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The BSPP travel grant helped me attended the IIRB Congress which was a joint Conference of the International Institute of Sugar Beet Research (IIRB) and French technical sugar beet institute ITB. The meeting itself gathered around 350 sugar beet related people from all across the world, for a full program of excellent talks and not such beautiful weather.
In the opening session we were introduced to the sugar beet sector in France in the context of current European agricultural policy. The six presentations covered subjects such as major French activities in sugar beet research and innovation, and an analysis of societies’. The next technical session was focused on yield improvement by data capture, in which I was presenting the SporeID project that I am involved in. The rest of the congress day continued with presentations covering subjects including soil health and resilience in the sugar beet rotation, and future pest, disease and weed challenges. Additionally, a broad range of current topics were also addressed in the more than 100 posters which could be discussed with their authors during two poster sessions. In the evening of 6th June all congress participants and accompanying persons were invited to a reception and congress dinner.
Personally, I was mainly interested in talks and posters covering plant health, pathogens and their control methods. The presentation that particularly attracted my attention was done by Anne-Katrin Mahlein from IfZ Göttingen. Dr Mahlein described use of the optical sensors for detection of biotic and abiotic stress in sugar beet such as drought, nutrient deficiencies, heat, frost, plant diseases, insects, and weeds as an alternative to visual as well as molecular and serological methods. She presented various optical approaches, however, the most beneficial to growers was the one based on RGB (red-greenblue) images recorded with a smartphone camera for the identification of five sugar beet foliar diseases. The images are taken under field conditions and the algorithm is able to classify the diseases using simple texture features, with the potential that this approach could be fully automated.
Another work that gained my particular interest was presented as a poster by a group from Aarhus University and Nordic Beet Research (NBR). Dr Thies Marten Heick presented a poster regarding spore trapping in Denmark during field seasons 2013 to 2016. For the research purpose they used spore traps from end -June to mid-September and measured the inoculum by qPCR for U. beticola, E. betaea and R. beticola. The authors showed that occurrence of leaf diseases varied from year to year, which was similar to our results from 2015/16. They also managed to detect spores before visible symptoms occurred.
The meeting also showed the importance of knowledge transfer from laboratories to commercial users, as well as showcasing good examples of progress in IPM systems for sugar beet. The congress was well organised by providing a number of opportunities for participants to discuss and share ideas. I managed to speak to researchers and get some advice on sugar beet pathology experiments. The highly social atmosphere throughout the conference has allowed me to network with a great amount of excellent researchers. In addition to attending their talks I was able to network and make a new contacts and possible new collaborators and also helped me to put my work into a wider context.
Dr Agata Monika Kaczmarek
The University of Nottingham