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12th European Foundation for Plant Pathology (EFPP) – 10th French Society for Plant Pathology (SFP) Conference, Dunkirk, France 29th May – 2nd June 2017
I attended the 12th EFPP-10th SFP conference entitled ‘Deepen knowledge in plant pathology for innovative agroecology’. The week-long conference was a great opportunity to interact with the international plant pathology community. The meeting was particularly special because it integrated three plant pathology societies including EFPP, SFP and the American Phytopathological Society (APS). With many sessions, the conference covered a wide variety of plant pathology issues, which were brilliantly summarised in the final session by Monica Höfte, from Ghent University into three major areas: threats, opportunities and challenges.
Emergent plant diseases and high throughput genomics were covered in the keynote session, by Sophien Kamoun, The Sainsbury’s Laboratory, UK. Sophien described the major outbreak of the wheat infecting strains of Magnaporthe oryzae (causing wheat blast). This disease has been a significant problem, since the 1980s, in South America. However, in 2016, a major outbreak of wheat blast occurred in Asia for the first time in Bangladesh. Sophien and his team rapidly assembled an open source website, where M. oryzae genome sequences could be deposited and accessed for the global plant pathology community to perform analysis to ‘look into the soul’ of plant pathogen epidemics. Combined with field pathogenomics, this rapid response quickly allowed detailed genetic information about the isolates recovered from Bangladesh. This confirmed their South American origin and should soon allow for wheat cultivars with known host resistance to be grown in the affected area in Asia. In addition to the rapid plant pathogen problem solving that this talk highlighted, the true power of collaborative and open source research was shown.
A particularly interesting talk from Maarten Ameye, from Ghent University, Belgium, covered when plants ‘scream’ through production of green leaf volatiles. The effects of wheat (Triticum aestivum) leaf volatiles in plant priming – when plants are alerted early to promote faster and/or stronger response to future pathogen attack – were studied in this work. Previous research has shown that the volatile Z-3-hexenyl acetate (Z-3-HAC) can enhance defence against the wheat ear pathogen Fusarium graminearum. Further to this, recent results using untargeted metabolics in plants primed/not primed with volatiles have found that Z-3-HAC has both a large effect on the metabolism of primary nitrogen and induced glycosylation of metabolites. This also resulted in large upregulation of salicylic acid production and a down-regulation of the benzoxazinoid DIMBOA, showing that plants can communicate through the air to induce responses in plant defence hormones. This research could in future lead to biocontrol and/or integrated disease management in wheat crops for plant diseases.
Finally, a new answer to the continuing challenge of fungicide resistance in the wheat pathogen Zymoseptoria tritici – Septoria tritici blotch, was presented by Lisa Nistrup Jorgensen, Aarhus University, Denmark. Resistance to all the major classes of fungicides has been found in Septoria. In Lisa’s talk a novel mode of action of the picolinamide fungicides was presented. Formulated in a new fungicide called InatreqTM Active, produced by Dow AgroSciences (active ingredient: fenpicoxamid). This has been found to be active against Septoria, with no cross resistance to any of the major classes currently used to con- trol this disease.
Overall this conference covered the all the current major themes in plant pathology over five days: global change (including climate, on-farm plant protection and trade); new tools for studying plant pathology; phytopathogen phytobiome interactions (supported by APS); influences of plant pathology on other scientific domains; in addition to recommendations of disease control which included novel, historical or repurposed methods. It was a great week of science, enhanced by the French food and wine!
Joseph Moughan, Rothamsted Research and the University of Exeter