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This meeting, organised by the Scottish Agricultural Science Agency (SASA), Edinburgh and the Scottish Crop Research Institute (SCRI), Dundee was held at the Hilton Hotel, Coylumbridge, Aviemore, which is set in a woodland estate in the centre of the Cairngorm National Park, the largest national park in the UK. It was the first time that the meeting, which is held every 3 years, had been held in Scotland and it marked the 50th anniversary of the forming of the EAPR. The meeting attracted over 70 delegates from all continents, perhaps lured by the reputation that these meetings are informative, friendly and sociable events.
The meeting was helped by generous sponsorship from a range of UK and overseas companies / organisations including the BSPP that enabled the organisers to provide financial assistance to keynote speakers and also travel grants to delegates from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Pakistan, Poland and Turkey. The meeting was opened by Colin Jeffries (Chairman of the Virology Section) who provided a potted history of the EAPR from the 1st Informal Conference on Potato Storage Problems in Aalborg (1951) to the 4th International Informal Potato Conference (1957) when the EAPR was formed to take over and expand the functions of the informal conferences. The 1st triennial EAPR conference was held at Forschungsanstalt ftir Landwirtschaft, Brunswick-Volkenrode, Germany (1960) when the Virology Section was inaugurated under the chairmanship of A Rozendaal. However, it was not until 1971 that the 1st EAPR Virology Section Meeting was held in Wageningen, The Netherlands.
Continuing the historical theme, emeritus professor Bryan Harrison, (SCRI) whose career has spanned much of the early years of the EAPR and formation of the Virology Section gave his keynote lecture to celebrate 50 years of the EAPR titled “Fifty years of potato virus research: achievements and changing concerns”. There then followed the scientific sessions that dealt with: resistance; plant-virus interactions; epidemiology and control of virus-vector insects; impact of climate change on virus incidence and spread; non European / global virus issues; soil-borne viruses; certification / quarantine; diagnostic testing. Keynote papers were given by: Gad Loebenstein (Understanding Natural resistance mechanisms-will it lead to obtaining resistant cultivars?), Lesley Torrance (Soil-borne virus diseases of potato with particular reference to Potato mop-top virus) Richard Harrington (Vectors and viruses in a warmer world), Luis Salazar (Global virus issues) and Rick Mumford (Making diagnostics work: getting it right, every time for the right price).
In all some 38 oral papers and 23 posters were presented with discussions continuing long into the evening. The social events started on the Sunday evening with a welcome reception hosted by Councillor Jaci Douglas (Badenoch and Strathspey electoral ward, Highland Council). This was followed on the Tuesday evening with dinner at The Ptarmigan, the UK’s highest restaurant at 1100 m, just under the summit of Cairn Gorm, reached by funicular railway. After dinner speaker, Dr Cathy Mordant, resident ecologist, provided a fascinating and superbly illustrated talk of “Cairngorms; landscape, ecology and the impact of people. ” that captivated her audience. On a beautiful late spring evening there were spectacular panoramic views that seemed to go on for ever over the mountains to the west, and to round the evening off a beautiful sunset. With snow still in some of the corries this was the first view of snow for the South African delegates.
On Wednesday there was a combined scientific and tourist excursion. The scientific excursion was to the Higgins Group, one of Scotland’s largest seed potato producers centered near Elgin, Morayshire. Visited were its micropropagation and minituber production facility and stores, ably hosted and described by Ronnie McKay (Operations Manger) and David Scott (Export Manager). No visit to Scotland would be complete without a visit to a whisky distillery and the organising committee duly obliged with a visit to nearby Glen Grant. The unusual tall slender stills and purifiers create as we can all now testify a clear whisky with a fresh malty flavour. In the afternoon the tourist theme continued with a visit to Urquhart Castle on the shore of Loch Ness. Thankfully, the torrential rain that greeted our arrival was soon replaced with a stunning setting of mist clinging to the hilltops above the loch, and then clearing skies and sunshine. Despite claims that there were sightings of the Loch Ness monster, I am not aware that any one has given up their day job!
The conference dinner on Thursday was organised as a Highland banquet. Delegates were led in by bagpiper Spud (played at Madonna’s wedding). This was followed by an address and toast to the haggis. If this was not spectacular enough, there was then the carrying in of the beef on a flaming platter, accompanied by a piped band. The evening ended with a Ceildidh (traditional Scottish dancing) that was enjoyed by all.
The conference ended on the Friday with a visit to SASA and its impressive new headquarters at Roddinglaw (www. sasa. gov. uk) and world renowned potato plots that contain over 1000 cultivars including heritage varieties, and potato inspector training plots of popular cultivars, virus symptoms and variations.
Thank you to the BSPP for its sponsorship of two keynote speakers Professors Bryan Harrison and Gad Loebenstein, and to the rest of the organising committee of Carolyn Nisbet, Isla Browning (SASA) and Finlay Dale, Lesley Torrance and Brian Fenton (SCRI) and the delegates for making this a memorable and informative conference. The conference abstracts can be found on the conference web site along with a photographic record of the meeting.
Colin Jeffries Chairman of the EAPR Virology Section