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The joint international conference and workshop were held at Beijing Friendship hotel, a large state owned hotel at the heart of Beijing, constituting a great location to discover the Chinese capital as well as a pleasant conference venue.
For the first time the ICRPMC, founded in 1969 by the European and Mediterranean Cereal Rusts Foundation, was taking place outside Europe. This year’s conference was co-organized by the Chinese Academy of Agricultural Sciences taking a truly international dimension and addressing the challenge of disease risk and food security.
The conference focused on cereal rusts and powdery mildew latest research with an accent on China. The workshop gave a broader overview giving the opportunity to exchange with farmers from developing countries, biotechnology firm representatives and agricultural research funder. The gap between wheat production expectation and production needed by 2050 to feed the increasing world population was a recurrent theme, accentuating the essential role that agricultural research has to play in order to fill the gap. In the course of the presentations, given by the world top wheat and rust experts, we had a real feel for the challenges we are facing but also witnessed a great deal of remarkable achievements.
Among these achievements I can cite the rust tool box, presented by David Hodson (CIMMYT Ethiopia), a global cereal rust monitoring system allowing the detection of important pathogen changes and the monitoring of their dissemination worldwide. Ravi Singh and Gary Rosewarne (CIMMYT, Mexico) both emphasised the importance of employing minor adult plant resistances in pioneering durable resistance to wheat rust diseases. Gary highlighted the synergetic effect of minor QTLs against stripe rust, illustrating the ability of breeding program to develop lines with unprecedented level of resistance bases on minor genes. Ravi reported significant progress in developing and distributing high yielding wheat germplasm that possess high level of adult plant resistance to all three wheat rust diseases and in particular to threatening Ug99 stem rust isolate. Other studies presented in Beijing provided new insights regarding the role of Bar- berry spp. and Mahonia spp. as alternate hosts of wheat rusts and the contribution of sexual reproduction in genetic variation in the pathogens populations.
Among the challenge, stripe rust (a topic close to my everyday research) took back the front page with many examples of emerging races causing large epidemics, for instance in 2000 in the USA (reported by Eugene Milus) and in 2011 in Canada (reported by Hadley Kutcher). Closer to us, Morgens Hovmoller (Aarhus University, Denmark) reported the emergence of a new multivirulent race, namely the Ambition/ Warrior race, in 2011 simultaneously in France, Germany, Sweden, United Kingdom and Denmark, which may overcome most of stripe rust resistance present in commercial varieties within Europe.
Finally I particularly appreciate the last talk given by Catherine Feuillet (INRA, France) as she explained the strategies implemented by the International Wheat genome sequence consortium (IWGSC) to established a wheat genome reference sequence and illustrated elegantly with the progress toward map based cloning of leaf rust resistance LrSv2 how the wheat sequence can help wheat improvement.
To conclude, on a more personal approach, the conference gave me a platform to communicate my research and support the development of collaborative projects based on the wheat association panel I developed during my PhD.
I also obtained valuable comments on my work from pathologist Collins Welling (CSIRO, Australia) concerning virulence evaluation.