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The 4th International Workshop on Barley Leaf Blights was hosted by The James Hutton Institute (JHI, formerly SCRI-Dundee and Macaulay-Aberdeen) at the West Park Centre. About 70 delegates arrived from all over the world to take part, making this the biggest workshop so far. We started with tours of the JHI-Dundee looking at field trials, the disease nursery, the microarray and sequencing facility, the new glasshouse including the spore proof air conditioned cubicles and the national seed store, the barley transformation facility, and the barley poly-tunnel with all the populations and mutants. The delegates were impressed with the facilities and enthusiasm of JHI staff.
The science sessions started on Monday afternoon with a keynote paper from Richard Oliver (Curtin University, Perth, Australia). In the evening we had a special session on Ramularia with a keynote review by Neil Havis (SAC, Edinburgh). Other keynote papers were given by Wolfgang Knogge (Halle, Germany) and Michele Stanca (Fiorenzuola d’Arda, Italy). Although the sessions were nominally grouped as Epidemiology and disease management, Molecular plant-pathogen interactions, Ramularia, and Resistance Breeding, we covered all the major spots and blotches of barley in these areas. It was a great opportunity to compare approaches and see how much progress has been made since the last workshop in Edmonton, Canada in 2006. And the answer was: quite a lot, especially in the genomics area where several of the pathogen genomes had been sequenced and many effectors were being identified and characterised. Resistance genetics too was beginning to capitalise considerably on the progress made in barley genomics.
On Tuesday afternoon we mixed posters, meetings on topics that had arisen during the workshop such as standardisation of differentials, some optional non-sponsored tourism with trips to Captain Scott’s Antarctic expedition ship the RRS Discovery, the Verdant Works jute industrial museum, and as it was such a nice day, a guided tour around the University Botanic Gardens. After a drinks reception and conference dinner, we got back to some serious science with a post-dinner whisky talk by Adrian Newton and biotechnology practical (whisky tasting). Despite audience heckling, we managed to cover a vast amount of knowledge including QTL mapping in 15 seconds, why burnt toast is dangerous, the contribution of the corpses of the Roman ninth legion, social science and Lamas to the biodiversity and enjoyment of malt whisky. Despite being given copious tasting notes, most delegates failed the practical leaving more research to be done. However, two delegates identified four out of six whiskies correctly, for which they won the dregs in the bottles.
Finally we spent the Wednesday afternoon at SAC field trials at Boghall near Edinburgh, although one bus was delayed with a puncture causing knockon travel plan disruption, added to by public service strikes affecting the airports the next day – och well, all part of the total experience. Nevertheless delegates all seemed to leave happy with new ideas, new collaborations and, as ever, there are probably delegates still around (check under lab benches).
We are very grateful to BSPP for sponsorship and the drinks coasters with the Ramularia confocal image on them were a big hit – some good long-term advertising on the coffee tables of many international labs. A big thank you to Pam Cassidy in the JHI-Dundee Communications group and everyone she roped in to help as she did most of the administration of the workshop that made it a success, and to Neil Havis (SAC, Edinburgh), Brian Steffenson (University of Minnesota), Anna Avrova (JHI) and Mark Looseley (JHI) who joined me (Adrian Newton – JHI) in the organising committee. Great work everyone, especially as we didn’t know we were going to host this meeting until the Czechs cancelled it in February through lack of interest!
James Hutton Institute