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The 14th International Rapeseed Congress, Saskatoon, Canada 5th – 9th July 2015
The 14th International Rapeseed Congress brought together about 900 participants from more than 30 countries around the world. It is the most comprehensive forum for discussing advances, future opportunities and challenges in the rapeseed industry. The steering committee of the congress, cochaired by Ag-West Bio and the Canola Council of Canada, put together a very comprehensive programme that included keynote sessions, plenary sessions and posters categorized under five main themes; Breeding, genetics and genomics; Crop protection, biotic stress, biology of canola pathogens; Seed chemistry, processing and utilisation; Crop production, abiotic stress, environmental impact; Economics, policies and trade. Also, there were workshops on specific topics such as phoma stem canker, the rhizosphere microbiome and seedling health, emerging technologies, etc.
Keynote sessions helped to give delegates a broader overview of the development of the brassica crop and the major areas of scientific improvement. Keynote talks on the control of extracellular pathogens on oilseed rape (Prof Bruce Fitt, UK), blackleg resistance in oilseed rape (Dr. Regine Delourme, France) and Sclerotinia stem rot management in oilseed brassicas (Prof. Martin Barbetti, Australia) helped to understand priority disease problems in different oilseed rape growing regions. I enjoyed the opening keynote talk by Dr. Keith Downey from Agriculture and Agri -Food Canada, who is known as one of the ‘fathers of canola’ after his involvement in the development of the first double low (low glucosinolate, low erucic acid) varieties of oilseed rape. His talk, titled ‘Milestones on the road to the future’, particularly focused on key stages in development of the crop and future prospects based on novel scientific knowledge. Dr. Isobel Parkin from Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada gave an interesting talk on ‘The impact of genomics on brassica genetics and breeding – a sequence level view of the triangle of U’. Her presentation included the most recent advances in genome sequencing related to the triangle of U and discussed opportunities to incorpo rate this information into further research on brassica genetics and genomics.
Dr. Boulos Chalhoub (INRA-URGV, France) presented their work on the sequencing of the Brassica napus genome. The allopolyploid B. napus genome has been identified as the most duplicated youngest genome sequenced, consisting of 101,040 gene models. It was stated that there is extensive cross-talk between the A and C genomes via homoeologous DNA exchanges, which is important for B. napus diversification. With an understanding of these processes, the B. napus genome sequence can be used as an important tool for crop improvement. Plenary sessions covered a broad range of topics under the five main themes of the conference. Incorporation of novel genetic and genomic approaches in to crop development has increased rapidly over the past few years and was featured in work presented by many researchers. As my research mainly focuses on oilseed rape genetics in relation to host resistance against Pyrenopeziza brassicae, I gained useful knowledge by attending the sessions on brassica genetic diversity, evolution/ polyploid and emerging genetic technologies. Also, I enjoyed the parallel sessions on phoma stem canker hostpathogen interactions, identification and genetic mapping of disease QTL and genome wide association analysis (GWAS) of Sclerotinia and clubroot genetics, which helped me to identify methods that were potentially applicable to my research work.
There was a considerable time allocation for networking activities on each day of the conference that allowed everyone to meet with research collaborators and also to build up new connections. It was very interesting that they held a networking reception at the Western Development Museum in Saskatoon, so we were able to experience the history of development in Western Canada while meeting with other researchers. During the poster reception, where I presented my research, I had useful discussions with various people, including researchers, post graduate students and plant breeders. It was fascinating that there was a substantial interest and involvement from the agricultural industries throughout the conference.
There was a pre-conference tour to Canadian light source (CLS) and the POS Bio-Sciences. The CLS is one of the light source facilities around the world that use synchrotone light to analyse microstructures and chemical constituents of experimental samples. CLS has hosted a variety of research, including medical, environmental and agricultural research, archaeology and nuclear sciences. By visiting POS Bio-Sciences, I obtained a broader understanding about commercial production and purification of rapeseed oil.
The oilseed rape field visit, on the last day of the conference, provided me with the opportunity to experience oilseed rape cultivation in Canada and to see breeding programmes and cultivar testing done by various agricultural companies. The city of Saskatoon was renowned for its agricultural development and there is a history of over 6 decades of canola research, which made it an ideal venue for the conference. The city is built along the South Saskatchewan River, and owing to a number of bridges, the city is termed as the ‘city of bridges’. I had the opportunity to visit the Agricultural Department of the University of Saskatchewan, which is over 100 years old, and to see their excellent research facilities.
Overall, the congress was a successful, well organised meeting and I would like to thank BSPP for their generous support that enabled me to attend this highly inspirational conference.
Chinthani K. Dewage University of Hertfordshire
The conference was held at the TCU Place which had very good facilities. In the main conference hall, there was a very big screen with ’14th International Rapeseed Congress’ in a background of oilseed rape fields in flower. I have been to many conferences and had never previously seen such a big screen which enabled the presentations to be seen from any corner of the conference hall. The opening ceremony was enhanced by local folk dancing. The performers were wearing traditional costumes and dancing according to the traditional ‘first nation’ drum music. This gave the participants a taste of the local ‘first nation’ culture.
It was a highly informative conference covering many aspects of oilseed rape research. The conference was split into five themes. I was interested in breeding and crop sessions which are related to my work and I attended the blackleg workshop, the disease I am working on, and obtained information on the latest blackleg research in other countries, especially Canada and Australia, where blackleg is a major disease problem on oilseed rape production.
I was delighted to see many Chinese colleagues and friends, and had discussions about collaboration on preventing the spread of the damaging pathogen Leptosphaeria maculans (phoma stem canker) into China. Importing into China a large amount of oilseed rape seeds from Canada and Australia, where L. maculans is present, increases the risk that L. maculans will spread into China.
I was impressed by the talks given by Gail Crockett and Mitchell Smith from US McDonald’s Corporation. These talks demonstrated a good example of collaboration between McDonald and Cargill. Cargill’s oilseed rape breeding programmes directly addresses the need of consumers through efficient delivery pipelines (e.g. breeding cultivars with special oil characteristics that directly supplied to contracted growers and oil processors, then oil directly supplied to McDonald). Using the special oilseed rape oil, McDonald’s can ensure that their restaurants provide consistent quality foods to customers. This is a good example of direct application of research results (e.g. special oil cultivar) to the end users (restaurant).
I attended the Crop Protection concurrent session. Having been working on phoma stem canker and monitoring virulent races of L. maculans populations in the UK, I enjoyed talks by Dr Regine Delourme (INRA-Rennes, France) on development of durable resistance for control of phoma stem canker, by Dr Marie-HelÃ¨ne Balesdent (INRA-Bioger) on effector genes AvrLm7 and AvrLm3 evolution in French L. maculans populations, by Dr Kaveh Ghanbarnia (Canada) on comparative genomics to facilitate cloning of L. maculans effector gene AvrLm2. I have also attended talks on other oilseed rape diseases, such as stem rot (Sclerotinia sclerotiorum) and clubroot (Plasmodiophora brassicae), and some talks on phenotyping and disease resistance breeding.
The poster session was held in the evening section in a large hall where participants could move freely to view posters and talk to presenters. I was interested in the posters related to phoma stem canker. I was particularly attracted by two posters. One was presenting the recognition mechanism of L. maculans effector gene AvrLm1 by the recently cloned resistance gene LepR3 using the Nicotiana benthamiana model plant. The other one was presenting transcriptome profiles of Topas (susceptible) and near isogenic lines carrying different R genes (Topas-LepR3 and Topas-Rlm4) in response to L. maculans infection. Having recently investigated effects of temperature on stability of these two R genes, I had very useful discussion with the presenters on further investigation of mechanisms of temperature sensitivity of R gene mediated resistance against L. maculans.
On the last day of the conference, there was an organised trip to visit field trials of oilseed rape companies, such as Bayer CropScience, Cargill, Monsanto and Dow AgroSciences. Big yellow patches were visible from airplane windows. It was very nice to see oilseed rape crops in flower in Canada. To prevent the spread of clubroot, everyone had to wear a pair of disposable boots before entering to the field. There were demonstration plots for different cultivars and information platforms, which were similar to those at Cereals’ in the UK. After the conference, my colleagues and I visited Saskatoon Research Centre of Agriculture and Agri-Food Canada. Our visit was hosted by Dr Hossein Borhan whose group has cloned the first two R genes for resistance against L. maculans. We had discussions about collaboration and visited their facilities. I was impressed by their plant growth facilities and state-of-the-art lab equipment. With these good facilities, it is not surprising that they are the first to clone the R genes even through these R genes have been identified by other groups a long time ago.
I am very grateful to BSPP for the travel fund which enabled me to attend this conference. This not only gave me the opportunity to present our work, get up to date information about stem canker research in other countries and establish collaboration but also to experience Canadian culture.
Yongju Huang University of Hertfordshire