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The biannual GARNet meeting was host ed by GARNet committee member Andrea Harper in the Ron Cooke Hub at the University of York. The aim of this two-day meeting was to showcase current technology and expertise both in UK and international plant science. To that end the GARNet Advisory Committee developed a program that included a mix of early career researchers and more established faculty.
In order to support ECRs the meeting included fifteen two-minute flash talks that allowed delegates to introduce their posters before the official poster session. Added to the 10 speakers selected from submitted abstracts, the meeting gave opportunities for 25 registered delegates to present their work in a short talk. The meeting was split into five sessions and was introduced by the GARNet chairman Jim Murray who highlighted GARNet achievements over the past four years and our plans for the future. The first session was entitled ‘Large Scale Biology’ and was highlighted by Cristiane Calixto from the James Hutton Institute who provided an exciting, enthusiastic talk about their development of a new annotation for the Arabidopsis genome that provides additional support for alternatively spliced variants. In particular they are interested in plant responses to cold temperature as highlighted in a recent publication in The Plant Cell. Cristiane confirmed that all of the data they have produced is freely available to the community which dove tailed nicely with the next presentation provided by Professor Andrew Millar who gave an introduction to the principles and benefits of open data in a talk entitled ‘Being more open by being more productive’. Professor Millar’s talk is available online at the GARNet YouTube page. In addition to this formal talk Andrew also hosted a lunchtime discussion session in which attendees gave their personal and institutional experiences of using and providing open data. Lucia Strader from Washington University in St Louis provided the opening talk in the second session that was entitled ‘Innovations in Hormone Signaling’ where she gave an overview of her group’s discoveries of novel aspects of the auxin response. Tom Bennett (University of Leeds) also gave a thought-provoking talk about the ways in which plants decide the number of flowers and branches that it ultimately forms. Branching was the theme of the keynote talk that was provided by Otto line Leyser who, as a previous GARNet PI and academic at the University of York, returned ‘home’ to give an over view of her group’s work on the hormone signals that control the growth of lateral buds. Session III: Interacting with the environment was kindly sponsored by the British Society of Plant Pathology and was highlighted by a talk by Richard Buggs from Kew Science and QMUL. He updated the meeting on current efforts that aim to tackle the progression of Ash Dieback disease. Richard started his talk with an amended quote from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina that highlight ed the importance of model organisms and in particular Arabidopsis: ‘….in getting to know thoroughly one’s plant The second Grand Challenges in Plant Pathology Interdisciplinary Study Group took place at Chicheley Hall from 25th – 28th September 2018. The meeting was attended by 30 graduate and post graduate researchers and 9 champions from 25 universities, research institutes, non-profit organisations and industry. The meeting started with a relaxing, informal dinner giving participants the chance to meet each other and to enjoy Chicheley Hall and its surrounding gar dens. At the beginning of each of the following two days the early career re searchers had the opportunity to introduce themselves and their research before breaking into working groups focusing on a particular challenge brought forward by the champions. On the first day Keith Norman from Vel species, one gets to know all plant bet ter than if one knew thousands of them….’. Richard’s talk was really enthusiastic and highlighted why he has been such an excellent advocate for ash dieback research in the UK and beyond. This session also included an invited talk from Katherine Denby (N8 Agri food, University of York), who described the broad collaborative efforts that she has led that have attempted to dissect defense signaling through use of systems biology approaches. Contrary to some thoughts, GARNet activities support more than just research in Arabidopsis and Session IV: Out of Arabidopsis highlighted the great UK research occurring in Wheat and Brassica. Cristobal Uauy (John Innes Centre) and colleagues in the global wheat community have produced a remarkable set of genomic, mutant and phenotyping resources. These new tools are now establishing wheat as a viable model to conduct both mutant studies and the type of cell and molecular biology analysis previously only possible in more accessible genetic models. Also working at the John Innes Centre, Rachel Wells is the project coordinator of the BBSRC-sponsored BRAVO project that aims to improve reliability, yield and quality in Brassica oilseed crops and includes a broad consortium of UK researchers. George Bassel (University of Birmingham) chaired the final session that was broadly titled ‘Novel methods in Cell Biology and Imaging’ and also present ed an exciting talk on his work that aims to quantify the factors that control interactions between cells and allow them to arrange into organs. The final plenary was provided by Minako Ueda who travelled from Nagoya for the meeting. Minako excitedly presented her outstanding live images of the events that occur during zygote formation and early embryogenesis. It was a fitting end to a meeting that was characterised throughout by excellent science. The approximately 80 delegates who attended the meeting included a majority of people from Northern universities; Leeds, York and Edinburgh. Very few delegates travelled from major plant science centres in the south of the UK. It is unclear whether the schedule was not of interest or whether researchers didn’t want to venture too far north! However, this geographic distribution of delegates does highlight the importance of GARNet arranging events all around the UK. Thanks to SEB, British Society of Plant Pathology, the High Value Com pounds from Plants Network and all our other sponsors for their support.