh. The exhibits and games will also be available for delegates to view (and play!) during the August Congress.

An enormous amount of work has been put into this Event, notably by Bill Rennie and Jane Chard (Scottish Agricultural Science Agency), Stuart Wale and Mark Hocart (SAC), Ian Darwin Edwards and Zoe Kemp (Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh), Mary Macdonald (Science and Plants in Schools, Homerton College, Cambridge), Molly Dewey (University of Oxford), Paul Nicholson (John Innes Centre, Norwich), Chris Pryor (Royal Horticultural Society, Wisley) and Simon Heath (Computer Assisted Learning, Aberdeen University). Many other colleagues are giving willingly of their time in staffing the event during the Science Festival. An Opening Ceremony will be hosted by Jim McColl of `Beechgrove Garden' fame.

Very substantial financial support has been granted by the British Society for Plant Pathology which has allowed the commissioning of art work from a leading international company (Graven Images, Glasgow); by the Trustees of the Crop Protection in Northern Britain Conferences which is supporting the computer learning initiative and by the Royal Society, London (COPUS - Committee for Public Understanding of Science). Professor David Ingram has generously supported this event, while Professor Ronald Wood and Dr Peter Scott gave great help and encouragement in the early stages as have Dr Simon Gage and Ms Suzzie Donnelly of the Science Festival Office.

Geoffrey Dixon, Organising Chairman

People and Places

Working on Potato Blight in Northern Ireland

Since coming to Belfast in 1981, I've been based at the Agriculture & Food Science Centre, Newforge Lane. Our site is located on the outskirts of Belfast about three miles south of the city centre in a residential area. Although employed by the Department of Agriculture for Northern Ireland (DANI), I'm also part of the Queen's University of Belfast. As a result I find myself juggling commitments to research, undergraduate teaching and postgraduate supervision as well as providing a specialist advisory service for local growers.

My research centres on factors influencing the efficacy of fungicides in disease control. Over the past 17 years in Belfast, I've worked on a variety of fungal diseases of agricultural and horticultural crops, but my major research interest has been potato blight and its control. I was first introduced to Phytophthora infestans at Long Ashton Research Station in the 1970s by the late Jim Hirst, then Director. Arriving in Northern Ireland, I found myself in a climate far better suited to P. infestans than that of the south of England. Here late blight is an ever-present threat to potato crops with which it has been co-habiting for the past 150 years.

My introduction to potato blight research in Belfast was abrupt. I was presented with a problem. Was blight in Northern Ireland resistant to the fungicide metalaxyl? The previous summer, potato crops in the Republic of Ireland, intensively sprayed with the phenylamide fungicide metalaxyl, had been devastated by blight. At Oak Park Research Centre, Carlow, Leslie Dowley and Eugene O'Sullivan showed that the culprit was metalaxyl-resistant P. infestans. In Northern Ireland, as elsewhere in the UK, for potato blight control, metalaxyl was approved only in a mixture with mancozeb and there had been no obvious reduction in disease control in the summer of 1980. So I set about isolating P. infestans from blighted tubers and working out a method to test P. infestans for metalaxyl resistance. The results were clear-cut: several of my P. infestans isolates were highly metalaxyl-resistant.

In a way, I've been dealing with phenylamide-resistant P. infestans ever since. We continue to monitor the pathogen on an annual basis for resistance to phenylamides and other fungicides. In this we benefit from close links with DANI's Agri-food Development Service. Each year, DANI Potato Inspectors and Advisers provide us with samples of blight from all potato-growing parts of the Province and detailed information on crops, variety, disease incidence and fungicide usage. Despite the introduction of new fungicides, the phenylamides continue to have a useful role in potato blight control and without knowledge of the current resistance status, I don't believe we could advise growers appropriately on fungicide use strategies.

To complement this monitoring, we carry out field trials annually to investigate the performance of fungicides in controlling the prevalent P. infestans population. Some programmes are evaluated under commercial contract for agrochemical companies, growers and others, and allow us to up-date our recommendations to growers. This advice is provided via DANI inspectors and advisers and the local farming press. During the summer months, we issue blight warnings, based on Smith Periods, via local radio and growers can check up on these and the occurrence of blight outbreaks by phoning `Blightline', our 24-hour recorded telephone information service. We hope that through our participation in the `European Network for Development of an Integrated Control Strategy of Potato Late Blight' (EU.NET.ICP), we may be able to refine our blight forecasting in the future.

My interest in P. infestans populations extends beyond fungicide sensitivity. Like other workers on this pathogen, I started to look for the A2 mating type after it was reported in Switzerland in 1984, the first time it was found outside Mexico. The possibilities posed by A1 and A2 P. infestans getting together in potato crops appeared alarming. Would soil-borne infection by oospores become a fact of life? Would the pathogen become even more variable? More aggressive? In Northern Ireland, a region involved in production of seed potatoes for export, there was particular concern. How would our export markets react to the possibility of being sold tubers with added A2 blight? Although noone intends to trade in blighted tubers, in reality it's inescapable. Inadvertent human transport of P. infestans in infected plant material is probably its most effective method of long-distance spread. Fortunately or unfortunately, it soon became apparent that A2 P. infestans waswidespread in Europe so that there was no point in denying its presence. In fact, in Northern Ireland, we didn't find our first A2 isolate until 1987, after several reports from Great Britain.

In the last few years, my postgraduate student Diane Carlisle has been investigating the Northern Ireland P. infestans population in greater detail. Despite the concerns of the 1980s, the A2 mating type continues to be rare in Ireland, both north and south, and we have no clear evidence for changes in the pathogen's behaviour. Study of allozyme genotypes and other markers suggests that P. infestans in Northern Ireland may be rather less variable than I had expected. However, it doesn't do to be complacent. In 1996, I visited the USA at the invitation of Ken Deahl of the USDA's Vegetable Laboratory at Beltsville, Maryland and heard about their problems with late blight. The behaviour of P. infestans in North America certainly seems to have changed and we are interested in how this compares with the behaviour of P. infestans in Ireland.

Louise Cooke, DANI & The Queen's University of Belfast

NIAB, Cambridge

Recent visitors to the (Chemistry &) Plant Pathology Department have included the aptly named Dan Wheatey from Kenya. Professor Zahir Eyal from Tel Aviv University gave an in-depth seminar on Septoria diseases of cereals in September 1997. Ray Tucker of Zeneca Agrochemicals gave a useful presentation on their new strobilurin fungicide to staff in October.

Cereal Pathology

Dr Rosemary Bayles and Mr John Clarkson presented a poster on `Changes in varietal resistance as a factor contributing to the increased importance of Septoria tritici in the UK' at the 15th Long Ashton International Symposium, `Understanding Pathosystems: a Focus on Septoria, in September 1997. They also presented posters on the work of their respective COST Action 817 sub-groups - viz. yellow rust and wheat mildew - at the conference on `Approaches to improving disease resistance to meet future needs: airborne pathogens of wheat and barley' in Prague in November 1997 (see separate report, also). Mr Mike Meadway had a poster on `Yellow rust of barley in the UK' at the same conference: this disease is set to make a comeback due to an increasing acreage of susceptible winter barley varieties.

John Clarkson talked on cereal disease resistance testing and virulence surveys at the NIAB training programme for Moldovan Agricultural Supply Trade staff in December. Marc Leconte from INRA at Grignon, France, spent a day with us just before Christmas to discuss virulence testing work on yellow rust and mildew.

Broad-leaved Crops, Herbage & Seed Pathology

Dr Jane Thomas attended the 3rd International Food Legume Conference in Adelaide, Australia,
where she presented a poster, and then travelled on to Perth for the APPS workshop on `Disease Resistance in Pulse Crops'. She also attended an International Seed Testing Association mycology workshop in Ottawa, Canada, where she presented a review of current testing methods for detecting Leptosphaeria maculans in brassica seeds and proposals for method revision through ISTA.

John Clarkson

Scottish Crop Research Institute

Fungal and Bacterial Plant Pathology

Over another hectic period there have been several comings and goings of staff, much of it adding strength to our diagnostics effort in detection of potato tuber blemish diseases and Phytophthora diseases of soft fruit.

With the ongoing problems of short-term contract work, we were sad to see Jamie Claxton leave us to take up a position with Tozers Seeds. The final year of the BPC funded project on PCR-based detection of Spongospora subter-ranea has now been taken over by Kenneth Bell who has just completed his Ph.D. in Napier University, Edinburgh. Danny Cullen has also recently arrived from a post-doctoral project in Rothamsted and will be with us for two years on a MAFF/SOAFED project on the development of molecular methods for the detection of Helminthosporium, Colleto-trichum and Streptomyces. Sally Monnington and Mairi Nicolson both arrived in the latter part of 1997 and are working with Alison Lees on a BPC-funded project to develop resistance screening methods and assess pathogen variation in a range of other tuber blemish diseases. A promotion within the department sees David Guy now working on a three year EU funded SMT project with three other European partners (co-ordinated from SCRI). Over the course of the project we will be harmonising detection protocols for EU testing labs for P. fragariae var. fragariae, the cause of red core in strawberry.

Away from the detection work, Alia Dellagi recently arrived from Tunisia to work with Gary Lyon and Paul Birch on a 2 year EU INCO-Copernicus grant to characterise the early molecular events in the Potato-Erwinia interaction.

David Cooke

Cambridge Mycology & Plant Pathology Club

President: Henry Tribe

Two meetings were held in Michaelmas Term in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge. Alan Dewar of IACR-Brooms Barn was relatively undaunted by the prospect of an entomologist entertaining plant pathologists. His talk `Recent improvements in the virus yellows forecasting scheme for sugar beet' provided a general overview of sugar beet production and the importance of viruses and virus vectors. Beet mild yellows virus (BMYV) is more important than beet yellows virus (BYV). The development of forecasts had only been possible because of the structure of the industry and the effective exchange of information between research and technical staff in the field. The forecast for BMYV was initially based on virus incidence in the previous year and the number of ground frosts in January and February. This had been improved by incorporating the date of the first aphid catch - and even this is now being superseded by models based on aphid migration alone. Changes in insecticides used on sugar beet had affected virus incidence quite markedly and the need to reset scales periodically had been identified from the modelling. Unfortunately forecasts are still too late to affect the use of seed treatments on sugar beet. Whilst imidachloprid is currently a very effective insecticide, there remains concern about insecticide resistance generally and plant pathologists were impressed by the number of resistance tests which could be carried out on a single aphid.

A molecular view through the looking glass: light leaf spot (Pyrenopeziza brassicae) and brassica interactions' was presented on home ground by Alison Ashby on behalf of the team led by Keith Johnstone and herself. Fundamental aspects of pathogenicity determinants and sexual morphogenesis featured strongly. Putative genes for some the enzymes thought to be important in pathogenesis have been cloned and await further investigation. Common symptoms in the field include leaf distortion and this appears to be caused by cytokinin imbalance though its genetic basis remains elusive. Pyrenopeziza, as a Discomycete, provided a valuable research tool to compare and contrast with other Ascomycetes such Cochliobolus (Loculoasco-mycetes) and Magnaporthe, Podosphaera and Neurospora (Pyrenomycetes) in molecular investigations of reproduction. A sex factor and a sex factor-induced protein had been identified, raising hope that these findings might lead to novel control strategies - or tasty fruit bodies for human consumption!

Attendance of meetings was close to full capacity and further meetings are being arranged. For further information about meetings contact Peter Gladders, ADAS Boxworth. (01954 268230)

Peter Gladders

University of the West of England

The Downy Mildew Research Group is headed by Dr Peter Spencer-Phillips at the University of the West of England, and comprises five new Ph.D. students and a new post-doc. Michelle Edwards is studying the role of invertases in pea downy mildew, and Alexandra Ott is looking at nutrient uptake in relation to vein structure and the mechanism of phloem loading in a range of downy mildew infections. Mamseedy Njie is coordinating a study of millet downy mildew, to be carried out partly in Bristol and partly in The Gambia. A further student is expected to arrive shortly from Libya.

Dr Jeremy Clark, recently returned from Poland with molecular genetics experience, is studying ATPases in pea downy mildew in conjunction with Charles Sundquist, a part-time Ph.D. student. This continues the Ph.D. project of Marie Stanworth, who has recently moved to Zeneca at Jealotts Hill. Methodologies which will be used by the group include enzyme biochemistry, immuno-technology, fluorescence and electron microscopy, and molecular techniques. The group has grown considerably since the interest in downy mildews was initiated in 1985 - when Jeremy was last here for his Ph.D.! Peter is also coordinating the downy mildew workshop at the ICPP98. He can be contacted at his e-mail address:

Drs Helen Gunson and Phil Evans are involved in a Potato Marketing Board-funded project, researching and developing sensors for the detection of Erwinia carotovora infection in potato stores. This work is jointly supervised by Peter Spencer-Phillips and Dr. Norman Ratcliffe, who is a member of the Advanced Sensors Research Group at UWE, which has been recognised by the DTI as a Centre of Excellence.

Dr Alan Vivian heads a research group studying the molecular genetics of phytopathogenic pseudomonads. Since the departure from the group of Caroline Gilmartin, who has successfully completed her PhD and Marjorie Gibbon, who is now a full-time mum, Dr Dawn Arnold has assumed the task of following up on the more interesting aspects of their projects. Dawn is currently study ing three avirulence genes of Pseudomonas syringae pv. pisi and one from P. s. pv. phaseolicola to determine their distribution among pathovars of P. syringae. She is also collaborating with Satoshi Yamamoto in Japan on a phylogenetic study of P. syringae pathovars and was invited to present some of her data at a COST meeting in Switzerland last December. Robert Jackson recently submitted his PhD thesis and has resumed work in the lab on a new BBSRC-funded project with Alan in collaboration with John Mansfield at Wye. Robert is studying the role of a large native plasmid in pathogenicity of P. s. pv. phaseolicola towards the host plant, bean.

Radhika Desikan (supervised by John Hancock and Steve Neill) recently obtained her PhD for a thesis entitled "Generation of elicitor-induced active oxygen species in Arabidopsis thaliana".

Jeremy Clark, Robert Jackson & Alan Vivian 

John Innes Centre

Cereals Research Department

An important development in the JIC's cereal pathology programme in the past year has been the appointment of Penny Brading as our first post-doc working on resistance to Septoria tritici. This is now the major foliar disease of wheat in Britain and many other European Countries, yet comparatively little is known about the genetics of host resistance to it. We hope that Penny's project, together with that of a Ph.D. student, Lia Susana Arraiano, will begin to unravel the mystery.

Research on S. tritici is done in James Brown's group, alongside their well-established research programme on powdery mildew. James, Elaine Foster and Chris Ridout are making excellent progress with their genetic analysis of the barley mildew fungus and have recently been joined by Rebecca Wyand, a new Ph.D. student, who is investigating the molecular evolution of cereal mildews.

Lesley Boyd, whose group studies the rusts of wheat, is turning her attention towards cloning rust resistance genes, using information for DNA sequences that are conserved among genes for resistance to various types of pathogen in diverse angiosperms. Her work (together with her addiction to coffee and early morning starts) is described in this issue's `A Week in a Life' (p. 60).

The third cereal pathology group, headed by Paul Nicholson, studies facultative diseases of wheat. Much of their work is based on the elegant technique of quantitative PCR. Paul and his colleagues Navideh Rezanoor, Duncan Simpson and Adrian Turner have now developed Q-PCR systems to detect and quantify all of the important ear-blight pathogens on wheat. Adrian, who specialises in the stem-base disease complex, has been joined by a research assistant, Mark Scrancher. Nick Gosman, a new Ph.D. student, is analysing the genetics of the resistance of wheat to Fusarium, while Gillian Weston is using Q-PCR in a collaborative study into the role of tricothecene mycotoxins in pathogenesis of F. graminearum towards wheat and maize.

Many of our projects benefit from collaboration with geneticists in the Cereals Department and with colleagues in the Sainsbury Laboratory and other JIC departments. An especially valuable resource is the collection of precise genetic stocks developed over many years from aneuploid lines of wheat varieties and now maintained by Tony Worland. Part of the S. tritici project, for instance, is only possible because of the existence of lines developed before many of the Pathology Group were even born - surely a powerful demonstration of the value of supporting very long-term research programmes.

James Brown

Central Science Laboratory

In the last six months, the major event has been CSL's official opening. The ceremony actually took place on 22nd October, when Dr Jack Cunningham (Minister for Agriculture) formally declared the laboratory open. In addition to the actual opening ceremony, in the same week CSL also hosted three open days, to which clients and associates of CSL, along with staff members' friends and family, were invited.

The Plant Health Group was heavily involved, setting up displays (including well over a hundred different posters) and hopefully spreading the plant pest and disease message (although as one
potato farmer said to me `ignorance is bliss', after having been informed about spraing, brown rot, aphids, cyst nematodes, PVY, Colorado beetles and dry rot and all in the space of a few hundred yards!). But overall the hard work paid off and everyone found the opportunity to inspect the new site and find out a bit about what CSL actually does, both interesting and informative, so much so, that we are probably going to have to do it all again in the near future!

Two months later, CSL hosted another large and important group of visitors. This time it was the BSPP, when delegates from the Presidential Meeting in York came to visit the new laboratory for an afternoon. The visit, arranged by Nigel Hardwick (the then BSPP President and Head of the Crop Disease Dynamics Team), consisted of a tour of the Plant Health Group's labs and facilities, given by members of the Group. Again hopefully, the visit was of interest and all enjoyed the experience.

Earlier in September, CSL was the chosen venue for an Association of Applied Biologists meeting, entitled `Offered Papers in Plant Virology'. Being held for the fourth time, this two-day event managed to attract nearly 80 virologists, who represented almost every group involved in plant virology in the UK. The papers presented were an interesting blend, covering all aspects of plant virology, beginning with a welcome address by Steve Hill (Head of Plant Health Group) and including two other papers from CSL virologists, Neil Boonham (Immunological & Molecular Methods Team) and Sarah Hugo (Virus Biology & Risk Assessment Team). All in all the meeting was a great success and in recognition of this the AAB Virology Group has agreed to return to CSL next time this meeting is held.

Continuing with meetings, CSL was also the venue for a recent workshop for European plant health inspectors in November 1997. The meeting was hosted by MAFF Plant Health Division and organised on behalf of the European and Plant Protection Organisation (EPPO). This was the eighth of these annual conferences, and the first to be held in Britain. In all about 60 delegates attended from 27 countries, as well as from the EU's own Plant Health Inspectorate. Following an introduction from Jeff Rooker (Minister of State, MAFF), there were sessions on surveillance and inspection for quarantine pests. These were complemented by a tour of the laboratory, which highlighted CSL's diagnostic and research work in these areas. Further sessions concentrated on the role of computers in modern plant health. Time was also allowed for a number of external visits to local growers and vegetable processors, as well as a number of enjoyable social events.

Meanwhile, the Plant Disease Diagnosis Team has also been busy, picking up some new overseas business. The Swedish government has recently contracted out its plant quarantine diagnosis and CSL (in collaboration with SASA) was successful in bidding for part of this work. Members of the Swedish Plant Protection Service visited the CSL in November to discuss the work and assess the potential for further collaboration.

There were also a number of other visits from overseas plant pathologists. Dr Maja Ravnikar (from Slovenia) and Tatiana Kormanova (from Slovakia) spent two weeks with the Plant Disease Diagnosis Team, learning about modern diagnostic techniques in virology and bacteriology. Tthe Plant & Environmental Bacteriology Team, together again with the Plant Disease Diagnosis Team, spent three weeks training three Egyptian visitors (Nevein Enwar, Yaser Ibrahim and Haidi Mohammed) in all aspects of potato brown rot testing, as part of a major EU project in which CSL's bacteriologists are involved.

Claire Sansford (Plant Health Consultancy Team) has been on her travels again. This time, Claire visited North Carolina in August, to attend The International Symposium on Bunts and Smuts of Wheat to present the work that she has been doing on the pest risk assessment of Karnal bunt (Tilletia indica). Claire also took the opportunity to visit the USDA and APHIS/NAPIS in Washington.

Phil Jennings and Judith Turner (Crop Disease Dynamics Team) have also been overseas, attending the 5th European Fusarium seminar on mycotoxins, taxonomy, pathogenicity and resistance, in Szeged, Hungary, 1-5 September, whilst in November, Kathy Walsh (Immunological & Molecular Methods Team) attended the EU-funded Inter Cost meeting, entitled `Sampling and identification of parasitic and pathogenic microorganisms in agrobiology', presenting two posters on her team's potato virus detection work.

Rick Mumford


ADAS pathologists have been kept busy with conference presentations. At the BSPP Presidential Meeting at York, talks were given by Fen Beed and Bill Clark and posters by Bill Clark, Nick Bradshaw, Rosie Bryson, John Davies, Peter Gladders and Caroline Young. In mid-October, Peter Gladders went to Naples, on an EU Concerted Action on Oilseeds Management which provided an opportunity to visit Pompeii while Vesuvius was quiet. Eurostar and the TGV took John Davies to Tours to attend and present a poster at the 5th International Conference on Plant Diseases (see page 49). Advantage was taken for an eight mile walk along the banks of the Loire to Vouvray following the GR 3 (Grande Randonee - Long Distance Footpath). It made a pleasant change to go through vineyards rather than the extensive brassica, onions and Narcissus of South Lincs.

In January, Nick Bradshaw presented a paper on `Potato blight forecasting in England and Wales' at the 1st Transnational Conference on Biological, Integrated and Supervised Control in Lille and closer to home Peter Gladders and Neil Paveley gave presentations on oilseed rape and winter wheat fungicides at the AAB - HGCA Conference at Robinson College Cambridge.

John Davies, ADAS Terrington

Horticultural Research International

The BBSRC Annual Sports Day took place at Norwich on 11 July. HRI again won overall with Wellesbourne failing once more to topple East Malling's sporting supremacy.

Bacterial diseases

In June, John Taylor and Nigel Lyons visited CPRO-DLO, Wageningen, to discuss progress of their CEC programme to develop `Certified Reference Materials' for bacterial seed testing. Dr C Mushi, Coordinator of the Tanzania National Bean Programme visited HRI to discuss ongoing collaborative research with John Taylor and Dawn Teverson in August. He was accompanied by Mr S Biranda, a Socio-economist, who is starting a PhD study at the University of Greenwich and remains at HRI for 3 months to initiate his study on `In situ conservation of bean' funded by DFID/NRI.

Fungal diseases

In July, a workshop was organised by Roy Kennedy at HRI Kirton, in conjunction with the HRI Application Development Group, to introduce the dark leaf spot forecasting system on MORPH. Growers were given a hands on sessions with PCs.

Peter Mills attended the Molecular Variability of Fungal Pathogens Conference in Geneva in September and presented a talk entitled `Molecular Characterisation of Fungal Pathogens; Colleto-trichum, Trichoderma and Verticillium'. Peter also attended the `Sampling and Identification of Parasitic and Pathogenic Microorganisms in Agrobiology Conference' in Lisbon on November and presented a talk entitled `PCR detection of Trichoderma in mushroom compost'

Geoff White visited Yangling, Shaanxi in the People's Republic of China to renew the Document of Collaboration between HRI and the Shaanxi Academy of Agricultural Science. A meeting was held at the Northwest University Horticulture Department, hosted by Prof Zhihui Cheng who has leave of absence to work at Wellesbourne during 1998. John Whipps attended the IOBC/EFPP Workshop, Delemont Switzerland on `Molecular approaches in biological control' and presented an invited paper entitled `Risk assessment associated with the release of a genetically modified Pseudomonas fluorescens in the field' in September. Eirian Jones joined HRI in October to work on the EU Sporefun project with John Whipps and Simon Budge. She has previously worked on Sclerotinia and Coniothyrium minitans in New Zealand. Bob Lumsden, USDA Beltsville visited John Whipps in July and Duncan Veal, MacQuarie University, Australia also visited John in September and gave a seminar on `Uses of flow cytometry in microbiology'.

John Whipps, Eirian Jones and Simon Budge attended an EU Sporefun project meeting in Wageningen, The Netherlands in October. John is the UK representative on the EU COST Action 830 `Microbial inoculants in agriculture and environment' management committee and has been elected vice-chairman of the Action. David Harris and Dez Barbara attended the 7th International Verticillium Symposium in Greece in October. Two posters were presented by HRI staff at the Symposium: `Developing methods for assessing wilt resistance in hop seedlings' by David Chambers, Peter Darby and David Harris; and `Screening Acer platanoides seed lings for resistance to Verticillium dahliae' by David Chambers and David Harris.

Sejong Oh from National Institute for Agricultural Science and Technology, Rural Development Administration, Suweon, South Korea joined HRI-W in August as a visiting worker. He will work with Terry Fermor and Steve Lincoln on the identification of bacterial pathogens of Pleurotus ostreatus (Oyster mushroom).

In September Ian Crute chaired a BBSRC Workshop at Wye College on `Fungal Pathogenesis'. The object was to discuss future directions in basic research on fungal pathogenesis and to ensure that the topic maintains its profile within the new BBSRC structure. Ian Crute attended, as an invited lecturer, a conference in Switzerland on `Biological Defense Mechanisms' organised by a consortium of universities in the French-speaking part of the country. The conference brought together international animal, microbial and plant scientists to address molecular and evolutionary aspects of defence in a forum of postgraduate students. Debbie Leckie and Tim Wilkes were among a strong HRI contingent who attended the ISHS conference in Rennes on Brassicas. There were several posters from the group presented and Debbie Leckie gave a platform presentation.

In October Drs Vicky Buchanan-Wollaston and Jim Beynon (both of Wye College, University of London) started as Research Leaders in the Cell Physiology and Plant Genetics and Biotechnology Departments respectively. They will greatly strengthen HRI's capability in molecular genetics. Also during October, the Director's Group hosted a week long visit from Kiril Bahcevandziev, from Instituto Politecnico, Coimbra, Portugal; Kiril is part of the team with whom they have collaborated in a recently concluded EU project on disease resistance in brassicas. Eric Holub also made a working visit to Jeff Dangl's laboratory in North Carolina, USA to discuss ongoing collaboration on pathogen resistance in Arabidopsis.

A BBSRC quota student, Alayne Cuzick started work and Sarah Breeds, a technician in the group, transferred from the EU project to a new BBSRC funded project on bacterial resistance in Arabidopsis in collaboration with Murray Grant (University of Leicester). Tony Roberts moved into Dez Barbara's group within Plant Pathology and Microbiology to pursue work on molecular polymorphism in Venturia inaequalis but he will also continue his plant-based studies that were previously done within our group.

Looking ahead in 1998, Dr. Yacouba Sere, Senior Pathologist at the West Africa Rice Development Association (WARDA), Ivory Coast, is coming to work with Dr.S.Sreenivasaprasad on molecular characterisation of the rice blast pathogen. Mr.Pedro Talhinhas, Ph.D. student, Instituto Superior de Agronomia, Portugal, is also coming to work with Prasad on molecular typing of Colletotrichum spp. infecting lupins.

Virus and phytoplasma diseases

In September, many of the HRI virologists attended the AAB Offered Papers in Virology meeting at CSL, York. Nicola Spence presented a paper entitled `Virus diseases of Alstroemeria' and Gina Donovan (HRI/University of Birmingham Ph.D. student) gave a talk entitled `Genetic analysis of resistance to pathotypes of bean common mosaic virus in bean'. John Walsh attended the ISHS Symposium on Brassicas/10th Crucifer Genetics Workshop in Rennes, France and gave a paper entitled: `The specificity and mapping of resistance genes to turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) in Brassica napus'. David Davies visited the laboratory of Bruce Kirkpatrick, University of California, Davis, for one week. The visit was partially funded by EMRA and APRC to obtain information on current research into the cause and spread of pear decline and related diseases.

Dr Nazeera Salim is spending one year working with John Walsh and Carol Jenner on virus diseases of cassava. Dr Salim is a senior lecturer in the Department of Botany, University of Jayewardenpura, Sri Lanka. She has been awarded a Commonwealth Fellowship by the Association of Commonwealth Universities. Other visiting workers to Wellesbourne have been Miguel Carvalho from Seccao de Proteccao de Plantes, Universidade de Tras-os-montes Alto Douro, Portugal who spent one month with Dez Barbara and Nicola Spence working on the identification and cloning of Portuguese isolates of grapevine leafroll associated virus and of UK isolates of chrysanthemum stunt viroid. Jingui Chen arrived in December from Nanjing Agricultural University, Jingsu Province, China, to spend a year with Richard Napier in Cell Physiology. Jingui's main interests are in plant hormone receptors and will spend some time in Dez Barbara's lab trying to select plant hormone mimics from various peptide display libraries.

Sara Hughes started her PhD in October on mapping resistance genes to turnip mosaic virus in Brassica rapa with John Walsh and Graham King at Wellesbourne. The project is EC funded and involves collaborators in Germany, Sweden and China.

At East Malling, Karin Posthuma arrived in September (having just completed an MSc at the University of Wageningen) to work with Tony Adams and Susan Crossley for her Ph.D. on molecular biology of strawberry crinkle virus. Karine Schnyder arrived from Switzerland, in October, to work with Michael Clark and David Davies, monitoring HONS subjects for possible phytoplasma infections. In response to an invitation by Professor L. Giunchedi, Department of Plant Pathology, University of Bologna, David Davies visited Bologna in October to discuss and exchange information on the epidemiology of pear decline in the UK and Northern Italy. While in the region he also visited the University of Udine to present a seminar and to discuss the potential for future collaboration in phyto-plasma research.

General pathology

Since launching the HRI Plant Clinic last year there has been a significant increase in demand. To maintain the service, Dr Andrew Jackson joined the pathology team at Stockbridge House in December last year. The Plant Clinic provides a rapid diagnostic service to growers, consultants and corporate clients on crop problems including plant pest and disease and provides advice on control measures. Andrew, who previously worked at RHS Wisley, will help develop and expand the range of diagnostic services offered by the Clinic to the horticulture industry.

A new HDC project (PC97b) started this year, coordinated by Geoff White at Wellesbourne. It involves a detailed study of Pythium spp. in protected glasshouse salad crops. Plant material will be screened to isolate the range of Pythium spp. on nurseries and their occurrence monitored throughout the season, followed by screening for resistance to a range of fungicides. Other projects are already in progress, including the LINK project assessing the potential of sustainable systems to prevent root diseases in recirculated hydroponic systems, where the natural levels of disease suppression within closed hydroponic tomato crops are being studied.

Martin McPherson, Dave Pattison and Andrew Jackson attended the BSPP Presidential Conference in York where Martin presented a paper entitled, `The closed environment - a challenge for horticulture'. Staff attended various HDC conferences and grower days on tomatoes, cucumbers and salad crops to present results and finding from recent trials. Martin has also written the a further batch of HDC disease identification cards for bedding plants and these will be available soon.

Martin is busy organising a Symposium entitled `Etiology, Biology and Control of Diseases in Soiless Systems' for ICPP98. The symposium will focus on the observed amelioration of root pathogens in closed systems and speakers, including Martin, will be Dr Mike Stanghellini, Riverside; Dr Peter Bakker, Utrecht; Dr Jos Raaijmakers, Wageningen; Dr Tim Paulitz, McGill; Dr Walter Wohanka, Geisenheim. Anyone wishing to participate in the symposium should either contact the congress organisers or Martin directly (email: martin.mcpherson@

Nicola Spence

OBITUARY - Dr Dorothy Derbyshire

Dorothy Derbyshire's tragic death at the New Year was a cause of great sadness to all who knew her, not least to the many colleagues in ADAS who had worked with her over the years and had benefitted both from her expertise and experience and from the warmth of her friendship.

Dorothy had planned a career in horticulture and graduated in this subject at Wye College in 1952. She very soon developed an interest in plant diseases and her Ph.D. thesis was on the relationship between mineral nutrition and Verticillium wilt of tomatoes. She never, however, lost her interest in the broader aspect of crop production - a fact which was to increase her effectiveness as an adviser in later years.

Her university days ended, she remained for a time at Wye working on disease of hops at the Guiness Research Laboratory. In the early 1960s, after a spell working under Mary Noble at East Craigs, she joined the Ministry of Agriculture's National Agricultural Advisory Service (later to become ADAS) as an Advisory Plant Pathologist.

She worked for many years from the NAAS/ADAS Eastern Regional Office at Cambridge where she showed herself to be a particularly effective adviser. Growers appreciated her straightforward approach and her ability to tailor her advice on disease control to the circumstances of their general husbandry. She built up a considerable reputation for her knowledge of vegetable diseases, particularly of storage disease in which field she worked closely with colleagues at the University of East Anglia and the National Vegetable Research Station (now HRI Wellesbourne).

Transfered on promotion to ADAS Wolverhampton (where she became involved in the design of laboratories for the ADAS offices), she turned her attention to the pathology of the many exotic crops being grown for immigrant communities in the West Midlands. Her time at Wolverhampton also provided her with the opportunity further to develop an existing interest in disease control on ornamentals.

It was not long, however, before she returned to the Eastern Region, this time as plant pathologist at the ADAS Glasshouse Advisory Unit at Cheshunt. She remained at the Unit until taking early retirement when her laboratory was closed in 1987. Retirement gave her more time for her garden, for activities with local horticultural groups and for her duties as church warden in her local parish. To the end, however, she remained active in plant pathology as an independent consultant whose advice continued to be highly valued.

Dorothy will be remembered not only for her contribution to advisory plant pathology but also for her warm humanity and concern for her colleagues at all levels, and also, her kindness and patience in training younger members of staff. She will be greatly, and sadly, missed.