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The 11th International Mycological Congress was jointly organised by the Mycological Society of America (MSA), the International Mycological Association (IMA), the Latin American Mycological Association (ALM), and the Puerto Rican Mycological Society (SPM), and was set in the beautiful city of San Juan, Puerto Rico. Over six days approximately 900 delegates including researchers, scientists and students from around the world came together to talk about recent advances in mycology.
I presented a poster (pictured below) entitled ‘Improving the management of Armillaria in gardens’, highlighting some of our team’s current research: (1) disease prevention using Trichoderma root endophytes, (2) Armillaria species specific diagnosis and interactions between species (3) efficacy of current management protocols- examining rhizomorph survival. I was also able to meet international contacts, including other researchers such as Ned Klopfenstein from USDA working with Armillaria.
The conference opened with a keynote address from Paola Bonfante about the network of dialogues and interactions between fungi, plants and bacteria. This is an area that interests me in respect to our team’s work with endophytic fungi (Trichoderma) and Armillaria spp. In addition there were several other interesting talks about root endophytes and mycorrhizal fungi. Of particular interest was a talk comparing communities of Trichoderma in wild and planted rubber trees (Theobroma cacao). More endophytic trichodermas were found in natural forests; these forests were also less prone to pests and diseases.
The disease session ‘Threatening fungal plant pathogens for tropical countries – acting before the foes arrive’ was relevant to me in regards to the advisory work I do. The Plant Health team at the RHS receives ca. 10,000 enquiries per year. This includes samples and emails from the UK as well as email enquiries from members elsewhere in the world. We are constantly monitoring for new threats and it is helpful to gain information on surveillance and managing of diseases. Talks included Mizubuti’s work on South African leaf blight of the rubber tree. Their work looked at established and founder populations of the pathogen and related this information on what would happen if the disease was introduced to a new area / country.
Mat Fisher’s plenary lecture was about using big data to address big data problems. A fantastic citizen science project to record Aspergillus fumigatus diversity in the UK was particularly interesting. The use of Twitter and Facebook to launch and promote the project was very successful with a 75% return rate of spore traps sent out. On a personal level the two sessions titled: ‘Home life: The mycobiomes of built environments’ and ‘Polyextremotolerant fungi in natural and urban extreme environments’ really interested me. Both Zupančič and Zalar gave separate presentations about their work on extreme indoor environments. Zupančič spoke about dishwasher biofilms and found a high concentration of fungi living on the dishwasher rubber seal. Her group found that the fungal community was most influenced by age and frequency of use of the dishwasher as well as the hardness of the incoming water. This certainly made me think twice about the cleanliness of my own washing machine, dishwasher and fridge at home!
We were lucky to have a range of interesting field trips available. I chose the trip to Las Cabezas de San Juan, a nature reserve on the North-Eastern tip of Puerto Rico. We had a very informative trip around the reserve including a tour of the mangroves; dry forest; rocky beaches; and to the lighthouse with fantastic views across to the bioluminescent lagoon and nearby islands. What sold me to the trip initially however, was the prospect of time to hang out at the beach! We stopped off and had a chance to swim in the beautiful warm water and sip a nice cold beer! I would very much like to thank the British Society of Plant Pathology for their generous support which enabled me to attend this informative meeting in such a fantastic location.
Royal Horticultural Society