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13th International Sclerotinia Workshop, Monterey, California, USA, 12 – 16 June 2005
The 13th International Sclerotinia Workshop was held at the Asilomar Conference Grounds on a scenic part of the Californian coastline near Monterey to discuss and present new developments in Sclerotinia research. The delegates represented most research groups working on Sclerotinia with the majority coming from the USA and Canada. Five formal sessions covered 1) genetic variation in populations; 2) pathogenesis/pathogen development; 3) development of resistance; 4) biological control; 5) epidemiology and disease forecasting. There was also a poster session and a field trip to examine diseases (including Sclerotinia!) associated with vegetable and fruit production in the nearby Salinas valley.
John Whipps presented an invited talk entitled “Pathogenicity genes in the sclerotial mycoparasite Coniothyrium minitans” and together, John Clarkson, John Whipps and Caroline Young (ADAS) copresented three posters from a collaborative project covering different aspects of forecasting Sclerotinia disease in field-grown lettuce involving work on effects of soil temperature, water potential and conditioning on carpogenic germination of sclerotia and validation of a predictive model.
Research on molecular aspects of Sclerotinia has expanded since the last meeting, particularly in the search for an understanding of clonal populations and recombination events in the pathogen as well as gene expression during pathogenesis. This work is driven by the recent sequencing of the Sclerotinia sclerotiorum genome announced at the workshop and such a genetic resource will undoubtedly promote further work in the future on this area. The other research topic where considerable progress has been made is in disease forecasting. Besides the work done by ourselves at Warwick HRI in collaboration with ADAS on lettuce, forecasting work in Canada and the USA on carrots and peanuts has also gained impetus and some new predictive models may soon be available for growers. Few new chemicals appear to be available for control of the pathogen although Boscalid appears to be an exception.
The field trip provided an insight into the all-year-round production system available in the Salinas valley. Specific environmental conditions and soils enable at least three crops of vegetables a year. Unfortunately, with such intense cropping systems, soil-borne diseases such as Sclerotinia continue to build up. The current exemption for use of methyl bromide on strawberry will eventually have to cease and this will cause a major problem in the area along with increasing soil salinity and nitrates in the water. A potential time bomb waiting to explode!
In conclusion, irrespective of much research, Sclerotinia continues to be a major plant pathogen worldwide infecting over 400 plant species and more studies will be needed to develop long-lasting and sustainable control strategies for this pathogen.
The trip provided an excellent opportunity to catch up with developments in Sclerotinia research, to make new and reaffirm contacts at the international level, and to promote our work. We would like to thank the BSPP for financial support.
John Clarkson and John Whipps