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The British Society for Plant Pathology recently co-sponsored a meeting at the University of Exeter on the impact of Phytophthora ramorum (also known as “sudden oak death”) in the South West. Held on the 22nd February 2012, the meeting co-sponsored by an EPSRC funded Bridging-the-Gaps initiative was organized to bring together research institutes, academia, government departments, research councils and stake holders with an interest in P. ramorum. The striking impact of P. ramorum on the Devon environment galvanized local BSPP inhabitants Murray Grant, Chris Thornton and David Studholme to get together with fellow University of Exeter academics, modeler Trevor Bailey and social scientist Michael Winter (OBE) and put their collective expertise to wards providing a forum for interested parties with interdisciplinary skills to communicate the current status of re search into intervention and prevention of P. ramorum outbreaks and potential consequences – from the field to the lab. The meeting was opened by Forestry Commissioner, Sir Harry Studholme, and attracted delegates from Wales, Ireland, Scotland and England. As well as academics, representatives were present from the Forestry Commission, Forest Service, Defra, Fera, Duchy College, Science & Advice for Scottish Agriculture, Irish Agri-food and Bioscience Institute, Clinton Estates, BBSRC Living with Environmental Change and included a number of individuals with forestry interests. The workshop comprised of a series of short presentations on field experiences at the coalface, fungal epidemiology, social impact, tree health, modelling through to comparative genomics and perspectives from private estate owners. The final session of the meeting was a round table format to stimulate discussions on research opportunities and synergies in addressing this devastating problem. The meeting was timely given the growing concern about tree diseases in the UK and succeeded in bringing together a range of diverse disciplines. The meeting helped catalyze interactions that have been further developed into tree diseases through Defra tenders and the recent Tree Health and Biosecurity initiative. Unfortunately at the time of writing, tree diseases remain firmly in the public eye with the announcement of the out break of ash dieback in saplings caused by the fungus Chalara fraxinea.
Murray Grant University of Exeter