BSPP News Spring 2000 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 36, Spring 2000 

People and Places

Cambridge Mycology and Plant Pathology Club

Pieter van der Graaf of the ADAS Arthur Rickwood site and the University of Derby was the first speaker in the Michaelmas Term with 'Phoma clematidina as a cause of wilt in cultivated clematis' on 22 October 1999.  This is an important disease for clematis growers and this Ph. D.  project had been funded by  growers through the Horticultural Development Council.  Clematis is represented by many small flowered species world-wide and the popular large flowered types were developed in the nineteenth century from crosses between species.  Soon after these hybrids were introduced, disease problems were noted and Phoma clematidina was identified about 1915.  A recent grower survey revealed wilt problems on 50% of nurseries and in 80% of gardens and large flowered types were more seriously affected than small flowered types. It was possible to isolate Phoma clematidina  from wilted plants, but Botrytis, Coniothyrium and other Phoma species were also recovered.  P. clematidina  was also recovered from roots as well as stems and leaf spots.  Infection studies revealed that leaf hairs were often used as an infection site and resistance was associated with cultivars having low numbers of leaf hairs. Control requires an integrated approach with drip watering showing large benefits over overhead watering; the latter promoting splash dispersal of conidia.  Resistance to MBC fungicides is common in P. clematidina, but alternative fungicides from the triazole and strobilurin groups have been identified.  Armed with an up-to-date knowledge of pathogen biology, appropriate cultivars, cultural and chemical control measures, members resolved to scrutinise their wilted clematis more closely in future.

'The larger fungi – edible and poisonous'  was an opportunity to indulge in an indoor fungal foray guided by Helen Davies of the Melbourn Mushroom Club on 19 November 1999.  The key features of Ascomycetes and Basidiomycetes were illustrated before moving to the culinary benefits or hazards of a challenging list of individual species.  Cautionary tales would lead few to experiment with red-pored boletes. There were lots of local snippets to inspire future woodland walks to seek specialities like Sowerbiella reticulata.  Those not tempted beyond the car par might be expected to find Morchella conica if there was a covering of wood chippings.  Members were able to inspect dried specimens after the meeting and this was one occasion when they had to be prised out of the building at closing time to continue in the car park.

As the Cambridge Club is in its 50th year, plans are being made to organise a reunion for former and current members.  If you are one of our 'missing' old members and would like further details contact Peter Gladders at ADAS Boxworth (Tel 01954 268230)

P Gladders


Horticulture Research International

Student News
HRI has three new PhD students in the Department of Plant Pathology and Microbiology at Wellesbourne: Richard Amey is working on pathogenesis of Verticillium fungicola with Peter Mills; Claire Burns is working on transformation of Homobasidiomycete fungi with Tim Elliot; Amy Leathard is working on Coniothyrium minitans with John Whipps.
Tracey Duncombe successfully defended her thesis last October entitled: "The Bioremediation of Contaminated Soils with Mushroom Compost". Tracey also presented her work, by invitation, at the NERC Stand Up Science Show (SUSS), held during the British Association for the Advancement of Science Annual Festival in September. Congratulations also to Elizabeth Poole for successfully defending her thesis in December entitled:  "Evaluation and localization of helper bacteria in ectomycorrhizal formation".

The Plant and Microbial Sciences Committee of BBSRC have awarded two new PhD studentships to begin in October 2000.  The project titles are "Genetic and molecular control of pathogenicity for crucifers in Verticillium dahliae" with Dez Barbara and  "Identification of novel pathogenicity genes in the mycoparasite Coniothyrium minitans" with John Whipps and Jon Green at Birmingham. These will soon be advertised in the press so look out if you are interested!

Staff News
Emma Coventry joined John Whipps' research group to work on a HORTLINK project on control of Allium white rot.  Congratulations to John Whipps who has become a visiting lecturer at the University of Oxford and has been made a Professor at Sheffield University. Katherine Byrne started work with Roy Kennedy on a LINK-funded project on diseases of Narcissus.

HRI Overseas
John Walsh presented a paper at the Fourth Symposium of the International Working Group of Plant Viruses with Fungal Vectors (IWGPVFV) in Monterey, California in October.  He also made an invited presentation at the XIVth International Plant Protection Congress in Jerusalem entitled:  "The exploitation of genetics in providing durable control of turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) and chaired a session on "Plant resistance to pathogens, arthropods and weeds".

Nicola Spence, John Carder and Tim Pettitt, along with Dawn Teverson (NRI) participated in a Project Stakeholders Workshop in Kampala, Uganda in November at the beginning of a new DFID-funded project on bean root rot diseases.  The group also visited field sites in SW Uganda. Nicola and Dawn have also recently visited Kenya to start a new DFID-funded project on viruses of vegetable crops in collaboration with KARI and CABI Bioscience.

Peter Mills, Roy Kennedy and Alison Wakeham recently attended the EPPO Conference on "Diagnostic Techniques for Plant Pests" at Wageningen.  Alison also presented a paper on immunomonitoring of airborne fungal plant pathogens.

Visitors to HRI
Prof. Derek Lydiate and Dr Isobel Parkin, of the Saskatoon Research Centre, Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada visited John Walsh, Sara Hughes and Carol Jenner in November to discuss progress of ongoing collaboration on mapping Brassica resistance genes to turnip mosaic virus.   Dr Fernando Ponz and Dr Flora Sanchez of INIA Madrid, Spain also visited John Walsh and Carol Jenner in November to review progress of joint work on the molecular genetics of TuMV and interactions with Brassica and Arabidopsis. Dr Ueli Merz of ETH Zurich, Switzerland visited John Walsh and Colin Clay in November to carry out joint experiments and plan further collaborative work on the serological detection of obligate plant parasites.

Dr Mike Pearson of University of Auckland, New Zealand, visited Dez Barbara, Nicola Spence and  John Walsh in November to discuss contributions on plant viruses to the Global Plant Protection Information System (GPPIS), an FAO Internet information system.

Elize Jooste from the Plant Protection Research Institute, Pretoria, South Africa spent 4 weeks working with Nicola Spence on the molecular characterisation of BCMV isolates from South Africa. Dr Edna Kunjeku, an insect virologist from the University of Harare, Zimbabwe, spent 6 weeks working on plant viruses with Nicola Spence.

Development and Technology Transfer News
The Plant Pathology team at Stockbridge House has started to progress with the trial programme for this year.  The team is screening potential biocontrol products against a range of pathogens including Agrobacterium biovar 1, the cause of root mat disease of cucumbers.  We have also been successful in gaining HDC funding for a 4 year project to investigate biocontrol strategies for control of grey mould on protected tomatoes in collaboration with ADAS and HRI-Wellesbourne.
In the Autumn, Andrew Jackson and Martin McPherson attended the second planning meeting of an EU project investigating the potential for optimization of microbial growth within recirculating 'closed' hydroponic systems and its effect on disease control.  Currently, 36 independent recirculation hydroponic systems are being constructed to allow studies into suppressive potential of recirculating 'closed' systems as well as an assessment of both active and passive disinfection techniques of Phytophthora root disease of tomato.

Martin McPherson and Andy Jackson gave presentations at the HDC Cucumber conference in the Autumn of 1999 entitled 'Focusing on fungicides for foliar disease control' and the 'Prevalence and diversity of Pythium in cucumber crops' respectively.  Both of these presentations were based on continuing research project work, funded by the HDC and were well received by the grower audience.  At the HRI/HDC Leafy Salads Day, Andy Jackson gave a presentation on the future of disease control into the new millennium to an audience of growers, advisors and consultants.

HortiTech Diagnostic Services continues to expand its products and services with the recent launch of the DeTechtor™ pathogen detection kits at Hortex, developed by Nigel Lyons and Michael Clark.  Two formats have been designed either based on lateral flow technology or slide agglutination tests.  Initially, DeTechtor™  kits for over 20 bacterial and viral pathogens are available and there are plans to extend the range in the near future.  The lateral flow kits with a DeTechtor™ stick employs a sophisticated membrane-based technique similar to those employed in home pregnancy test kits.

In addition, Cheryl Brewster has been busy at a number of horticultural exhibitions focusing on Plant Clinic services offered through HortiTech.  In particular, at Four Oaks Trade Show she helped launch a new laboratory test for the detection of Pythium and Phytophthora in water samples and around the nursery, as well as speaking at a seminar session at the Southern Growers Exhibition on this subject.  Additional tests for Verticillium spp. in soil samples and for onion storage soft rots diseases have been launched. Over the past year the volume of samples received at the Plant Clinics has continued to steadily increase.

Helen Grogan gave a paper at the Italian Mushroom Growers conference in Verona, Italy, in November. The Mushroom Clinic at Wellesbourne continues to be busy.

Nicola Spence


NIAB Cambridge

Recent visitors to the Department of (Chemistry and) Plant Pathology have included Dr Graham Jellis of HGCA, Dr Takamura from Ube Industries in Japan, Dr Pieto Spanu of Imperial College, London and Dr Mogens Hovmoller from the Danish Institute of Agricultural Sciences, Flakkebjerg.

Jane Thomas and David Kenyon were heavily involved with the AAB Conference on "Protection and Production of Combinable Break Crops" at the Royal Agricultural College, Cirencester in December.  They gave various presentations on aspects of disease resistance in oilseed rape, field peas, field beans and linseed.  Jane also gave a paper on "Quality seed is Healthy Seed" at the NIAB Sparsholt Conference in February.

Rosemary Bayles and John Clarkson gave papers on collaborative European work on wheat yellow rust and mildew, respectively, at the final meeting of COST Action 817 in Martina Franca, Italy in November.  Over the winter, Rosemary Bayles gave presentations on "Yellow rust - keeping one step ahead" at the HGCA Agronomy Roadshows in Lincoln, York and Peterborough; John Clarkson also attended at the latter venue.

John Clarkson gave a talk on the work of the NIAB Cereal Pathology Section at AgrEvo, Chesterford Park in September.  Returning to his plant pathological "roots", he also ran a Course on "Cereal Foot & Root Rots" at NIAB Cambridge for BASF staff in November.

John Clarkson


Quizzed at a recent dinner party about my award of the British Crop Protection Council medal for outstanding service to British Crop Protection, a witty young man, who may yet progress to greater things, remarked "What did you get it for; being a scarecrow?"

Roy Johnson


Central Science Laboratory

Highlights of CSL's Plant Health Group activity both in the area of plant pathology and statutory plant health are presented in this issue of the BSPP Newsletter.

Nigel Hardwick's Crop Disease Research Team continues to trot around Europe.  Ever in search of more information and knowledge Phil Jennings attended the second EU COST action meeting in Rome, at the Plant Pathology Research Institute in October of last year.  The subject of the 3 day workshop was "Mycotoxins in plant diseases".  Dr Jennings presented a paper entitled "Monitoring of  Fusarium infection and mycotoxin contamination in UK grain".  The next meeting is to be combined with the 6th European Seminar held in Berlin from the 11th -16th of September.

The next quest for knowledge taken on by the Team was a visit by Nigel Hardwick in September to Ostend for a 4 day EU concerted action meeting, on the development of a control strategy for potato late blight.  Nigel also attended the BPC potato event in Newark where posters were presented on potato blight forecasting along with the results from the annual potato disease survey.

"New Disease Reports" was launched at the BSPP Presidential Meeting in Oxford in December 1999 (see publications, this issue).  The eye-catching pink publicity material for the launch was designed by Linda Crossley from the CSL Photographic Team.  Claire Sansford is Senior Editor and she is ably-assisted by an international team of Editors including David Stead and Rick Mumford from CSL.

Claire Sansford and Alan Inman were successful in their multidiscipline, multicountry bid to the first call under the EU Fifth Framework Programme "Quality of Life and Living Resources" – "Key Action (V):  Sustainable agriculture, fisheries and forestry" with a Project entitled "Risks associated with Tilletia indica, the newly-listed EU Quarantine pathogen, the cause of Karnal bunt of wheat".

Scoring high marks in the EU Evaluation process, the Project seeks to develop the theoretical Pest Risk Analysis written by Claire in 1996 by experimenting with the pathogen and the host (principally wheat) under European conditions, to seek to determine once and for all whether T. indica could establish and cause socioeconomic losses should it be introduced into Europe.  In addition to CSL, (the Co-ordinator), eight partner organisations are involved:  two from Italy (IATA-CNR, Firenze led by Franco Miglietta, as well as the Istituto Sperimentale per la Patologia Vegetale, Rome led by Angelo Porta-Puglia);  two from Denmark (Dept. of Agricultural Sciences, The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Taastrup led by John Porter and the Danish Government Institute of Seed Pathology for Developing Countries, Frederiksberg led by Vibeke Leth), one from Ireland (Teagasc Rural Economy Research Centre, Dublin led by Paul Kelly), one from Norway (The Norwegian Crop Research Institute, Fellesbygget led by Haakon Magnus), one from Australia (Wagga Wagga Agricultural Institute, New South Wales led by Gordon Murray and John Brennan) and one from the USA (Agricultural Research Service, USDA, Maryland led by Gary Peterson)

Claire Sansford (front centre) with CSL colleagues and Project Partners

The Project has a duration of four years with a total of 411 person months of work.  The total value of the Project is 2.2 million Euros with a contribution from the EU of 1.3 million Euros.  Work commenced on February 1st 2000 with the first Project meeting hosted at CSL on February 8th, 9th and 10th.  Many staff from CSL are involved and some are pictured here with the Project Partners on a windy February day at the front of the CSL buildings.

Continuing the success with bids to the EU, John Banks has been successful as a Partner in 2 EU Fifth Framework Projects working with mycotoxins.  This will add to the knowledge base of mycotoxins within Plant Health Group which is well-founded both in John and Nigel's Teams.

Alison Wright has been co-ordinating requests for assistance in plant health issues from Eastern European countries applying to join the European Union.  To date Alison has provided a training course in Poland on EC plant health legislation under the PHARE Programme.  Further consultancy on plant health issues such as eradication and registration procedures will be given during 2000 by Alison Wright  and Paul Bartlett.  A number of CSL plant health diagnosticians will be involved in providing in-depth training in diagnostic techniques to Polish experts at CSL during 2000.

The contact with Slovenia mentioned in the last newsletter has continued with training in mycology diagnostics of Slovenian Metka Zerjav by the mycology sub-team headed by Roger Cook.  Metka is a mycologist with the Agricultural Institute of Slovenia.

Roger Cook is due to retire this year and he gave a very amusing and informative talk entitled "Diseases I have known" at the annual MAFF Plant Health and Seeds Inspector's Conference held in the historic town of Market Bosworth in early February this year.  Roger reminisced about a group of fungi that have popped-up at frequent intervals throughout his career.  Of particular interest for the audience was a story of (what was) a quarantine pathogen that ran riot in his compost heap following the inclusion of what appeared to be a healthy sample of onions from the Harpenden laboratory which Roger had taken home for his lunch!  Unfortunately for Roger the onions harboured the aggressive fungus Corticium rolfsii.  The tale culminated with the sad destruction of the compost heap with Roger lamenting the loss of the valuable worms within.  Roger has worked in Kenya, at RHS Wisley and of course for MAFF Harpenden and CSL York.

Last but not least, seven members of CSL's Plant Health Group (Neil Boonham, Chris Danks, John Elphinstone, Christine Henry, Kelvin Hughes, Rick Mumford and Simon Weller) attended an EPPO-organised conference entitled 'Diagnostic Techniques for Plant Pests', held at Wageningen, from the 1st-4th February.  With over 120 delegates from all over Europe and elsewhere, the conference covered the latest developments in plant pest and disease diagnosis.  CSL presented 9 papers (just under a fifth of the total number) covering a wide range of topics in bacteriology, virology and mycology.  In addition Neil, Chris, Rick and Simon also took the opportunity, while in Holland, to visit the NAK laboratories at Emmeloord, to see how they cope with true mass-scale testing (NAK handles up to 4 million potato tubers per year for virus indexing) and to discuss common interests related to seed potato testing.

Claire Sansford


Congratulations to Professor Chris Gilligan who has recently been awarded a personal Professorship in Mathematical Biology at Cambridge University


Institute of Biology Agricultural Sciences Committee

The Institute of Biology (IOB) is a powerful public voice for the whole of biology. It has a considerable reputation for providing knowledgeable and authoritative views on every conceivable aspect of the interface between biological science and social and political concern. The Institute has very successfully established dialogue with parliamentarians, as well as regularly responding to calls for consultation from Select Committees, government departments and other public and private institutions. The Agricultural Sciences Committee is one of the main fora within the Institute for the discussion of topics related to the agriculturally-based industries and their under-pinning sciences.

The British Society for Plant Pathology (BSPP) is an Affiliated Society to the IOB. Affiliation gains for BSPP, amongst other benefits, a voice in the broader perspective of biological discussion. It is able to present viewpoints on, for example, education and science policy generally. The BSPP sends representatives to the Agricultural Sciences Committee providing much welcome plant pathological inputs to our discussions.

Currently, the Agricultural Sciences Committee is developing an active stance in relation to important biological issues. We hope to establish IOB views in advance of their more general appreciation by the public at large and politicians in particular. In this way we wish to place biology in a better position to guide and counsel public opinion as opposed to reacting to the emergence of what are sometimes highly emotive issues. Very obviously this is an extensive canvass and a broad set of aspirations since we are attempting to look for issues which may capture future public concern. Nonetheless, recent history has shown that advance preparation might nip in the bud some of the more outrageous, subjective and self-serving media hype and hysteria on scientific issues.

The topics selected by the Committee for initial debate are: 'Biodiversity and Land-use' and 'Functional Foods'. Members of BSPP are very welcome to submit their views and comments through the Society's representative to IOB. Both of these topics have aspects on which members may well wish to voice their aspirations, concerns and information. Please do take this opportunity to participate.

Professor Geoffrey R Dixon
Chairman, Agricultural Sciences Committee
Institute of Biology.


What does the secretary of the BSPP do ?

When I was asked to consider being Secretary for the BSPP about 18 months ago, I had little idea what it would involve. I asked several people (including past Secretaries) and I got somewhat vague answers including "Oh you will like it" and "It's the easiest job on the Board". Neither of these, or other answers that I got, really prepared me for the first year in office!! The job sounds simple enough.  In discussion with the President draw up the Agendas for the four Board meetings each year (relatively easy). Obtain reports from all Officers of the Society, for each meeting, to a deadline that enables us to duplicate all papers at UH  in advance, and circulate them to all Board members so that they can be read prior to the Board meeting ( a challenge this, because no one likes deadlines!). Write furiously in Board meetings so that I have sufficiently full notes to enable me to write the minutes (fine, unless I get so drawn into discussion that I forget to write.....). Open and assess post, which ranges through helpful, bizarre, interesting and boring. Send and answer many emails. Open and attempt to decode email attatchments .The worst last year was 23 pages of little boxes and squiggles, which we eventually got down to one coherent page of A4 script!! Answer queries, including "I have an essay to write on.....plant disease, can you help me?" and, "How can I get a job in plant pathology". In addition, I have attended some meetings at the Instiute of Biology and one at the Royal Society on behalf of the Society.  have to confess that at the beginning of 1999 I wondered if I had bitten off more than I could chew when ALL the emails came direct to me, whoever they were for. I was very thankful at my first Council Meeting to discover that it was a genuine mistake and I didn't have to go on receiving them!

Avice Hall, BSPP Secretary, and Mark Hocart, Programme Secretary.

I have found my first year in office both interesting and challenging. I hope that I have been able to assist in the smooth running of the Society, and not made too many mistakes of a lasting nature. My message to anyone who has read to the end of this article is come on in, seek nomination to the Board and help to build up the BSPP so that it can serve the needs of all members.
And finally, any mistakes which lurk in this article are solely due to my cats, who remain fascinated by keyboards, the moving curser, and use the desk lamp as a sun lamp if they can. I shall have to go and look for the programme which can recognise cats paws on the keys and edit out the subsequent gibberish!

Dr Avice Hall
University of Hertfordshire