Stephanie Watts-Williams – 17th International Plant Nutrition Colloquium 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey
I was fortunate enough to be granted a Plant Nutrition Trust award, in order to attend the International Plant Nutrition Colloquium 2013 in Istanbul, Turkey, in August. After a long journey from Melbourne, I arrived into the amazing city that I had heard so much about.
On the first day, we were welcomed to Istanbul and the IPNC by the colloquium’s chairman, and esteemed plant nutritionist, Prof. Ismail Cakmak, before settling down to hear the plenary presentation by Prof. Walter J Horst. Throughout the day, we heard talks from some of the world’s brightest and best young plant scientists in the Marschner session, dedicated to early career researchers, as well as some wonderful keynote presentations from researchers around the world.
Early on the second day of the colloquium, I was given the opportunity to present a talk in one of the parallel sessions under the topic of ‘rhizosphere process, root biology and nutrient acquisition’. I presented my PhD work to date, which involved a number of glasshouse experiments investigating the role of arbuscular mycorrhizas on plant zinc and phosphorus nutrition, and preliminary data from a meta-analysis. I was glad to find that other delegates approached me with questions, both in the designated discussion time, and also in break times during the rest of the colloquium. I thought it was wonderful of the colloquium’s committee to have offered oral presentations to so many PhD students, as it gave us the opportunity to expose our research to an audience who may not have encountered it otherwise.
Later that day, I heard some motivating talks in the keynote presentation that centered on the theme of biofortification – a topic that interests me greatly. Speakers included the director of Harvest Plus, Dr. Howarth Bouis, and Prof. Philip White, from the James Hutton Institute. Of particular interest were the new breeds of staple crops that have been genetically engineered to be biofortified with one of iron, vitamin A or zinc, and were in different stages of implementation into agricultural practices in various countries. The three most common micronutrient deficiencies worldwide are represented here, and are thus the focus of Harvest Plus’ research. The next challenge for these researchers is to investigate the biofortification of multiple essential micronutrients into one crop. I left this session feeling particularly inspired to take part in research of this nature in the future.
The rest of the week was spent attending various sessions, viewing posters, and networking with other delegates. In particular, there were many talks discussing or utilising imaging techniques that allowed for the visual localisation of nutrients within plant tissues, which many delegates would find useful in their own research. I left the colloquium contemplating how I could improve the design of my future experiments, based on the techniques I had seen presented over the last four days.
Lastly, Prof Jan Schjoerring presented us with information on the next IPNC, to be held in Copenhagen in 2017. I was leaving for Copenhagen the next day, to embark on a research visit with an esteemed researcher in the study of mycorrhizas, and so left the colloquium feeling even more inspired.
I would like to sincerely thank the Plant Nutrition Trust for this award, which gave me the opportunity to attend my first international conference. While listening to talks gave me an insight into recent advances in plant nutrition, the colloquium also allowed me to meet an interesting and diverse range of researchers in my field.
Stephanie Watts-Williams Monash University