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EuroBlight Workshop, Bologna, Italy, May 2007
The first European workshop on potato late blight known as the EuroBlight Workshop was held in Bologna, Italy in early May. The meeting was jointly organised by the Servizio Fitosanitario, Regione Emilia-Romagna and the Department of Agri-food Protection and Improvement (Diproval) of Bologna University. The EuroBlight Workshop combines two networks originating from two previous European Concerted Actions: EU. NET. ICP: EUropean NETwork for the development of an Integrated Control strategy of Potato late blight (1996-2005).
There were just over 40 participants at the inaugural EU. NET. ICP workshop in Lelystad, in the Netherlands in 1996.
Over successive meetings, as awareness of this network increased, attendance has gradually risen to 90 participants at Bologna. This is a reflection of the importance of potato blight as well as commercial interests from the agrochemical manufacturers who have also been welcome sponsors of the event since 2001. A few stalwarts have attended all 10 of the workshops with yours truly attending nine – missing out on the second meeting in Carlow, Ireland in 1997.
The proceedings of previous EU. NET ICP meetings can be found on the EuroBlight website www. euroblight. net/ EuroBlight. asp or on www. lateblight. nl hosted by Plant Research International, Wageningen One useful development from the EUCABLIGHT network has been the use of the Internet as a means of communication outside meetings to share and provide data on potato varieties and late blight populations – something familiar to most of us now but much less so only a few years ago.
The EUCABLIGHT website can be found at www. eucablight. org/eucablight. asp courtesy of Jens Hansen and his colleagues at the University of Aarhus, in Foulum, Denmark who were responsible for the as the website and database management aspects of the network.
The objective of EuroBlight (and previous workshops) is to present and discuss recent research on the integrated control of potato late blight (Phytophthora infestans) and (in the last few years) also early blight (Alternaria alternata & A. solani). Topics focussed on during the EuroBlight Workshop included: Decision Support Systems, the P. infestans pathogen populations, host resistance, the 2006 epidemic in Europe, the efficacy evaluation of fungicides and epidemiology of both diseases. The EuroBlight network website has both public and restricted access areas. In the public area there are descriptions of the 2006 blight epidemics together with information on the frequency of mating types and pathotypes of the P. infestans population provided by researchers from the participating countries. Also, of particular interest to those in the frontline of potato production, is a table giving the opinion of European researchers on what are considered important attributes and properties of blight fungicide formulations available in Europe. The table is based on field trials data generated by independent researchers and by agrochemical companies and is the collective opinion of those working with potato blight fungicides. The ratings given to the various fungicide formulations will be reviewed and amended in the light of new information at future Euroblight workshops. A good example of applied research being made available to the end user. The presentations made in Bologna are also available on the website for viewing in advance of the publication of the proceedings.
Two papers were of particular interest.
The first was an investigation into the functional role of resistance components to prevent tuber blight (Evenhuis, van Bekkum & Kessel). In some potato cultivars there was evidence of resistance to infection in the cortex of the tuber with some not sustaining spreading lesions. There was also evidence of a fluctuation in cultivar resistance during storage suggesting that the physiology of the tuber may affect tuber blight infection. Perhaps of more concern was the poor correlation between resistance ratings of the NL national list and the final disease scores in these experiments. Clearly an area worthy of further investigation particularly in view of the rapidly changing genetic makeup of the European P. infestans populations.
In another presentation, van den Bosch and Kessel reported on the epidemic fitness of P. infestans in foliage and tubers and looked at aggressiveness characteristics such as infection efficiency, lesion growth rate, sporulation and length of the latent period. Three isolates were used in this study and one, from Solanum sysymbriifolium was clearly more aggressive and able to ‘outcompete’ the other two isolates in field plots of three different potato cultivars. The significance of this may be better appreciated with the knowledge that S.
sysymbriifolium has been commercially developed as a trap crop to be used as part of an integrated approach to control Potato Cyst Nematode. Could this be an example where an important new development for the control of one pest potentially creates problems elsewhere ? Nick Bradshaw ADAS UK Ltd 27 June 2007