by Dr. Matthew Tucker
ARC Future Fellow at The University of Adelaide
It’s been a busy start to the year in terms of conferences and workshops relevant to plant research. The bi-annual Plant Reproduction meeting was held from the 18th to 23rd of March at the University of Arizona in Tucson. The conference brings together experts from diverse fields stretching all the way from meristem development through to sporogenesis, pollen tube attraction, fertilisation, embryogenesis, endosperm development and fruit growth. The ultimate aim of the conference is to describe fundamental research from model species, such as the discovery of genes, mechanisms and biochemical pathways, which might be used to address current and future challenges in crop reproduction and yield. The conference was well attended with approximately 220 attendees, and the quality of data presented was amazing. Australian attendees included researchers from CSIRO Agriculture, The University of Adelaide and the ACPFG. The highlights were talks from Minako Ueda from the University of Nagoya, who showed stunning videos of fluorescently-tagged Arabidopsis egg cells developing into zygotes, Noni Franklin-Tong from the University of Birmingham, who described her work on transferring the self-incompatibility system from poppy into Arabidopsis, and Li Yuan from UC Davis who won an award for his talk on a histidine kinases that controls central cell development in the Arabidopsis female gametophyte. The discovery of genes controlling or inducing apomixis in maize, Taraxacum and Pennisetum was also a major breakthrough. It was clear from the talks that CRISPR/Cas9 and ChipSeq are now standard techniques in the field, while the capacity to isolate, profile and study previously inaccessible cell types through fluorescence assisted cell sorting (FACS) and microdissection is also rapidly progressing. The next plant Reproduction meeting will be held in Japan in 2018, and I would strongly recommend attending what always proves to be a collaborative, interactive and socially enjoyable meeting.
Photos of the Tucson desert moon, the famed Dr Minako Ueda with the author, the packed conference and Tetsuya Higashiyama introducing the next Plant Reproduction meeting.
Another excellent CSIRO workshop was recently held from the 19th-21st April in Kiama on the NSW south coast. The workshop, also sponsored by the ASPS, brought together Australian and International researchers from the field of Crop Developmental Genetics to discuss old and new strategies for the improvement of crop yield. Cereal crops such as wheat, barley and sorghum were discussed in addition to research on lupins, canola, tomato and legumes. Talks from international speakers including Jorge Dubcovsky from UC Davis, Junko Kyozuka from Tohoku University, Thorsten Schnurrbusch from IPK Gatersleben and Yuval Eshed from the Weizmann Institute were highlights, while students from CSIRO, ANU, the Universities of Adelaide, Queensland and Monash confirmed that the future of plant developmental genetics in Australia is in good hands. The intention was to use this workshop as a springboard for further collaborative research and meetings; plant developmental genetics is a relatively small field that provides so much promise for translating fundamental discoveries directly into breeding outcomes. As part of this I plan to update the ASPS Plant Development page to include information about the field and the research being undertaken in Australia, hopefully this will act as a useful resource for both students and researchers.