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EAPR Virology Section, France
In June, I attended the 12th Meeting of the European Association of Potato Research (EAPR) virology section, held in Brittany, France. Held every three years, this is the meeting that does exactly what it says on the tin; where Europe’s potato virologists get together and well. . . talk about potato viruses.
This year’s week-long meeting managed to attract over 100 delegates, including representatives from virtually every country from the Pyrenees to the Urals, and a good number from beyond, including Japan, Canada, Iran, Israel and New Zealand. The conference itself was held in the quiet Breton village of Le Tronchet, about 40 km from Rennes, with both accommodation and meeting at the Hostellerie Abbatiale, a former 12th Century monastery. All in all this provided a very attractive backdrop and generated a great environment for relaxed discussion and for catching up with old acquaintances.
Overall the scientific session covered all the main issues in potato virology: emerging diseases, vectors and transmission, evolution and variation, virus diagnosis, and resistance and control. In total there were three full days of scientific presentations, including around 35 oral presentations and slightly fewer posters. However, as per usual, it was Potato virus Y (PVY) that was flavour of the month, with the debate on ‘what is PVY-NTN’ still going strong. In fact it was hard to see that any progress had been made in this area since the Czech Republic three years ago!. Now I won’t go into too much detail as life is too short, but for those blissfully unaware of the issues involved, there are isolates of PVY that can cause a disease called Potato Tuber Necrotic Ring Disease (PTNRD), which gives necrotic ring symptoms on tubers and is generally very bad news for potato growers. However, defining which isolates can cause PTNRD is, to put it mildly, not simple and a huge amount of time is spend by all and sundry trying to develop detection methods (invariably PCR-based), that can identify the necrotic tuber isolates (also known as PVY-NTN ‘strain’). To date none of the methods developed stand up and it is unlikely that this great Holy Grail of potato virology will ever be solved, until someone can work out which sequence determinants in the viral genome induce the tuber symptoms. A couple of labs are now working on this and perhaps by the next meeting, some progress may have been made towards solving this great conundrum. We can only hope! Now one of the finest traditions of the EAPR virology section is that all work and no play makes a potato virologist a dull boy. There has always been a heavy emphasis on ‘hospitality’ at these meetings and the French organising committee were determined to make sure they weren’t outdone. In fact it is safe to say I don’t think I have been to so many civil receptions and met so many mayors in my entire life! However, never one to turn down a free glass of champagne or six, it did mean a good time was had by all and it certainly gave our hosts chance to make amends for scoring two goals in injury time!
On Wednesday, we had the now obligatory visit to a potato breeding station. The detour to visit Aromanche and see the Mulberry harbours, built by the Allies after the D-Day landings, was very welcome but the 10 hours spent on a coach would not feature highly in my conference memoirs. Friday was a full social day with visits to St. Malo, Mont St.
Michel and elsewhere. Unfortunately, due to the vagaries of budget airline timetables, the day was curtailed for us at lunch and we had to wing our way back home So congratulations to Camille Kerlan and his army of helpers for organising such a good meeting and here’s to the next one in sunny Scotland in 2007.
And finally I would like to say thank you to the BSPP Travel Fund for their financial support.