These reports are written by the beneficiaries of our event organisation fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
4th – 7th April 2022, University of Sheffield, UK
Plants, including agricultural and horticultural crops, are under constant threat from attack by pests and disease. These threats are perhaps more important than ever to manage, as global food production levels need to rise, whilst new threats emerge because of climate change and loss of effective pesticides. Understanding and plant-microbe and plant-insect interactions – both pathogenic and beneficial – is of central importance for the future crop protection, as well as delivering broader insights into plant molecular biology, biochemistry, physiology, and ecology.
These were the issues discussed by delegates attending IOBC-WPRS PR-IR 2022: ‘Priming the Future for Healthy Plants’. This conference was a joint meeting of the PR proteins special interest group and the ‘Induced Resistance in Plants Against Insects and Diseases’ working group of the International Organisation for Biological Control (IOBC). It is the latest in a series of IOBC meetings originally initiated in 2001 to provide a forum for researchers on plant responses to microbial pathogens and invertebrate herbivores to exchange information and discuss the latest ideas on induced resistance. The focus is on fundamental science, but with a view to the potential to exploit new understanding for crop protection.
The meeting was originally scheduled for September 2020, but after several changes of plan, eventually ran as a hybrid meeting in April 2022. Around 75 people attended in-person and another 35 joined us online, between them representing nearly 20 different countries across four continents. Over three and a half days, we covered topics ranging from mechanisms for initial perception of pests and pathogens and signalling pathways for induced resistance, to the ways in which multitrophic interactions with microbiomes and natural enemies influence the relationships between plants and their pests and pathogens. The meeting was organised as a series of themed sessions, each including a mix of invited speakers by established researchers and shorter talks by early career researchers selected from submitted abstracts.
Highlights from the first session, ‘Perception and Signalling’ included updates from Jurgen Zeier (Germany) and Christine Faulkner (UK) on different mechanisms for systemic signalling during induced resistance, and insights into the new field of plant recognition of damaged self molecules from Martin Heil (Mexico) and Leila Rassizadeh (Spain). Day 2 was the most intensive day, with sessions on ‘Transcriptional Control’, ‘Cell Wall Immunity’ and ‘Epigenetic regulation’, followed by posters in the evening. On transcriptional control, there were several talks covering large-scale network construction and identification of genes by association mapping based on collections of ‘omics data (Fumi Katagiri, USA; Saskia van Wees, Netherlands; Andrea Harper, UK). The session on epigenetics provided exciting tastes of the emerging understanding of how long-term memories of stress may be encoded via DNA methylation and histone modifications (e.g. Melissa Mageroy, Norway and Anikó Meijer, Belgium). There were then lively discussions over posters, fuelled by wine and beer, which would have continued for longer had the building not had to close! The following morning saw several talks on the theme of the role of the soil microbiome in plant immunity. A highlight was an interesting and entertaining insight into how microbes can be developed into commercial biocontrol solutions (Sjoerd van der Ent, Koppert Biological Systems, Netherlands). That was followed by talks demonstrating the power of hyperspectral imaging as a tool for rapid phenotyping of stress responses (Matheus Kuska, Germany and Stephen Rolfe, UK). The rest of the day was reserved for social events. The afternoon provided an opportunity for an excursion to Chatsworth House in the Peak District, where a traditional afternoon tea gave some delegates their first experience of the quintessentially English scone with jam and cream. In the evening, we were treated to a gala dinner at Sheffield City Hall, which was followed by some energetic displays of dancing after Estrella Luna’s group took control of the music system!
Despite the activities of the night before, the final day began on time with the last of the main sessions, which covered ‘Tri-trophic and community interactions’. Here, we heard various accounts of how plant interactions with herbivores and pathogens can be affected by microbial communities or specific beneficial fungi including arbuscular mycorrhiza, by herbivore natural enemies, and even by neighbouring plants (e.g. Ainhoa Martinez-Medina, Spain; Christelle Robert, Switzerland and Sharon Zytynska, UK). The conference closed with a final session entitled ‘Past, Present and Future of Induced Resistance Research’ during which two major players in the field, Uwe Conrath (Germany) and Maria Jose Pozo (Spain) outlined their views on the major landmarks in induced resistance research, and the potential for translating our knowledge into agricultural crop protection solutions. These very well received talks were followed by presentations of awards for the best student talks (Leila Rassizadeh, Spain and Rémi Pelissier, France) and posters (Maitreyee Sarma, Belgium and Sabine Engel, Germany).
Overall, there was a very positive feeling around the conference, with many people attending their first in-person meeting for 2 years. The meeting was large enough to allow us to cover a good range of topics with eminent invited speakers, but small enough to allow a friendly, collegiate atmosphere in which it was easy for students and early career researchers to interact with more senior colleagues.
The organising committee of Jurriaan Ton (University of Sheffield), Victor Flors (University Jaume I), Mike Roberts (Lancaster University) and Estrella Luna (University of Birmingham), would like to give thanks to all our sponsors: British Society for Plant Pathology, Crop Health and Protection UK Agri-Tech Innovation Centre (CHAP), SEB, Company of Biologists, and Frontiers in Plant Science.
Impact and Outcomes
- BSPP were represented at the meeting by Programme Secretary Eric Boa, who had a publicity stand.
BSPP’s sponsorship of the meeting was also recognised by including society information in the printed programme provided to delegates, and inclusion of the BSPP logo on the conference web page and in slides used during the opening of the meeting and during breaks.
- Excellent feedback was received from delegates, both through word of mouth and via our post-meeting feedback questionnaire, in which the ‘general organisation’, ‘technical running of the conference’, and most importantly, ‘quality of scientific programme’, all scored of ~4.6 out of 5. When asked “Will you be keeping in touch or following up on discussion with a speaker or anyone else you met?” 23 respondents said ‘Yes’ with the remaining 8 responses indicating ‘Maybe’.
- The event was showcased through Twitter using the account @IOBCIR and the hashtag #IOBCSHEFF. The account has ~200 followers. During the conference, the Twitter activity with nearly 80 tweets gathered 33.3K impressions, 13.9K profile visits and 27 mentions.
- IOBC gained new members via conference registrations.
- The Conference was supported by the journal Frontiers in Plant Science, who are planning a special issue linked to the meeting.