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Australasian Plant Pathology Conference 2015, Fremantle, Western Australia 14th – 16th September 2015
First world congress on root and tuber crops, Nanning, China 18th – 22nd January 2016 The first world congress on root and tuber crops was held in Guangxi province in Southern China. Although it’s supposed to be a sub-tropical c l imate we wer e expos ed to temperatures close to freezing, including snow and hail at some points, yet the fields were full of cassava, bananas and other tropical crops! The meeting was held in conjunction with the third scientific conference of the Global Cassava Partnership for the 21s t century (GCP21) and the 17th symposium of the International Society for Tropical Root Crops (ISTRC) and brought together scientist working on all aspects of root and tuber crops such as cassava, sweetpotato, potatoes, yams, taro and other aroids. It included almost 800 participants with a big delegation from the African continent, thanks to a generous travel grant program. I myself was able to attend thanks in part to a travel grant provided by BSPP.
The program included two days of plenary sessions in which more general and broad overview seminars were provided covering latest research results for different crops, technologies or common issues in root and tuber crops. Three days were dedicated to 19 parallel sessions covering various aspects of roots and tuber crops and included poster session during the last part of the afternoons and topic specific workshops in the evenings. I myself presented in two different sessions: ‘sweetpotato is a naturally transgenic crop’ in the session on Biodiversity and Genetic Resources, and ‘The African sweetpotato virome: understanding virus diversity, distribution and evolution and their impacts on sweet potato production in Africa’ in the session on Diagnostics and Surveillance.
Both were received enthusiastically with questions, but mostly in follow up after the sessions since time limitations didn’t permit for many questions or lively discussions during the session.
I will highlight a few topics regarding diseases and their management which I expect would be of most interest to BSPP readership. The session on Diagnostics and Surveillance was dominated entirely by virus diseases and there was even a full day parallel session solely dedicated to cassava brown streak disease, highlighting the importance of viral diseases across root and tuber crops. Two presentations from Makerere University scientists on development of smartphone-based tools to collect and map in real-time viral disease incidence and severity, counting whiteflies on leaves, and automatically diagnosing viral disease in cassava from an image taken with a mobile phone caught my attention. Lava Kumar from IITA also presented a web-based tool used by NPPO inspectors in Nigeria to support surveillance, networking, notification and emergency response in real time as part of a contingency plan for possible future ingression of Cassava brown streak disease to West Africa. Anna Szyniszewska from Rothamsted Research, presented geostatistical estimation methods of disease presence probability surfaces to determine if significant changes had occurred in pathogen distribution from a set of surveys. Such methods could be used not only to monitor the change in pathogen presence distribution, but also evaluate the efficacy of the control interventions deployed, from survey data collected in different years and patterns.
Several of the keynote presentations also highlighted the increasing threat of viral diseases due to climate change, the epidemic of cassava brown streak disease in Africa and the recent resurgence of sweetpotato virus diseases in China being some examples.
Joe Tohme of CIAT also emphasised in his keynote on root and tuber genomics the necessity of more monitoring and surveillance in root and tuber crops world-wide with reference to the results of the sweetpotato virome I had presented earlier in meeting.
Eric Magembe from CIP Nairobi presented in the session on transgenic technologies results of the first field trials with transgenic late blight resistant potato in Africa (Kabale, Uganda). The trials, which tested potato cul t ivars Desi ree and Victor ia transformed with 3 R genes from wild potato species (RB, Rpi-blb2 and Rpivnt1. 1) showed complete immunity to the disease in contrast to nont ransgenic cont rols that were completely wiped out by late blight that season.
Jan Kreuze The International Potato Center (CIP), Lima, Peru The 13th International Plant Epidemiology Symposium, Avignon, France 6th – 10th June 2016 Attending the International Plant Epidemiology Symposium with the travel award from the BSPP was a great opportunity for me to know more about the work that is being done in different parts of the world in order to study and control viral diseases that cause devastating damage in many important crops with importance as economical resources for different countries.
At the beginning of the conference we had the chance to listen to a talk by Professor Michael Irwin in memory of the work and personal life of Professor John Michael Thresh, the founder of the International Committee of Plant Virus Epidemiology, honored in this occasion with the title of ‘Father of Plant Virus Epidemiology’, during this talk it was described how the committee was founded with help of the BSPP and the Association of Applied Biologists in 1986.
During the sessions of the symposium, speakers talked about very interesting topics related to diagnostics and identification of new emergent diseases by using next generation sequencing and smart ideas, adapting different techniques for a similar approach to the identification of communities of viruses in specific crops. At the same time other sessions were specific to areas of evolution and the importance of the identification of viral populations in wild species related to crops of economic importance.
The most substantial information from the conference was the application of new techniques with the aim of the identification of natural reservoirs of viruses related to important crops and the importance of not-known viruses in natural areas.
At the same time poster sessions were really interesting, with posters that were highly remarkable, and the amount of work related to cassava and viruses affecting this crop, such as Cassava brown streak virus, reflected how relevant my work was during this symposium.
There were many opportunities to interact with other students, postdocs and professors, in particular during poster sessions. Many people gave me advice on my work and I was able to analyse critically the work of other researchers.
In addition during poster sessions my poster was not the winner for the best student poster, but it was mentioned as one of the 6th best posters to be re-judged by a scientific committee for the prize of best poster.
In addition an interesting trip to the French National Institute for Agricultural Research (INRA) was done with the intentions to show us what people are doing in INRA, showing the greenhouses and the work are they doing in the Division of Plant Health and Environment.
Other trip was done at the same time to an ancient village, Vaux de Provence, an old roman city with a beautiful castle surrounded by natural rocky walls and so many beautiful vineyards and olive orchards.
In summary, the conference was really constructive, not only for me but for the rest of the researchers as well, perceiving new information in techniques and methods of viral diseases control, explaining the importance not only of vectors such as white flies and aphids, but the fact that the way that people propagate crops or trade them with other communities affect in a huge scale the spread of different viruses putting in danger the quality of the harvest and the yield.
Jose Luis Pablo-Rodriguez University of Bristol