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19th International Society for Mushroom Science Congress, Amsterdam, the Netherlands 29th May – 2nd June 2016
The 19th ISMS Mushroom Congress was held over five days in the lovely city of Amsterdam. It is an event that is held once every four years so there is always much to learn and new contacts to make. A total of 491 delegates from 49 countries attended making it a very international affair. There was a great mix of established scientists, postdoctoral and post-graduate researchers as well as technical representatives from many mushroom businesses. With three concurrent sessions running, it was difficult to choose what presentations to go to. My own interests are in mushroom pathology and disease control as well as a more recent interest in the genetic control of mushroom substrate utilisation, so I attended talks on these topics wherever possible.
Four sessions were devoted to Pests and Diseases and seven of the 15 presentations (including my own) were on outputs from ‘MushTV’ a recently completed EU FP7 project entitled ‘Solutions for the mushroom industry to emerging disease threats from Trichoderma and Virus’. It was great to see the outputs from this â‚¬2. 5m project being disseminated to both the mushroom scientific community as well as industry, and there was active discussion on the various aspects of epidemiology and control of these two mushroom diseases. A presentation by Dr Edward Dobbs, of NIAB-EMR, described 16 novel viruses that have been identified in mushrooms, of which one – Agaricus bisporus Virus 16 -‘AbV16’ – is associated with brown cap mushroom disease. This virus causes normally white mushrooms to develop a brown cap colour and lose quality. My presentation showed that the viruses are largely transmitted via infected mycelium, which can anastomose with the healthy mycelium of a new crop, while another presentation by Dr Johan Baars, Wageningen UR, showed how disinfectants did not kill mushroom mycelium that was embedded in a particle of substrate. This new information means that growers have to ensure they prevent fresh batches of substrate becoming infected with mycelial debris from previously infected crops.
There were a number of presentations on Trichoderma green mould diseases, which continue to cause the mushroom industry serious losses. Mairead Kilpatrick, AFBI, described how the modern system of producing, handling and transporting mushroom substrate ‘in bulk’ facilitated widespread growth and dispersal of small amounts of Trichoderma aggressivum throughout uninfected substrate, resulting in much greater crop losses than anticipated. Dr Roland Mumm, Wageningen UR, demonstrated how volatile organic compounds (VOCs) could be used to discriminate between uninfected substrate and Trichodermainfected substrate, paving the way for a potential volatile detection system in the future. Currently the mass spectrometry detection system is expensive but such devices are likely to become more affordable in time.
Other presentations in the Pest and Disease sessions focused on new molecular detection methods, characterisation of pathogens and control for a range of fungal pathogens found on farms across the world. An interesting discussion was had on how best to integrate disease diagnostic services with advice for growers as disease control is very dependent on the grower being able to address the weaknesses that allow a pathogen to flourish and be detected in the first place.
I found two of the keynote lectures extremely interesting. Dr S. Chen, City of Hope Hospital, California, spoke about a Phase 1 clinical trial where a white button mushroom treatment was successful in controlling biochemically recurrent prostate cancer (BRPC) in a number of patients, enabling them to have a good quality of life compared to alternative treatments with many undesirable side effects. The common button mushroom is being shown increasingly to have therapeutic medicinal properties in areas of cancer, cardiovascular and diabetes research, which bodes well for both scientists and growers alike.
Another keynote lecture of particular interest to me was given by Dr Dan Eastwood, of Swansea University in Wales, on the ‘Evolution of wood degradation related to mushrooms’ outlining how the cultivated mushroom Agaricus bisporus, has similarities to the white rot fungi in having a good compliment of laccase and peroxidase enzymes to degrade the humic content of the mushroom substrate it grows on. Since the publication of genomes of many wood-rotting basidiomycetes, as well as that of A. bisporus, researchers are actively trying to gain a greater understanding of the genetic control of mushroom substrate utilisation, providing exciting opportunities for a new cohort of mushroom researchers, many of whom were attending the congress.
This was one of the best aspects of the Congress for me. I attended the Congress with a group of young researchers from three different organisations across Ireland (pictured above), most of whom were new to mushroom science, and who had the opportunity to attend the congress, as it was relatively close to home. It was great to see how much they enjoyed interacting with the mushroom scientific community and how much they were learning from the very broad range of topics covered. I know that they all returned home very motivated and enthused by their positive interactions with this dynamic sector. I am sure one of them will be writing the next conference report for BSPP! Many thanks to BSPP for supporting my attendance at the Congress, thereby freeing up some funds to allow our new graduate researchers to attend.
Dr Helen Grogan Teagasc, Ireland