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International Fusarium Workshop, Sydney 2003.
Seminars about Fusarium are always interesting to me, but no time more so than in somewhere like sydney! The weather was beautiful and everyone attending the conference was in good spirits. The first part of the conference focused on Fusarium taxonomy and what constitutes a species. Should point mutations in several genes such as beta-tubulin constitute a species distinction, and if so how many species will we end up with in a sexually reproducing homothallic species such as Fusarium graminearum? Kerry O Donnell (USA) and others discussed lineages within F. graminearum. It is now established that there are at least nine lineages of this pathogen, with lineage seven being most predominant in the USA. The study of Fusarium karyotypes is notoriously difficult and Cees Waalwijk (the Netherlands) presented a technique call the germ tube burst method and stated that is serves as a useful tool supplementary to pulse field gel electrophoresis and linkage mapping for genetic studies of various Fusarium species.
We heard many talks on Fusarium head blight of wheat (FHB). Jeannie Gilbert (Canada) gave an interesting talk on the effect of field stubble on FHB disease development. Australia provides a multitude of economically important hosts for Fusaria, such as bananas, cotton AND cereals. Panama disease of banana caused by F. oxysporum F. sp. cubense is regarded as one of the most destructive plant diseases of recent times, and Suzy Bentley (Australia) discussed the geographical distribution of lineages of this pathogen and the potential of using resistant germplasm for controlling disease spread.
Overall, the conference was very enjoyable, and highlighted the fact that Fusarium is a very topical disease worldwide and as such that there is a vast amount of research ongoing on this pathogen. As eluded to by John Leslie (USA) in the closing address, the sequencing of the F. graminearum genome will futher strengthen the position of Fusarium as a model organism. Therefore the 10th International Fusarium workshop will undoubtedly see Fusarium research advanced by leaps and bounds!
Fiona Doohan, Faculty of Agriculture, Dublin, Ireland.