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The 7th International Workshop on Grapevine Trunk Diseases (IWGTD, 17 January 2010, Santa Cruz, Chile
The 3 day IWGTD workshops are held every 2 years and have been the venue of choice for most researchers in this field to present their current results and to discuss the pathogenicity of mostly fungal pathogens with the 70-80 other researchers in this field. This year, I and four PhD students. who are near to completing their degrees, presented aspects of our research results at the workshop and found the experience valuable for development of collaborations and discussion of new research questions. For the students, this workshop was important as it allowed them to get feedback on their research, which provided useful points to consider in thesis discussions. It also provided a place for them to ‘showcase’ their work as they begin to consider their futures with respect to postdoctoral positions.
The workshop began with topics on pathogen detection, identification and characterisation, which had a strong molecular focus. As with other research areas, the number of species within known pathogenic genera has proliferated. However, there were also presentations that demonstrated the real strengths of molecular methods in solving practical problems. The pathogen detection methods were useful, with some able to detect specific pathogens in soil at very low concentrations. One outstanding paper described a 5-plex quantitative PCR assay which could detect five of the most common and virulent of the grapevine trunk pathogens within the one procedure. Other papers described the use of the molecular methods to show splash dispersal of Botryosphaeriaceae conidia within vineyards and for tracking marker strains during dispersal experiments.
Studies on the interactions between pathogens and hosts focussed largely on physiological interactions such as pathogen production of toxins and enzymes. One paper reported on a significant ongoing search, which combines the efforts of 15 researchers, for physiological and molecular markers that can indicate tolerance to fungalinduced wood decay diseases in four grapevine genotypes. If successful, this study could significantly improve management of these diseases, by allowing growers to select from existing varieties which suffer less from these diseases.
The final section on disease management provided some insights into novel methods for management; many of the traditional methods had been explored in earlier workshops.
However, management of esca, a trunk rot disease that has caused significant losses, has appeared insurmountable since the use of sodium arsenite was banned for European vineyards a few years ago. Therefore a report on the potential for a newly formulated copper product that could reduce leaf symptoms of this disease, and so potentially reduce incidence of apoplexy, was of interest. Other innovative methods reported included ozonation to reduce pathogen infestation in bark and brassica biofumigants to reduce levels of soilborne inoculum.
Attendance at the workshop was educational and enjoyable. However, our flight home to New Zealand on Aerolineas Argentinas was the stuff of nightmares. The planes are old and the service poor, but the delays due to technical problems were the worst of the experience. The delays meant that there were two unscheduled overnight stops, one in Buenos Aires and another in Auckland. Since three of my students (who came from Sri Lanka, Ghana and the Philippines) had not taken out the Argentine visas required for stopping overnight, because they had expected a 3 hour transit in Buenos Aires, they were treated by Argentine immigration as though they were criminals. They were locked up in a hot airless room without facilities for many hours, and when finally released into a transit lounge, their passports were confiscated in case they absconded! The last delay also meant that we missed our connecting flights in New Zealand, however after much agitating we were reimbursed for the replacement flights.
You can guess what advice I have given to colleagues about choice of South American airlines!
Marlene Jaspers, Lincoln University, New Zealand