BSPP News Spring 2001 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 38, Spring 2001 

The History of the European Mycological Network

The first meeting of the European Mycological Network (EMN) took place at Wageningen, The Netherlands in 1997.  The host was the Dutch Plant Protection Service (PD); it was the brainchild of Henk van Kesteren and his colleagues at the PD.  The idea was to exchange information on plant diseases and to discuss methods, techniques and problems of mutual interest amongst like-minded fungal diagnosticians working in government laboratories on Plant Health (plant protection). Subsequently, equally successful meetings have taken place each year. These have been in 1998 at Central Science Laboratory (CSL), York; in 1999 at Landswirtschaftskammer Rheinland, Bonn, and in April 2000 at Centrum voor Landbouwkundig Onderzoek, Ghent.

Roger Cook of CSL can claim some small credit for this initiative. It was inspired at least in part by the fruitful co-operation enjoyed over the previous decade between the PD, specially Henk, and Roger at CSL (then based in Harpenden).  However, the 'fruitful co-operation' could have got off to a bad start as Roger's first contact with Henk was almost one of confrontation. As a newcomer to Plant Health in the early 1980's, Roger had reported finding fruiting bodies of a Mycosphaerella sp. on fruit trees imported from Holland. Because this fungus did not feature in his check list of UK plant diseases, statutory action was summarily taken. (This was in the halcyon days before we were bound by the EC Plant Health Directive.) Not one to suffer fools gladly, Henk was soon on the telephone demanding why the UK were taking action over a ubiquitous saprophyte. His challenge was fully justified and thus Roger learnt the hard way the pitfalls awaiting a Plant Health diagnostician.

A year or two later the tables were turned.  The UK reported finding fruiting bodies of Gnomonia rubi associated with dieback of Dutch rose rootstocks. Sure enough, Henk was quickly on the line demanding an explanation. This time Roger was better prepared to quote chapter and verse on how this particular fungus was capable of causing dieback on stored rose rootstocks.

Since then, Henk and colleagues at the PD have been a mine of information for workers at CSL when new diseases have appeared.  For instance, the identity of an unusual rust on Codiaeum imports from West Africa was quickly solved. Henk and Boerema had seen this rust some years previously  and identified it as Dietelia codiaei. More recently, CSL and the PD (Hans de Gruyter) have usefully swapped notes on their findings of Stegophora ulmea causing black spot on bonsai elms from China. This is now being considered for quarantine status by the EU.

A short account of  our last meeting in Ghent will give you a flavour of the EMN. The main talks included the diagnosis of quarantine fungi (Monilinia fructicola, Tilletia indica and Guignardia citricarpa). This covered the use of PCR to identify these species and other isolation and identification methods such as those used for Phytophthora citricola on azalea and for potato powdery scab. An interesting topical forum encompassed a wide range of new fungal diseases identified in the various labs.

At this meeting Roger had the honour of being elected Secretary of the Network. He has consequently instituted a group email address that connects all 24 members of the Network in 15 government laboratories. At present it covers Austria, Belgium, France, Germany (3 labs), Denmark, England, Italy, Lithuania, Norway, Scotland, Slovenia, Switzerland and The Netherlands and is continually expanding.

The EMN has no membership or registration fees and so maintains no funds. At least for the time being, we expect that membership of the EMN will include only diagnosticians associated with government laboratories. They should be willing and able at some time to host an annual meeting. Please contact Roger Cook at the address below if you qualify and wish to join the Network.

The next meeting of the EMN will be held on 25-29 April 2001 at the Swiss Federal Research Station, Department of Plant Pathology, Wadenswil, Switzerland. Secretary of the EMN: Dr Roger T A Cook, Central Science Laboratory, Sand Hutton, York, Y041 1LZ UK. Tel: +44 (0)1904 462327. Fax: +44 (0)1904 462147. Email:

The 2000 BCPC Medallists

The British Crop Protection Council has awarded its highest accolade, the BCPC Medal, to three well known figures in the crop protection industry, Dr Peter R Scott,  Mr David Yarham and Dr Ian Graham-Bryce. Peter Scott and David Yarham are members of BSPP.

Winners of the BCPC medal in Brighton: left to right, Peter Scott, Ian Graham-Bryce and David Yarham.

Peter Scott researched cereal diseases at the former Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge, notably eyespot, take-all and the Septoria diseases. This work underpinned significant disease resistance breeding efforts at PBI. More recently, at CAB International, he has made an outstanding contribution to the use of information technology in the management of knowledge about crop protection. In particular he led the global initiative which produced the CABI Crop Protection Compendium. He is currently Director, Programme Development, CAB International. He has been President of the International Society for Plant Pathology since 1998.

David Yarham joined the National Agricultural Advisory Service (later to become ADAS) in 1964. He became interested in cereal diseases and made significant contributions both to the evaluation of their economic importance and to their control. His particular expertise was in the effect of edaphic and cultural conditions on the incidence of take-all. At the Cheshunt Advisory Unit in the 1970s, he focussed on the diseases of glasshouse crops. He became head of the Plant Pathology Department of ADAS and, with the reorganisation of the service in 1992, head of the ADAS Plant Diagnostic Laboratory.

Ian Graham-Bryce qualified as a physical chemist and became head of the Department of Insecticides and Fungicides at the ICI Plant Protection Division at Jealott's Hill. He then moved to Rothamsted Experimental Station where he became Deputy Director before becoming Director of East Malling Research Station. He was Principal and Vice-Chancellor of the University of Dundee until his retirement last year. Dr Graham-Bryce published extensively on soil science, plant nutrition, crop protection and environmental affairs. His book, Physical Principals of Pesticide Behaviour, is recognised as the standard work on this topic.

PBI's Hat-trick of Hat-tricks

The award of a BCPC Medal to Peter Scott and the election of Roy Johnson to Honorary Membership of BSPP completes a remarkable series of awards (see below) for them and their colleague at the former Plant Breeding Institute in Cambridge, Martin Wolfe.

Together, the awards recognise the leading role that they and the PBI took in the breeding of modern, disease-resistant varieties of cereal crops and in the development of strategies for disease control. When Roy Johnson was awarded his Honorary Membership at the BSPP Conference Dinner in December, he was (most unusually!) lost for words. This is a short message from Roy:

On receiving the award of Honorary Membership of the BSPP at the President's dinner I wished to give a short response. I did not do it very well, perhaps because all the blood had left my head, and was busy elsewhere helping with digesting the excellent dinner. My message was brief and should have been something like the following.

"I feel I must respond to this very kind award to me of Honorary Membership, although I am not quite sure that I really merit it. But anyway, I have it! When I was at the Plant Breeding Institute, there were three offices next to each other, with me in the centre one, Peter Scott in one and Martin Wolfe in the other. All three of us have been Presidents of the BSPP, have received BCPC medals, and been awarded Honorary Membership of the BSPP. I think my own deep involvement with the BSPP was stimulated by the great enthusiasm for the founding and development of our Society by Martin Wolfe and Peter Scott, so I like to think I owe this present award to me, in part, to them."

 "I have just one more comment. It seems to me, if it does not sound too macabre, or at least, no more so than in the marriage service, that I will hold this honorary position with the Society 'until death us do part', which makes me very happy."

I would like to take this opportunity, also, to thank the President (John Mansfield) for the gift I received on this occasion, which was a lovely print of an artistic impression of wheat plants, beautifully framed, and produced by John Mansfield's daughter. It will be a lasting reminder of the kindness I received and recognition given by the award of Honorary Membership."

Roy Johnson