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Although being a meeting of the European Association for Potato Research, scientists from many countries were present representing North and South America, Africa, Asia, Europe, Asia and Oceania. More than sixty potato virologists gathered together at the very charming and beautiful city of Hamar, in Norway. The conference was organized into seven sessions: resistance, virus transmission, emerging and quarantine diseases, diagnostics and detection methods, soil- borne viruses, plant-virus interactions and epidemiology and control. Lots of informal networking was done during the visits to the Aquavit Museum, a medieval cathedral and folk museum and during the conference dinner at Hotel Gard. The conference organisers planned a field trip to visit a seed potato farm in Solfr (see picture below), contractor of Strand Unikorn, Maararud crisps factory and Graminor, a plant breeding company that develops varieties of a number of agri- and horticulture species among them potatoes.
One viral species formed the core topic of this conference; Potato Virus Y (PVY) and its recombinants. Since the early 1980s, a number of PVY recombinants have been documented and studied with a new recombinant strain being presented during the conference. The presentation fuelled the on-going debate on what new variants or recombinants of PVY should be called new strains and also the nomenclature used, especially where in most cases only the sequence has been studied without the support of detailed biological characterisation. Most of studies presented were centred on how these recombinants emerge, aphid transmission efficiency, ways to minimise production losses and development of potato virus resistant cultivar. Reports from Finland, Syria, Czech Republic, Slovenia, Scotland and England highlights how common and damaging this disease is to the production of potato across the world.
The presentations involving aphid transmission attracted my attention because although Myzus persicae is the most efficient vector of PVY, it is not the only one able to transmit the virus. Other aphid species have also been found capable to transmit the disease. One presentation showed that the time of transmission of PVY by the vectors is variable in the field. Another showed that transmission efficiency varies in relation to which type of PVY isolates and that PVY strain O is more efficiently transmitted than PVY strain N. Another topic present throughout the conference was the development of diagnostic/detection methods for new PVY recombinants, a very important topic for me as it was the subject of my poster. The high variability present in PVY can be an indication that recombination junctions might be present anywhere alongside the genome, as a result my research is about the development of a new way to study these variability present in PVY (but also PVM) through the use of next generation sequencing. The work presented by Jan Kreuze, with deep sequence and siRNA, shows that this technology can also be used to identify known viruses present in a very low titre and new virus species without any previous knowledge of it. An excellent talk delivered by Dr R Koening showed us that recombination does not occur only in potyviruses, but also happen in tobraviruses. She showed that in the case of Tobacco rattle virus the recombination happens between the RNA 1 and RNA 2. The tobravirus appears to gain a number of characteristics as a result of this recombination, which appears to be in turn beneficial for their infectivity and transmission.
Although PVY was the main theme, a number of talks and posters were about different viral species and viroids causing problems in potatoes. Potato mop top virus (PMTV) vectored by powered scab (Spongospora subterranean) also featured. Today PMTV is one of the most important pathogens in potato production in the Nordic countries, with high incidences in the cultivar Saturna which is widely used in the potato processing industry. The results presented stress that the disease is widely spread along the potato fields and it can be transmitted with the adhering soil containing the vector and with infected tubers.
On the last day of the conference, the morning session started with a presentation by Dr Salazar on how the spread of commonly known virus vectors are modifying virus patterns in potato producing areas worldwide. The second talk of the day was presented by Dr Germundsson about how virologists from all fields can learn and how much we can gain by working together.
I would like to thank the BSPP for the financial assistance and for giving me the opportunity to present my poster at this excellent conference. This report is dedicated to the memory of Dr Lute Bos who tragically passed away at the time of the conference.
Rosineide Souza Richards
University of Nottingham and The Food and Environment Research Agency