This is a conference report written by the beneficiaries of our travel fund.
Click here to read more about the fund and apply yourself
The 47th Annual Meeting of the Society for Invertebrate Pathology, Mainz, Germany 3rd – 7th August 2014
I was invited to speak at the fungal division symposium entitled “Chemical ecology of arthropod-fungi interactions”. My talk focussed on the interactions that occur on a shared host plant between aphid pests and Fusarium head blight (FHB) pathogens, and highlights an increased risk of worsened consequences of FHB disease upon dual attack of the pathogen Fusarium gramineraum and aphid pests, Sitobion avenae. My work offered a plant pathology perspective amongst a predominantly insect pathology line-up of speakers, with the chemical ecology symposium being of particular interest to those attending from the fields of invertebrate pathology and biological control as an insight into crossdisciplinary ways to approach the study of insect interactions with other biotic components.
Other speakers from within the fungal division offered progress in the testing and development of the entomopathogenic fungi Beauveria and Metarhizum as biopesticides, looking particularly at the indirect effects that could occur on natural predators of target pests. This included Daniel Karanja from CABI Africa, Nairobi, Kenya, who’s presentation discussed work being done with entomopathogenic fungus Beauveria bassianana to control the large grain borer in Tanzania. I found this interesting as my supervisor, Toby Bruce, has been involved in the Push-Pull intercropping system launched in Kenya that uses chemical ecology to manipulate the volatile signalling around maize crops to reduce cereal stemborer activity. Both methods attempt to control the crop losses to pests without the use of synthetic pesticides, but the biopesticide approach still has some way to go compared to what the Push-Pull cropping system can already achieve.
Work was presented that was closely linked to my field of research, including a talk by Chad Keyser of the University of Copenhagen which described his work relating the processes of plantcolonising fungi with different ecological niches. Specifically, he was looking at the interactions that occur between a FHB pathogen, Fusarium culmorum, the entomopathogenic fungus Metarhizium and the mycoparasitic fungus Clonostachys rosea when they co-localise on wheat. The observed interactions, including decreased insect-killing power of Metarhizium due to effects from F. culmorum, show that in order to determine the efficacy of potentially beneficial endophytic microbes the full ecology of the system needs to be considered. Non-direct effects of interacting parties can have non-trivial consequences for the management of disease, and this concept is something that is supported in my own work. Through attendance at the conference I benefited from exposure to different research methods within arthropodfungi interactions as well as ways to approach investigations of interacting systems in diverse biotic contexts.
Also of interest was the symposium hosted by the microbial control division, which focussed on the registration process for biopesticides and the reality of launching new biopesticide products in a market where the regulatory frame- work is based on the historic use of chemical rather than biological control agents. Speakers offered insight from different backgrounds from corporate developers to regulators, and gave perspectives of the differences in the processes between systems in the EU and USA.
The meeting had plenty of opportunities for mixing with the other attendees, including a trip up the Rhine river valley to the remains of the castle at Sankt Goar for a medieval themed BBQ in the castle grounds. I had the opportunity to discuss plant and insect pathology with parties with both commercial and academic research interests, and have gained new contacts and insight into the infrastructure of the biocontrol industry.
I am grateful to the BSPP and SIP for enabling me to take up the offer to present at the conference, as I have gained a lot from attending.
Jassy Drakulic University of Nottingham