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This stimulating international conference was held on August 20-23rd at the National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana, Slovenia. It was the Third Conference of the International Working Group on Legume and Vegetable Viruses. The conference was attended by 68 participants from 19 different countries from five continents. There were 19 talks on vegetable viruses, eight on legume viruses and five general ones that addressed both. There were also 20 posters on legume or vegetable virus topics. Presentations ranged from basic and molecular to ecological and applied.
The programme commenced at midday on Weds 20th Aug with registration and welcoming introductory comments by the main conference organiser, Maja Ravnikar (Head of Research, Department of Biotechnology and Systems Biology, National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana). This introduction was followed by an invited lecture entitled “Vegetable viruses of the world: an overview” by Piero Caciagli (Italy), Chairman of the International Working Group on Legume and Vegetable Viruses. Scientific papers were then presented in sessions during the rest of the afternoon of 20th Aug, on Thurs 21st Aug in the morning and early afternoon, and all day on Fri 22nd Aug.
In addition to the lecture by Piero Caciagli, there were three other invited presentations: Hanu Pappu (USA) spoke on “Progress toward understanding and managing Iris yellow spot topspovirus epidemics in onion bulb and seed crops”; Robert Milne (Italy) gave an entertaining historical lecture on “Plant viruses and plant virologists: fifty years of changing passions, changing fashions”; and Neil Boonham (UK) spoke on “Developing diagnostics for the laboratory and field”. Other general contributions included a review by Joe Vetten (Germany) on “recent advances in the study of viruses of the family Nanoviridae”, and another by Maja Ravnikar entitled “Real time-PCR and CIM technology enables efficient detection and epidemiology studies of viruses”.
There were many other interesting papers, for example, several on recent progress in understanding damaging virus diseases of tomato caused by Pepino mosaic virus, Tomato yellow leaf curl virus, and two new tomato viruses, Tomato torrado virus and Tomato marchitez virus. Additional interesting examples of presentations included a paper by Herve Lecoq (France) that provided new insights into the molecular epidemiology of Watermelon mosaic virus (WMV) and Zucchini yellow mosaic virus (ZYMV). With WMV, a new subgroup of isolates that arrived recently in SE France proved to be subdivided into four different types. With ZYMV, there are five subgroups of isolates, two of which also only arrived recently. These recent WMV and ZYMV introductions provide strong evidence of the consequence of increased global trade in plants and plant products in moving potentially damaging virus strains around the world. John Walsh (UK) spoke about plant-virus coevolution in wild brassicas using Turnip mosaic virus (TuMV) in wild cabbage as an example. Different wild cabbage communities showed large differences in the amount of genetic and pathogenic variation within the TuMV isolates found infecting them, some showing little and others showing a considerable amount of variation. Mixed infections introduced to plants were used to compare the relative fitness of different TuMV isolates. Scott Adkins (USA) spoke on new watermelon viruses in Florida. Two recently discovered whitefly-transmitted viruses occur in watermelon fields, and of these Squash vein yellowing virus (SqVYV (an ipomovirus) causes a severe vine collapse. When SqVYV and Cucurbit leaf crumple virus were present in plants within the same field, the diseased plants were spatially separate in distribution which seemed to be due to their whitefly vectors being different. Cucurbit weeds served as important alternative hosts.
On the Thursday (late afternoon) we travelled to the very picturesque Lake Bled region for the conference dinner at a fine lakeside restaurant. The conference finished with a visit to the National Institute of Biology, Ljubljana on Frid 22nd Aug to hear more of the plant virus and phytoplasma research activities underway locally and to see their impressive new virus research facilities. There was then a guided tour of the city of Ljubljana, including a visit to an ancient castle watchtower overlooking the city with spectacular views in all directions, including towards the Alps.
The Post Conference Technical Excursion on Sat 23rd Aug was very informative. It included visits to market gardens (in very scenic countryside near to the border with Italy) where a wide range of vegetable crops were being grown both outside and under protected cropping. A wide and diverse selection of interesting virus-diseased plants were seen, especially in cucurbit, tomato, pepper and lettuce crops. Maja Ravnikar and her staff are to be congratulated for all their hard work in organising such a successful and enjoyable conference. The next conference in the series will be at Malaga in Spain in 2011. I thank the British Society for Plant Pathology for providing a travel grant that helped me attend this excellent conference.
Roger Jones, Agriculture Research, Western Australia