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BSPP2008: Cereal Pathosystems
16th December 2008 - 17th December 2008
President: Graham Jellis
Queen Mary College, London, 16 to 17 Dec 2008
The rise in food prices over the past year or two has made developed countries appreciate that its food supplies cannot be taken for granted and that food security is a real issue – something the rest of the world has been all too aware of for decades.
Today, global average wheat yields are about 2.5t/ha but an estimated 4.0t/ha will be needed to sustain the world in 2020 (Sears, 2006). At the Oxford Farming Conference in January 2008 we were reminded a number of times that by the middle of the 21st Century the world will need to produce twice as much food as now, at a time when climate change is likely to considerably reduce the production potential of some regions.
With an average yield of over 8t/ha, the UK is in the top league of wheat producers, something our industry can be proud of. We are also major users of fungicides and other pesticides and we depend on these to maintain yield. At present the European Commission and Parliament are negotiating the revision of EC directive 91/414/EEC which specifies the approval process for pesticides. ADAS have carried out an evaluation of the impact of this legislation, as it appeared in May 2008, on UK agriculture for the European Crop Protection Association. They concluded that loss in wheat production due to the withdrawal of many fungicides, including triazoles, could be between 20-32%, requiring between an extra 513-928 thousand hectares of land to produce the same crop (Clarke, 2008). Even if the final legislation does not lead to such a major withdrawal, this study demonstrates how reliant we are on relatively few groups of fungicides and the serious impact that fungal diseases have on crop productivity in the UK. We therefore urgently need alternative means of controlling diseases.
The papers published here by an international group of cereal pathologists, breeders and biotechnologists were among those presented at the 2008 Presidential Meeting of the British Society for Plant Pathology. They examine pathosystems relating to two major small-grain cereals, wheat and barley, and their important fungal and viral pathogens. Progress in understanding the development of pathogen virulence to resistant cultivars and of fungicide resistance, strategies for breeding for durable resistance and for tolerance, and disease management systems using reduced fungicide inputs are described. Much of this work uses the molecular tools that are now an every-day part of many plant pathologists’ research programmes. One exciting development is the use of PCR amplification of host and pathogen DNA to examine the history of pathosystems and to learn lessons from the past. I hope you find the collection of papers as interesting as I have.
I am grateful to Gerry Saddler, Kim Hammond-Kosack and Neil Paveley for their help in planning the conference and to all those who contributed to the publication, including my co-editor Clive Edwards and the production team comprising of Michele Charlton, Steven Burgner and Ray Ellis.
Graham Jellis President, BSPP 2008