BSPP News Autumn 2001 - Online Edition

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

People and Places

Dr Dawn Arnold

Dr Dawn Arnold (Centre for Research in Plant Science, UWE-Bristol) was awarded First Prize in the section "Recognition of Pathogens by Plants" at the 10th International Congress on Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions in Madison, USA in July. Dawn, who was part-funded by a BSPP bursary to attend the meeting, received her $150 prize for a poster, entitled "Molecular characterization of avrPphD, a widely-distributed gene from Pseudomonas syringae pv. phaseolicola involved in non-host recognition by pea (Pisum sativum)". It was one of 81 in its category that was judged to have made the most significant scientific contribution to the meeting.

Horticulture Research International

HRI has recently had its MAFF (now DEFRA) review of research in horticulture. The quality of the science of the research projects on plant diseases and pests was highly praised by the panel of assessors.  In the autumn, the research at HRI will be assessed again by the visiting group. HRI is aiming to maintain its high standard of research in plant pathogens affecting the horticultural industry.


Several new projects started at HRI last spring/summer, or funding was agreed upon. DFID and CPP have funded a development study on the characterisation of the finger millet blast pathogen with Dr Sreenivasaprasad. This initial project will be followed by a new 3 year DFID-CPP project on 'Characterisation and management of finger millet blast in East Africa', which has just been approved with Queens University in Belfast, ICRISAT and SAARI (Uganda). 

Funding for three new MAFF projects has been agreed within Nicola Spence's group, one on Mushroom virus X, one on Pepino mosaic virus and one on Top fruit virology. A new four-year EU-INCO project on sustainable management of apple diseases in Asia, co-ordinated by Xiangming Xu, has started in July. 

Ralph Noble and John Whipps were successful in obtaining an EU Framework V bid entitled "Recycling horticultural wastes to produce pathogen suppressant composts for sustainable vegetable crop production". Ralph is both co-ordinator of this project involving 14 collaborators across Europe and co-ordinator of a cluster involving another similar composting and disease control project. 

The HortLINK project 'White cabbage: reducing losses from internal disorders and improving supply - the role of virus infection' led by John Walsh was extended on 1 April. 

Rosemary Collier, Stan Finch, Kath Phelps and Richard Reader have started a new three-year MAFF-funded project entitled 'Spatial dynamics and predictive modelling of large narcissus fly (Merodon equestris) populations', which will be done in collaboration with ADAS. Rosemary Collier and Andrew Mead are about to start a new three-year MAFF-funded project entitled 'A risk management system for controlling foliar pests of brassicas'.  It will be done in collaboration with ADAS. 

MAFF have begun funding three linked projects within the Entomology department to act as a framework for the development of biological pest control on horticultural crops. The movement of pests and natural enemies will be investigated in relation to plant and crop structure, the topographical aspects of plants and natural enemy refuges on nurseries, food availability and leaf boundary layer microclimates. 

A new three-year MAFF funded project has begun within Mike Solomon's group, to investigate the relationships between phytophagous and predatory mites, in situations where some predatory species occur naturally and others are introduced artificially. An understanding of the interactions between predatory species will inform the development of biocontrol management strategies.


HRI - The Plant Pathology and Microbiology Department during a visit to Wisley Gardens in August

A considerable amount of information on research projects at HRI was presented at various meetings. Yiguo Hong, Nicola Spence, Dave Chandler, Michael de Courcy Williams and Mike Solomon participated in a workshop at NRI to discuss priorities for control of whitefly and the viruses they transmit, in the second phase of the Systems-wide Programme on Global Whitefly IPM. 

Dr Sreenivasaprasad visited the Bangladesh Rice Research Institute in Dhaka, the University of Madras and the Central Rice Research Institute (CRRI) in Orissa in India, where he delivered a seminar on 'Application of molecular tools for characterisation of the rice blast and sheath blight pathogens'. Nicola Spence and Sara Hughes visited Kenya in April as part of a DFID project on management of viruses of vegetables. Roy Kennedy was invited to talk to the field vegetable panel of the HDC on detection of plant pathogens in the air in March. 

Xiangming Xu gave a presentation on modelling Fusarium ear blight of wheat at the BMS conference on bioactive fungal metabolites: impact and exploitation in April in Swansea. John Whipps also attended this conference. Tijs Gilles and Xiangming Xu attended the 8th International Workshop of Plant Disease Eidemiology in May in Brazil (see the report in this issue). 

John Whipps presented an invited lecture at SAC Auchincruive, Scotland entitled "Risk assessment associated with the release of a genetically modified Pseudomonas fluorescens in the field", and he chaired a session and presented a paper entitled "Biocontrol activity of Pythium oligandrum and Coniothyrium minitans in pelleted and film-coated seed at the BCPC Symposium on Seed Treatment, Wishaw, Warwickshire. Paul Hunter made an oral presentation on the NERC-EDGE funded work he has been carrying out in John Walsh's group on turnip mosaic virus in wild brassica species in the UK at the third Annual meeting of the NERC 'Ecological Dynamics and Genes' initiative in Oxford. 

Stan Finch and Rosemary Collier attended the 53rd International symposium on Crop Protection in Ghent, Belgium on 8 May. Stan made a presentation in the Plenary Session entitled 'Crop protection in field vegetables - could we cope without synthetic pesticides?' and Rosemary chaired a session on IPM. 
A meeting of the Association of Applied Biologists, on Mites in Applied and Ecological Research, took place at HRI Wellesbourne in April. This is a research area in which HRI is dominating in the UK. The meeting was organised by Michael de Courcy Williams and Jean Fitzgerald. 

Mike Solomon hosted a meeting of the Insecticide Resistance Action Group at HRI East Malling in May. IRAG is a group of UK researchers with a common interest in patterns of development of resistance to pesticides, and in developing pest management strategies that avoid or delay the onset of resistance. 

HRI's annual mushroom day for growers took place in June. The meeting was mainly focused on research work on Virus X, which is the most important problem for mushroom growers in the UK. Roy Kennedy visited Dr Arne Hermansen at the Norwegian Crop Research Institute to discuss Alternaria brassicae (dark leaf spot) on Chinese cabbage. During this visit he also gave a presentation on forecasting of diseases in vegetables for the Norwegian Plant Pathology Society.

Commercial activities

Rosemary Collier and Andrew Jukes have a commercial contract to evaluate insecticidal seed treatments for carrot fly control. Rosemary Collier and HRI Kirton have a contract with Stockbridge Technology Centre to evaluate a new insecticide for caterpillar control on brassicas. A commercial contract to test the efficacy of a novel synthetic pyrethroid for fly knock down has been awarded to Jane Smith.

Tijs Gilles

Central Science Laboratory 

Plant Health Group celebrates 5 years this autumn in their new facility at the Central Science Laboratory since moving to York in late 1996.  Plant Health aside, staff from several teams including those in the Crop Disease Research Team have had varied involvement in the Foot and Mouth crisis since the outbreaks began in the spring of 2001.  Both Nigel Hardwick and Phil Jennings have "served time" and with Nigel still away, Judith Turner has been deputising as Team Leader during his absence.

Despite FMD there has been a good response from farmers to the cereal diseases surveys.  Sampling was not undertaken in the 3 km restriction zones, so there will not be the usual full stratification available.  However, numbers of samples were maintained and the results for England and Wales will stand comparison with previous years.  First indications are that cereal diseases in 2001 were well below average.

Staff in the Plant Health Consultancy Team have made assorted overseas trips.  David Jones was in Australia during June 2001 to attend the Australian Banana Industry Congress, visiting scientists engaged in banana research as well as those working in the area of plant quarantine.  David was a keynote speaker at the Congress held in Cairns, Queensland giving a talk on exotic disease threats to the Australian banana industry, which is facing a crisis due to recent outbreaks of Black Sigatoka, a serious leaf spot disease caused by the fungal pathogen Mycosphaerella fijiensis.  Other aspects of the Congress were related to the quarantine implications of a proposal to import banana fruit into Australia from the Philippines as well as on genetic engineering to improve the crop species.  David later held discussions with plant pathologists at the Queensland Department of Primary Industries in Brisbane who undertake research into banana pathogens.  In Canberra, he visited Plant Biosecurity and Plant Protection Branch at Agriculture, Fisheries and Food Australia to discuss approaches to Pest Risk Analysis and to acquaint himself with the Australian Pest and Disease Database.

The EC Fifth Framework Project "Karnal bunt risks" co-ordinated by Claire Sansford is now in its second year and the second annual Project meeting was held in Raleigh, North Carolina attended by 13 members of the Project consortium (see photograph) including (from CSL) Claire, Richard Baker, Alan Inman and Kelvin Hughes.  On the first day of the meeting Ron Sequeira (APHIS, USDA) gave a presentation on the USDA approach to mapping the risk of Karnal bunt establishing in the USA.

CSL - EU Fifth Framework Tilletia indica Project Team, Raleigh, NC, USA, May 2001. 
From left: Gordon Murray, Richard Baker, John Porter, Haakon Magnus, Frank Ewert, Kelvin Hughes, Claire Sansford, Angelo Porta-Puglia, Paul Kelly, Gary Peterson, Alan Inman, Beniamino Gioli, Kirsten Thinggaard.

Peter Sellar's team (Plant Disease Diagnosis) have entered a new era with the retirement of Roger Cook in June 2001.  Roger maintains his interest in Plant Pathology and has been working at RHS Wisley on a temporary basis during the summer.

New Disease Reports (Senior Editor Claire Sansford) has proven to be more than successful with approximately 60 submissions in the first 7 months of 2001 (we anticipated 20 submissions a year).

Finally, CSL hosted the 11th International Sclerotinia Workshop at the beginning of July (for report see elsewhere in this issue). 

Claire Sansford

Institute of Arable Crops Research 

Summer is when the thoughts of lab-based plant pathologists turn to the field, or better still to conferences in exotic locations overseas.  This year was no exception.

In May, Bruce Fitt, Alastair McCartney, Clive Bock, Darren Lovell and Sarah Case, a PhD student, together with Mike Shaw at Reading University, attended the 8th International Workshop on Plant Disease Epidemiology, Ouro Preto, Brazil. Ouro Preto (Black Gold) is a world heritage site, and the historic centre of the Brazilian gold and gemstones trade. Altogether the IACR group contributed two papers and 13 posters on diverse aspects of cereal and oilseed disease epidemiology (see report in this issue). 

During July, Alastair McCartney and another of our postgraduate students Yong-Ju Huang attended "Sclerotinia 2001": the 11th International Sclerotinia workshop held at CSL, York.  Eighty-four delegates representing about 17 different countries attended. Papers were presented on ascospores, petals and infection of oilseed rape by Sclerotinia sclerotiorum, and the use of PCR assays to detect inoculum of Sclerotinia spp. 

Meanwhile three young members of the Molecular Pathology group at Long Ashton were bound for the USA and the 10th International Congress of Molecular Plant-Microbe Interactions meeting in Madison on the shores of lake Monona, Wisconsin. Amidst soaring summer temperatures of 35° C in the shade they presented four posters and an invited talk in the Cell Biology section. Raffaella Carzaniga described her work with Richard O'Connell and Paul Bowyer using phage antibodies to detect melanin precursors in fungal cell walls. This novel approach proved of interest to many other scientists working on this intriguing multi-functional pigment and its involvement in pathogenicity. Sabine Perrone presented two posters on signal perception in the cereal eyespot pathogen Tapesia yallundae. These reported how infection plaque formation can be triggered in vitro using synthetic substrata, and the possible involvement of G proteins and stretch-activated calcium channels in this process. Earlier in the year Sabine had described aspects of this research at the Congress of the South African Society for Plant Pathology held in Mpumalanga, SA, and then subsequently spent one month working with Pedro Crous at Stellenbosch on another cereal disease, net blotch of barley. Recent EST data on Mycosphaerella graminicola was presented by Wendy Skinner in the Functional Genomics poster section joint with John Hargreaves and John Keon. Predictably, the majority of functional genomics projects presented centred around the effect of infection on the host, rather than the pathogen. Following the MPMI meeting Wendy visited the plant pathology section of Paradigm Genetics Inc. and presented a short talk on this work. Paradigm Genetics are also working on M. graminicola, using transposon disruption in vitro to identify genes necessary for pathogenicity in M. graminicola.

During May, Raffaella Carzaniga spent one month as a visiting fellow in Professor Nam-hai Chua's laboratory of Plant Molecular Biology at Rockefeller University supported by a BBSRC International Scientific Interchange Scheme grant. She writes "Rockefeller University is located in the heart of Manhattan on the East side. When you are walking through the beautiful campus completely in blossom with rhododendrons and surrounded by sculptures of the Museum of Modern Art, you can breathe the atmosphere of 100 years of high quality science. Over the years many Nobel laureates have come from Rockefeller. On the 16th floor of the Weiss Research building there is one of the leading centres for plant cell biology, the research group of Professor Chua, comprising fifteen postdocs and four technicians that are working day and night. Everybody has a different research program but the common denominator is the tiny and super-exploited plant, Arabidopsis. The research is investigating how higher plants respond to signals such as light intensity, hormones, and disease, as well as how plants carry out the developmental programs specified in their genes. They are identifying and characterizing the components of these processes using a combined molecular, genetic, and biochemical approach. Today with non-invasive available tools, such as GFP targeted to specific organelles and live cell confocal imaging, we can dissect the complexity of plant cell responses to invasion by biotrophic pathogens at the cellular or molecular level." The aim of Raffa's visit was to initiate a new collaborative project on imaging cytoplasmic re-organisation during biotrophic infections of Arabidopsis by Peronospora parasitica, using transgenic Arabidopsis lines expressing GFP targeted to the cytoskeleton or particular organelles. 

While many have been off on jaunts overseas, we have also been welcoming international visitors to Rothamsted. Jaeyong Yoo from Dongbu Hannong Chemicals, South Korea, has arrived to work with Bart Fraaije on the use of molecular diagnostics to detect fungicide resistance. Another recent visitor to Bart's lab is Thais Guaratini, a pharmaceutical science student from the Riberao Preto campus of the University of Sao Paulo, Brazil. Thais is the second student from this degree course to do her placement in a pathology lab in IACR.

Finally we are pleased to welcome Martin Croft from the University of Birmingham who is working with Clive Bock on Rhynchosporium for 10 weeks funded by a BSPP summer bursary.

John Lucas

University of Hertfordshire

Another year has rolled by and we have managed to keep plant pathology on the map at UH, both for undergraduates and postgraduates! Plant pathology features as part of the first and second year mycology courses on the Bioscience degrees and also in second and final year courses on the Environmental Sciences degrees ( Most years a couple of students do a sandwich placement year in either crop protection or plant pathology. Also, over the years a good number of UH (and Hatfield Polytechnic) graduates have gone on to work in plant pathology or crop protection, which makes arranging visits to companies and research stations simple and, for me, doubly interesting.

I gave a talk to the Cambridge Mycology and Plant Pathology Club in the Spring term, and as a result of this, was asked by Dr Henry Tribe to contribute the plant disease element to the BMS stand at the 
Chelsea Flower show. The theme for the stand was 'Fungi of House and Garden' and covered everything from rotting beams in the house, to the airspora, plant diseases of garden plants and fairy rings in the 
lawn. It was a very good experience in the public understanding of "our" science! Most questions focused on controlling plant diseases without chemicals, but the concept that fungi could be friendly and a normal part of the garden ecosystem was clearly a new concept to many. It was good to talk to people about plant diseases and a very valuable opportunity to put the science of plant pathology in the public eye.

The rose black spot project (DEFRA) is now in the last few months and we are very busy collecting the last of the epidemiological data. We are particularly pleased with results that we are getting from our own 'splashmeter', built to Mike Shaw's specifications. Alefyah Ali is busy with field sites both at our field station (Bayfordbury) and at the Garden of the Rose, in St Albans.Work on biological control of canker on rape continues here at UH. This summer for the second year running Monica Maksymiak has been joined by a local sixth former who is funded by the Nuffield Foundation. It is a scheme which is designed to give A level students an experience of research and get a nationally recognised award for their work. On the subject of summer students it is worth recording that Elizabeth Simms, who was a UH student who had a BSPP Bursary at Rothamsted two years ago, was awarded a first last summer and has now completed the first year of a PhD here at Hatfield. Beth Byron who had a BSPP bursary with me here at UH last summer has now completed her degree in the States and is returning to study here for an MSc by research, supervised by me.

The link with Rothamsted continues, with Aipo Diao being awarded his PhD on Soil Borne Wheat Mosaic Virus in the spring, and Yong-ju Huang who works on canker of rape with Bruce Fitt, completing the first two years of her PhD.

Avice Hall

Cambridge Mycology and Plant Pathology Club 

President: Roy Johnson
Two meetings were held during the Michaelmas and Lent Terms in the Department of Plant Sciences, University of Cambridge.

Frank van den Bosch of IACR Rothamsted introduced us to some preliminary findings under the theme 'Longevity and deployment of resistance' on 17 November 2000. This was a collaborative project with Professor Chris Gilligan, Cambridge, which aimed to establish a theoretical framework for exploiting resistance. Traditionally longevity of resistance has been measured as the time  or number of generations to reach a pre-set frequency of virulence using a fraction of virulence factor. Is this the most useful approach? Surely it would be an advantage if there was some measure of the "gain", such as yield benefit. Resistance has been deployed in three main ways: 1. through varying the fraction of crops with resistance (cropping ratio), 2. periodic deployment (e.g. stop/start use) , 3. using crops as a refuge to maintain avirulent types. In this project, measures of longevity had been developed in relation to varying cropping ratios using time for virulent types to develop, the growth rate of the virulent pathogen and the number of uninfected plant growth days. The impact of a 'cost of virulence' factor had also been incorporated. The speaker left us with more questions that answers and we look forward to hearing how the project develops.

'From morphology to molecular biology - is there an answer for rose black spot' was review of an on-going DEFRA-funded project presented by Avice Hall of the University of Hertfordshire on 23 February 2001. Collaborators on the project included CABI Biosciences, CSL and RHS Wisley. Continuing problems with such a well known disease is often an indicator of a difficult pathogen and the rose black spot pathogen (Diplocarpon rosae) proved the point. A collection of isolates from the UK and elsewhere is being examined for morphological and molecular characteristics, pathogenicity and fungicide sensitivity. Epidemiology and techniques to improve selection of resistant cultivars also form part of the project. Early results suggest that there will be practical benefits for rose growers, a reflection of the wide range of techniques and expertise brought together in the project.

The Club was pleased to welcome Roy Johnson as its new president in January 2001 for a second term of office (see August issue of Plant Pathology for biographical details). Henry Tribe decided it was time to bow out after holding office since 1994. He has played a large part in maintaining the revival of our activities, culminating in the 50th Anniversary meeting in 2000. I would like to express our gratitude to Henry for his support and enthusiasm.

It is hoped that we can increase the number of meetings again next term - offers are always welcomed!
For further information about meetings contact Peter Gladders, ADAS Boxworth. (01954 268230; email

Peter Gladders