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International Conference on Arabidopsis Research, Chiba, Japan
5th – 9th June 2023
The conference is a yearly meeting of researchers working on Arabidopsis. This year over 1000 delegates gathered in Chiba, Japan with the aim of gaining new insights on Arabidopsis research from around the world. There were a large range of sessions and workshops set across 5 days, with attendees sharing findings from a huge diversity of fields across the Arabidopsis community.
Multiple sessions focused on plant immunity, with many beginning to unravel the complex mechanisms underpinning the plant immune response. In particular, a talk by Eunsook Park on chloroplast-nuclear communication in plant immunity offered new perspectives on the huge complexity of the regulatory mechanisms involved in chloroplast-nucleus communication during immunity. Additionally, Eunyoung Chae offered new evidence on the role of NLR receptors in autoimmune responses to understand host-microbe interactions, highlighting the specificity of autoimmune response and hybrid necrosis.
Although Arabidopsis research is often focused on fundamental science, several talks offered a new perspective on how we can apply concepts from fundamental research to tackle major agricultural issues. A plenary talk by Steven Maina Runo, focused on how we can harness the arms race between striga, a parasitic plant, and sorghum to find new solutions to the parasite problem. Every year striga infestations of agricultural land causes extensive yield losses in parts of Africa. His approach to understanding on plant-parasite interactions offered a new perspective on how fundamental research can be applied down the line in agricultural systems.
In addition to the research focused talks, community-focused workshops were also insightful. The session on “Diversity and inclusion for excellence in science”, organised by Joanna Friesner, Yoselin Benitez-Alfonso, Kanako Bessho-Uehara, prompted valuable discussion. Hearing the panel’s thoughts, as well as the subsequent discussion with the audience, opened new perspectives on how we can promote and sustain diversity within our community. It was hugely valuable to have this discussion within the conference as it raised many questions and enabled the wider community to hear thoughts on how we can drive change.
Overall the talks at ICAR2023 opened up new perspectives which I can apply to my own work on plant-microbe interactions. In addition, the food, culture, and opportunity to explore Tokyo, made ICAR2023 an excellent conference. The next ICAR2024 is in San Diego in the United States, and I would fully recommend for anyone interested in broadening their perspectives, and interacting with the wide range of research conducted on Arabidopsis.
The John Innes Centre
A picture of Tokyo tower behind Zōjō-ji Temple taken in Tokyo, and of a street in Ueno, Tokyo at sunset (top).