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9th International Symposium on Fungal Endophytes of Grasses and 1st International Symposium on Plant Microbiomes, Melbourne, Australia 28th September – 1st October 2015
This conference was held at the centre for AgriBioscience at La Trobe University Melbourne and hosted a range of speakers from across the world over a week. It included over 50 poster presentations as well as a strong presence of commercial associates. Being relatively new to the field I was looking forward to presenting the data which has been the focus of my project over the past 18 months and making contact with scientists that have established research in endophyte plant interactions.
I was interested to hear about the latest work being carried out in a range of areas from genomic comparative work through to field level studies. These were mainly focused on species in the genus EpichloÃ«, on which a large proportion of work in endophytes has been carried out, although in addition there was a wider focus on other endophytes, plant microbiomes and on agriculture in general. However, of particular interest to myself was work being carried out on endophyte discovery programmes and specifically endophytes in wheat, some of which is being carried out at AgResearch in New Zealand. Work presented by Linda Johnson described a collection of endophytes that has been gained from screening over 1000 grass seed accessions in over 200 species with the aim of identifying EpichloÃ« effector genes that are important in Hordeeae compatibility. Overall, the talk highlighted the requirement for host specificity, which is driven by both the plant host and the endophyte itself and must be taken into consideration when interrogating the plant endophyte relationship and introducing endophytes into new hosts.
More specialised work was also represented such as research on the effects of animal saliva on the growth of endophytes, presented by Mark Vicari (York University, Toronto, Canada). Comparison of carnivore, omnivore and herbivore saliva demonstrated that the latter inhibits radial growth of endophytes isolated from red fescue.
A broader overview on endophytes in agriculture was given by David Hume, who discussed the benefits and drawbacks of grass-endophyte associations in the context of livestock productivity.
This talk detailed the importance of considering endophytes as part of a system and potential knock on effects of altering endophytes in grasslands without careful consideration of many factors. Although not directly linked to the work I am doing in the laboratory, these talks served as a strong reminder that while looking at specific interactions in detail we must always consider the wider (eco)system.
It was fortunate for me that citizens of Melbourne were focused on the Australian Football League final which took the focus from England’s World Cup Rugby defeat by Australia resulting in their exit from the group stages on the weekend following the conference. I would like to thank German Spangenberg and the conference organisation committee for hosting the symposium and the BSPP for funding my travel.
Christian Krill deserves a special mention for his effort in supplying home -brewed conference beer (pictured left) and organising some unofficial group social events during the evenings.
I would like to extend my thanks to the New Zealand cont ingent f rom AgResearch who very kindly treated me as one of their own during the week.
The next meeting will be held in 2018 in Spain.
Kate Le Cocq Rothamsted Research