BSPP News Autumn 2001 - Online Edition

The Newsletter of the British Society for Plant Pathology
Number 40, Autumn 2001 

Contents of BSPP Newsletter 40

New BSPP Membership and Programme Secretaries for 2002-6

Matt Dickinson has been appointed as the BSPP Programme Secretary from 2002. Matt studied for his PhD in the Virus Research Department at the John Innes Centre in Norwich before moving to the CSIRO Division of Plant Industry in Canberra for three years as a research fellow to work on the cereal rust fungi. He then returned to the Sainsbury Laboratory at the John Innes Centre to work on resistance genes in tomato against Cladosporium fulvum before taking up his current appointment in 1992 as a lecturer in molecular plant pathology at the University of Nottingham. With the rust fungi remaining his primary area of interest, particularly the molecular basis of pathogenicity and the molecular genetics of the cereal rust fungi, he is also involved in a number of other projects on plant pathogenic fungi and also the Phytoplasmas, both at Nottingham and in collaborations particularly with IACR-Rothamsted. Matt joined the BSPP in the early 1990's and has been to many of its Conferences over the years. 

Emily Taylor has been appointed as the new BSPP Membership Secretary from 2002. Emily's first degree was in Biological Sciences at UEA and her PhD at the University of Nottingham was under the guidance of  Professors John Peberdy and John Lucas and unofficially supervised by Dr Mark Hocart. She then went to Sao Paolo, Brazil for six months as an Associate Professor to set up a molecular biology laboratory and develop RFLP markers for strain improvement of Metarhizium anisopliae, an entomopathogenic fungus on sugar cane.  She is currently at NIAB where she works as a project leader in the Molecular Research Group. Research interests include developing new diagnostic tests for seed health, which include bacterial, fungal and nematode pathogens on various crops. Her research has also focussed on identification, genetic diversity and evolution of Pyrenophora spp. pathogenic on barley with an aim to understand better how to control this seedborne disease complex.

Editorial: What do all those genes do?

A revolution is taking place in biology, not from brilliant theories or perceptive insights but through the collection of massive amounts of data from gene and genome sequencing.  As the cost of acquiring DNA sequence has fallen exponentially, the amount of data acquired has risen just as fast.  Now plant pathologists are getting in on the act and, as was evident at this year's International Symposium on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions (see pp.15-24), no pathogen can truly feel at home at a scientific conference without its EST library, its differential gene expression analysis and, for the lucky few, its genome sequence.

The next big challenge after collecting these vast amounts of sequence data is to make sense of them through bioinformatics.  The first key step, which a few of the best-studied genomics projects have reached, is that of intelligent comparison: what genes are expressed in salicylate-mediated versus jasmonate-mediated defence, for example, or what genes do parasitic organisms have that saprotrophs don't?  Next comes the challenge of integrating these huge bodies of data into a coherent picture of how an organism works.  Knowing what bits and pieces make up an organism may be hard enough but learning how this vast collection of moving parts all interact with other seems - at the moment - to be orders of magnitude harder still.

This gives rise to two further, perhaps even greater challenges.  One is the perennial problem of scientific inference: separating cause-and-effect from mere correlation or sheer coincidence.  This will diminish if scientists and funding bodies also rise to another challenge: that of  understanding many species, not merely the few that happen to be significant as model organisms.  In data-driven science, hypotheses based on a broad range of organisms are stronger than those based on limited comparisons.  It has become fashionable, not least among UK research funding bodies, to talk of biology as being in a 'post-genomics era' but for many of the most important diseases we are barely out of the pre-genetics era and there's a lot of catching up to do.

James Brown

BSPP Travel Bursaries

The following members have been awarded BSPP Travel Bursaries to assist them to attend scientific meetings:

Alison Wright, Institute of Grassland and Environmental Research, for the American Phytopathological Society Meeting at Salt Lake City.
Joanne Ayriss, Institute of Arable Crops Research-Long Ashton, Katherine Pixton, University of Birmingham and Henry Wood, University of Nottingham, for the Fungal Genetics Meeting in California.
Tijs Gilles, Horticulture Research International-Wellesbourne, Steven Parker, ADAS, High Mowthorpe and Doug Bailey, University of Cambridge, for the 8th International Workshop on Plant Disease Epidemiology in Brazil.
Richard Cooper, University of Bath, for the Verticillium Symposium in Valencia, Spain.
Eftihia Tsomlexoglou, University of Aberdeen, for the 13th International Reinhardsbrunn Symposium on Modern Fungicides and Antifungal Compounds in Germany.
Barbara Pennypacker, Penn State University, Mark McQuilken, Scottish Agricultural College Auchincruive and Vivienne Geppe, Uruguayan University, for the Sclerotinia 2001 Meeting in York.
Monica Maksymiak, University of Hertfordshire, for the British Mycological Society Meeting.
Kenneth Bell and Anna Avrova, SCRI, Thomas Dodd, University of Sheffield, Paraskevi Skamnioti and Jacqueline Garrood, John Innes Centre, Lucy Nott and Jane Byrne, HRI Wellesbourne, Dawn Arnold, University of the West of England, George Tsiamis, Imperial College at Wye and  Sarah Gurr, University of Oxford, for the MPMI Meeting in Madison, USA
Stephen Woodward, University of Aberdeen, for the International Union of Forest Research Organizations Root and Butt Rot meeting in Quebec, Canada
Helen Stewart, Scottish Crop Research Institute, for the European Association for Potato Research Meeting in Poland
George Salmond, University of Cambridge, for the International Symposium on Microbial Ecology

New Members of BSPP

We warmly welcome the following new members, who have recently joined BSPP:

Mr Hassan Ammouneh, a postgraduate student from Imperial College at Wye, working on molecular genetics of bacterial pathogens.

Susanna Atwell, a summer bursary recipient from Imperial College at Wye.

Dr Jennie L Brierley, from the Scottish Crop Research Institute, whose interests include the epidemiology of potato blackleg.

Mr Andrea Chini, a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, working on mildews and Pseudomonas pathogens in Arabidopsis.

Dr Robert H A Coutts, of Imperial College, whose interests include the molecular biology of viral pathogens of vegetable crops.

Dr Emma Coventry, from HRI Wellesbourne, whose interests include biocontrol of Sclerotium cepivorum and Botrytis.

Mr Martin Croft, a summer bursary recipient from the University of Birmingham.

Miss Xiaohui Cui, a postgraduate student at the Scottish Agricultural College, Edinburgh, working on resistance in bacterial pathogens of celery and broccoli.

Mr Dewi S Davies, a summer bursary recipient from UCNW, Bangor.

Tina Demsar, a postgraduate student at the National Institute of Biology, Slovenia, working on bacterial pathogens of potato and vegetable crops.

Dr Julie A Eastgate, from the University of Paisley, whose interests include the molecular biology of Erwinia amylovora.

Catherine Eyre, a summer bursary recipient from the University of Oxford.

Carolyn L Green, a summer bursary recipient from the University of Paisley.

Miss Paula S Kantola, a postgraduate student at the University of Cambridge, working on the ecology and epidemiology of root pathogens and damping-off.

Kulvinder Kaur, a summer bursary recipient from the University of Oxford.

Dr Audrey Litterick, from the Scottish Agricultural College, Aberdeen, whose interests include fungal pathogens of root, vegetable and ornamental crops.

Ms Theodora Lola-Luz, a postgraduate student at Teagasc Clonroche, Ireland, working on fungal pathogens of soft fruits.

Mr Graham RD McGrann, a postgraduate student at the Institute of Arable Crops Research, Rothamsted, working on resistance in Polymyxa graminis and barley mosaic viruses.

Prof. W Allen Miller, of Iowa State University, USA, whose interests include the molecular biology of viral pathogens in cereal crops.

Dr Silke Neumann, from the University of Nottingham, whose interests include resistance in necrotrophic fungal pathogens of wheat and grain legumes.

Dr Henry K Ngugi, from the University of Georgia, USA, whose interests include Magnaporthe and other necrotrophs in cereal and soft fruit crops.

Sergio Mota Nobre, a postgraduate student at the Universidade Federal de Vicosa, Brazil, working on the epidemiology and population biology of necrotrophic fungal pathogens in a range of crops.

Sarah Potter, a postgraduate student from the University of Sheffield, working on the physiology of Cladosporium of tomato.

Mrs Rumiana V Ray, a postgraduate student at Harper Adams University College, working on diagnostics for fungal pathogens in cereal crops.

Mr Robert W Rees, a postgraduate student at the University of Edinburgh, working on fungal and viral pathogens of cocoa.

Mr Philip Swarbrick, a postgraduate student at the University of Sheffield, working on resistance of powdery mildew in barley.

Dr Rachel L Toth, from the Scottish Crop Research Institute, whose interests include the molecular biology of viral pathogens.

Mr Christopher Williams, a postgraduate student at Horticulture Research International, Welles-bourne, working on the molecular biology of Sclerotinia and Magnaporthe.

Mr Tom Winter, summer bursary recipient from the University of Cambridge.

Mr James Woodhall, a postgraduate student at Harper Adams University, working on the epidemiology of Rhizoctonia solanii.