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The ESN Symposium marks an important event in the calendar of many nematologists working on plant parasitic nematodes (PPN), entomopathogenic nematodes and nematodes as environmental bio-indicators. In 2018, the meeting was held in the mediaeval city of Ghent in the Flemish region of Belgium. If you have never been, Ghent is a relaxed, small city with many splendid gothic buildings including the impressive Saint Bavo Cathedral. Ghent University is renowned for its ‘International Master of Science in Agro- and Environmental Nematology’ where many students begin their training in this discipline. I reached Ghent late on Sunday the 9th September after travelling on the Eurostar followed by a Belgium train. Even at 10pm, the city was alive with people on their bikes or enjoying a meal or drink in the numerous cafes, restaurants and bars.
The meeting began on Monday 10th September with a warm opening from Professor Wim Wesemael of ILVO followed by two plenary presentations. Jaap Smedema (Global Crop Manager of Bayer CropScience) gave a good overview of the integrated management of plant parasitic nematodes and explored strategies for integrating non-chemical management approaches with nematicides. Emile Frison (IPES Food) then discussed the constraints affecting food production with specific reference to soil health and ecological diversity.
Over the course of the conference, there was an excellent variety of sessions in each concurrent period. I was particularly interested in those on nonchemical approaches to PPN management, cyst nematodes and capacity building. On Wednesday 12th September, I co-chaired a session entitled ‘Cover crops and plant extracts in the management of plant-parasitic nematodes’. During this session, we heard some good presentations on biofumigants, trap crops and allelopathic plants such as Tagetes. In particular, Oliver Chitambo from Kenya provided an excellent presentation on solanaceous species and their ability to suppress populations of potato cyst nematode. Interestingly, Oliver was awarded a prize for the best student platform presentation.
During the poster sessions, my students and I presented a variety of our research findings on biofumigation, Ditylenchus gigas and root lesion nematodes. This provided a great opportunity for networking with other researchers. Another of my students presented a platform presentation in the session on beet cyst nematodes, which received a good number of questions.
On Wednesday afternoon, there was an opportunity to visit Bruges for a guided walk of the city and a tour of one the oldest breweries (De Halve Maan), aptly followed by a beer tasting session. After Bruges, we were taken to ILVO for a brief tour of the facilities followed by an evening reception – Flemish fries!
The conference concluded on a warm evening with a pleasant boat trip around the canals of Ghent (pictured below) and then a fantastic conference dinner, where several speeches were made, awards announced and much dancing followed.
Over 400 delegates from 50+ countries attended the ESN Symposium – a truly international event! I am very grateful for the travel grant from the BSPP, which helped me attend the meeting.
Dr Matthew Back, Harper Adams University
The European Society of Nematologists organises every two years an international symposium that attracts nematologists from all over the world, indeed this year almost 500 registrants joined the conference, including many speakers from the UK. Over the four days, 30 sessions were organised with different presentations covering topics like nematode management, chemical control of plant-parasitic nematode, biological control, systematics and phylogeography, just to cite some examples. The majority of attention was focussed to potato cyst nematodes, Globodera pallida and G. rostochiensis, which represent a big problem for potato also in the UK, but also other plant-parasitic nematodes, free-living and entomopathogenic nematodes.
The first day the conference was opened by Jaap Smedena (Bayer AG CropScience Division) talking about integrated nematode control solutions as a must for the future in agriculture. Plant-parasitic nematodes are considered to cause economic losses of over 80 billion Euro per year, so the management of nematodes is of fundamental importance to prevent losses in yield in agriculture. He stressed how difficult is to apply nematode control in reality by considering all regulatory restrictions and the availability of chemical control products. Moreover, one technology itself cannot solve nematode problems, so it is necessary to combine different measures to reduce the impact of nematodes on crops. In particular, he showed how the use of good agricultural practices, cover crops, solarization, resilient varieties, analytical tools and finally the combination of chemical and biological control products could be a good solution. However, all these methods require a constant attention from scientists and growers who need to work together to enable integrated nematode control solutions to be applicable in reality with good performance results. During the nematode management session, several speeches showed the effectiveness of new nematicides with favourable toxicological, ecotoxico logical and environmental profile against different plant-parasitic nematodes such as potato cyst and root-knot nematodes, showing products like Velum Prime (fluopyram SC400), Salibro (Fluazaindolizine) and Cedroz (terpenes).
The second day, an interested talk was presented by Sofie Derycke from ILVO (Belgium) who delivered a nice and clear presentation on metabarcoding as a tool for monitoring free-living marine nematode communities. She started by talking about DNA barcoding and what marker gene to use in nematology, and then the limitation of species identification comparing metabarcoding with morphological identification. She presented the promises and pitfalls of the metabarcoding approach for marine nematodes using empirical datasets with mock communities and environmental samples. Results showed that metabarcoding can be a good tool in monitoring studies, but this still requires improvement for identification at species level. This might be the future also for nematode taxonomy in general, however this remain a challenge to achieve.
Other interesting talks were about the beet cyst nematode, Heterodera schachtii, that is an important pest of sugar beet causing severe reductions in sugar yield, indeed it has been estimated losses at over Â£3 million every year in the UK for damage caused by H. schachtii. One session was entirely focused on the management of this nematode and different methods were discussed such as biological control using Bacillus firmus I-1582 that protects plants from H. schachtii, the use of commercial varieties of sugar beet for tolerance and resistance to H. schachtii to prevent its damage, and the use of cover crops, such as Egyptian clover, niger, Italian clover, borage and eruca ‘Trio’ and ‘S010’, to prevent its multiplication in the field. Each talk showed advantages but also the limitations of each method to apply at field conditions.
The conference was very well structured and full of topics such that it was difficult to choose which one to attend. Over 15 presentations were delivered by UK researchers such as for example: J. Keer (Richard Austin Agriculture Limited, Boston) on the evaluation of a new nematocide for the control of potato cyst nematode (PCN) in the UK; Ulrike Gartner (The James Hutton Institute) on the characterisation of potato cyst nematode populations in UK fields; Emily Feist (University of Southampton) on inhibitor studies and vital dye staining suggest that the nematicide fluensulfone acts against lipid mobilization; Jamie N. Orr (The James Hutton Institute) on the genomic sequencing of the nematode parasite Pasteuria penetrans; Roy Neilson (The James Hutton Institute) on SoilBio – assessing soil health using soil nematode communities; and Kim Davie (SASA) on the practicalities and limitations of control options for potato cyst nematode management.
We had also the opportunity to have a lovely guided city walk of Ghent and Bruges, two nice Belgian cities, where we learned also the process behind the production of the famous Belgian beer which included a tasting of local beer. I would like to thank the BSPP for the travel award that gave me the opportunity to attend this valuable conference, meet and talk with many other nematologists and get inspiration for my project from other similar works. I increased my network and I am already in touch with some researchers to exchange our experiences about Pratylenchus sp. on potato and its identification using molecular methods. I look forward to attending the next ESN meeting to be held in Cordoda (Spain) in 2020.
Valeria Orlando Harper Adams University