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Around 400 delegates from over 30 countries attended the ACPP/APPS “New Frontiers in Plant Pathology for Asia and Oceania” in Darwin, Australia. This is the most important conference for plant pathologists in the region, and it brings together researchers from all over Australasia. The conference opened every morning and afternoon with keynote speakers from Australia, Indonesia, China or the United States presenting themes including plant disease management, biosecurity, bioinformatics and plant-microbe interactions. Keynote speakers were followed by a full day of parallel sessions presented by researchers from PhD students to senior scientists. There were also sessions on soil borne disease, alternatives to chemical control, disease surveys, tropical horticulture, technology transfer and prokaryotic pathogens, all of them very well attended.
At every biennial conference of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society the invitation to present the McAlpine lecture is extended to an eminent scientist in recognition of their significant contribution to the Australasian plant pathology. This year, the lecture was delivered by Professor Lester Burgess from the University of Sydney. Professor Burgess presented a review of many years on Fusarium biology and control of stress related disease complexes of wheat (e.g. crown rot), sorghum and corn; taxonomy, ecology and mycogeography of Fusarium in natural ecosystems.
I am currently working on molecular diagnostics in the Molecular Bioprotection team and at this conference I presented our research on molecular differentiation of Xanthomonas translucens (X. t.) pathovars causing Bacterial Leaf Streak (BLS) on cereals under the Biosecurity theme . My work combined fingerprinting analysis obtained by BOXPCR and DNA sequencing of the highly polymorphic “Integron” region across 15 X. t. strains obtained from the International Collection of Microbes from Plants. Isolates from barley in NZ showed high similarity to strains collected from barley overseas and were quite distinct from those that infect wheat, suggesting host specificity for these strains. In our pathogenicity tests we observed that X. t. isolated from barley were incapable of infecting wheat but some of the wheat isolates could infect barley. There is no record of BLS on wheat in NZ but our research suggests that Triticum seed imports could be a potential pathway of entry for such strains. Our work had very positive feedback, with pathologists interested in the molecular techniques we used to differentiate X. translucens. Scientists encouraged me to publish our findings and discussed potential collaborative work as result of the poster.
Overall, this conference offered me the possibility to improve my network of collaborations with scientists working on agricultural biosecurity in other countries, to meet with researchers that I have contacted previously with research questions, to present our group’s research to an international audience, and to exchange knowledge and experiences. I also attended a oneday workshop on Phylogenetics at the Charles Darwin University computer lab. This short course from the Australasian Plant Pathology Society was conducted by Treena Burgess and Philip O’Brien, both from Murdoch University, WA. In the course, they introduced the use of the Geneious bioinformatics software platform for DNA sequence analysis, basic alignments and phylogenetics analysis.
Overall, the conference was well organized and went smoothly in the warm weather of Darwin. We also had the opportunity to have a close experience with salt water crocodiles and to get a python around our necks for our photo albums. I would like to thank BSPP for the travel award that contributed to the cost of the conference which allowed me to have this great experience. I look forward to attending the next APPS conference in Auckland, New Zealand in 2013 and would recommend attendance of these conferences to other researchers.
The New Zealand Institute for Plant & Food Research Ltd, New Zealand