RDG Conference Report of Christian Joseph R. Cumagun

Write up about the Conference

The International Society for Plant Pathology (ISPP) ISPP sponsors an International Congress of Plant Pathology (ICPP) every 5 years. About 1,700 delegates from about 70 countries attended in 10th ICPP Beijing. Four delegates represented the Philippines: one each from UPLB, CLSU, East-West Seed Company, and Biodiversity International. ICPP provided me the chance to meet in person my host scientist Prof. Dr. Bruce McDonald in preparation for my one-month visiting scientist at the prestigious Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH) during the coming semestral break. Prof. Mc. Donald’s lab at the Institute of Integrative Biology at ETH is the world leader in the study of population genetics of plant pathogens. I will carry-out research on the genetic structure of the sheath blight pathogen Rhizoctonia solani in the Philippines using the state-of-art facilities of the Genetics Diversity Center of ETH by bringing in my DNA samples of R. solani collected from the rice, corn and mungbean in rice-based cropping systems in the Philippines. A day tour on the fourth day was spent at the Great Wall of China and the Ming Tombs near Beijing. The congress ended with the culminating award ceremony for Dr. Jeffrey R. Jones, winner of the Jakob Ericksson Prize, The prestigious prize in plant pathology conferred by the Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences during ICPP.

Feedback on paper presented

The amount of fumonisins should have been measured in planta to establish its definitive association with virulence.

Future directions of research presented

The information generated from the study provides a baseline information for future corn breeding against F. verticillioides in the Philippines.

Potential foreign collaborators

1. Dr. Masao Arakawa, Associate Professor, Meijo University, Nagoya, Japan – Dr. Arakawa is doing SSR genotyping for the populations of fungal plant pathogen Rhizoctonia solani AG-1 IA of rice, soybean and maize in Southeast Asia. By sharing Philippine strains of R. solani, we will establish a genotype  map for AG-1 IA in Asia to monitor gene flow using the SSR markers.

2. Dr. Baruch Sneh, Professor, Tel Aviv University – Dr. Sneh is well known for his work on biological control of soil-borne plant pathogens particularly Rhizoctonia using non-pathogenic isolates. He e-mailed me expressing interest to work with me by reviewing the terms of collaborations of his university with UPLB.

3. Dr. Gary Harman, Professor Emeritus, Cornell University – Dr Harman is the world authority on biocontrol of Trichoderma. I isolated a strain of Trichoderma with high saprophytic ability. He would be interested to partner with anyone who has a promising biocontrol agent for commercialization.

4. Dr. Yuan Zhilin, Researcher, Chinese Academy of Forestry – Dr. Zhilin works on fungal endophytes particularly Muscodor spp. I have requested assistance from him to isolate Philippine strain of Muscodor based on my proposed project for Biovision Catalyzer in France.

Other important contacts and insights

Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor, Purdue University 2009 World Food Prize Laureate

Short write-up of one’s participation (to be used to feature/publicize the grantee’s participation in the conference)

The 10th ICPP in Beijing, China was successfully sponsored by the Chinese Society for Pant Pathology. I attended the meeting not only to present my poster paper on aggressiveness of Fusarium in maize but  also perform my duties representing the Philippines as an ICPP councilor and member of the House of Delegates for the Asian Association of Societies for Plant Pathology (ASSPP) by attending the meeting for officers. I submitted a five-year- activity report of the Philippine Phytopathological Society announcing its 50th Founding Anniversary this year. In the AASPP meeting, a plan to offer travel support to conferences for young students in Southeast Asia was put up as its major activity. One the highlights of the congress is an evening plenary session on the theme Can we improve global food security? Dr. Gebisa Ejeta, Distinguished Professor of Purdue University and the 209 World Food Prize Laureate delivered the keynote lecture entitled “One billion hungry people: what we can do?” His admonition to agricultural scientists to pursue purpose-driven research and not simplify do research for the sake of science has made a deep impression on me. To achieve global food security according to Dr. Ejeta urgently requires a smarter governance and policy instruments for global resource use and investments with emphasis on improving human welfare. Not everything you hear at ICPP is all about research. A concurrent session on the topic “Teaching Plant Pathology” has given me the boost and motivation to improve my teaching efforts in plant pathology. Dr. Darin Eastburn presented a talk on outcomes based learning and active learning techniques for plant pathology classes. I learned that in this approach what matters most is not what is taught but was is learned. This is timely for the UP System’s strategic plan to embark on a major change in its teaching pedagogy to meet the goals of ASEAN Economic Cooperation in 2015