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The 23rd MBPP was held at University of the West of England (UWE), Bristol on the 8th -9th April 2015. This conference is held every year and its primary focus is on providing PhD students and early career post-doctoral scientists the opportunity to give oral presentations in front of a wide range of national and international researchers. This year there were 28 offered talks, 3 invited plenary lectures, 30 posters and 100 registrations from around 24 different institutions and Universities, ranging from The James Hutton Institute, Dundee to Exeter University and The Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich to Bristol University.
The meeting was opened by Prof Martin Boddy, the Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Business Engagement, who welcomed everyone to UWE. The first presentation was by an invited overseas speaker Prof Teresa Coutinho who is a Professor in the Department of Microbiology & Plant Pathology at the Forestry and Agricultural Biotechnology Institute (FABI), University of Pretoria. Her research interests include forest pathology, specifically bacterial tree pathogens. Teresa’s talk was in two parts; firstly she gave an overview of agriculture in South Africa (SA). She included a number of interesting facts and figures including the fact that there are 1700 vineyards in SA. She described the main issues for forest plant pathologists in SA and also pointed out that plant pathology is recognised as a ‘scarce skill’ in SA. She then went on to discuss what an ‘opportunistic’ plant pathogen was and to question the use and definition of the term ‘opportunistic’ in the plant pathology context. This was an interesting and thought provoking discussion. There were then a number of 10 minute presentations from offered abstracts from PhD students and post docs. There were too many to include in detail here, but to name a few Edward Dobbs (East Malling Research) described his work on sequencing dsRNA associated with mushroom virus x and how this would allow the development of qPCR tests that can be used to test compost for the virus before being used by growers. Claire Stoker (University of Warwick) gave an interesting presentation (using Prezi!) on circadian clocks and how plants infected in the morning can de fend themselves better from pathogen attacks than those infected at dusk. At the end of the first day the second invited speaker gave the traditional MBPP alcohol talk. Dr Chris Ridout (John Innes Centre) gave a presentation entitled ‘The future of beer is in the past’. Chris leads the Disease Resistance Innovation cluster at the John Innes Centre, a research programme on control of pests and diseases in crops. Chris gave the first ‘alcohol’ talk at MBPP in 2000 and during the current meeting he talked about his experience of commercialising heritage varieties and using them in barley improvement for the booming American craft brewing market.
While Chris spoke, the audience tasted a sample of one of the beers he has brewed aptly named More Beer for Plant Pathologists. Needless to say this was a very well received talk and led us nicely into the wine reception and post er session which was followed by the conference dinner. The second day was opened by Prof Pietro Spanu (Imperial College) who gave a very engaging presentation entitled ‘In pursuit of the language between kingdoms: footsteps along a path investigating molecular plant-microbe inter actions’. Pietro gave an overview of his early life and career and he weaved his own education and career development with describing some of his publications and outcomes of research. He highlight ed a number of career highs and lows and stressed that not just hard work but also some ‘luck’ can be involved in a successful scientific career. The rest of the day was full with more 10 minute presentations which were of very high quality and with excellent time keeping that could teach some ‘older’ speakers how to do it. They were also very well chaired by a number of post docs. Some examples from the range of talks were James Doonan (University of Bangor) who described the genomic analysis of bacteria associated with Acute Oak Decline including a number of interesting observations on the variations in secretion systems found between them. Bernhard Merget (James Hutton Institute) talked about the growth, colonisation and internalisation of Verocytotoxigenic Escherichia coli in fresh produce and how this investigation could lead to the development of risk assessments aimed to evaluate the production chain and identify significant risk factors. Deepa Paliwal (University of Reading) presented work on aphid killing bacteria and how they could be utilised as biological control agents. She included a description of work using RNAseq to examine the changes in aphid and bacterial gene expression during early stages of infection. Overall the meeting was a great success with very many positive comments made about it afterwards including a lot on Twitter (#mbpp2015). We would like to thank all of our sponsors but particularly BSPP who were very supportive of the meeting which allowed us to keep the registration cost down as low as possible. Several people mentioned when we offered to organise this years’ meeting that it would be good to see it go ‘up North again’ so I hope someone volunteers to hold 2016’s meeting soon! Dawn Arnold University of the West of England
Dawn Arnold University of the West of England