PLANT NUTRITION TRUST REPORT
Attending the IPG Root Biology Symposium in Missouri was a highlight of my year. I presented a poster, summarised the findings from my first big experiment, focusing on root responses to variable water and nitrogen supply. Being at my first root-specific conference was very exciting. Not only did I learn more about current research subject area, but I made connections with people from across the globe. Many of these people work on projects looking at ways to improve crop health and yield by tailoring root architecture.
With four main themes at the conference – development, rhizosphere interactions, phenotyping and technology, and adaptations to abiotic stress – it was important that the speakers delivered their message effectively. The common factor of my favourite speakers was their ability to draw in the audience not only with new information but by their delivery. Prof Andrea Carminati from Goerg-August-Universität Göttingen presented his research on soil physics and root water uptake very passionately and humorously. He explained that in maize water uptake is hugely driven by the crown roots; to do this he used cartoon drawings of himself. Certainly original, but the message came across very clearly! Ross Sozani (North Carolina State University) is also another passionate speaker, working on understanding stem cells in Arabidopsis thalianaroots. She quoted that “mixing biology, computational biology and engineering is like a fun tennis match”. Science can be unexpected.
I went to the conference thinking that X-ray Computed Tomography was the only 3D phenotyping technology available, but after listening to Dr Chris Topp (Donald Danforth Plant Science Center) I now understand better the different ways for capturing phenotypic variation in root systems, both 3D and 2D imaging and modelling. He, along with Prof Michelle Watt (Forschungszentrum Jülich) emphasised that phenotyping roots is a necessity for understanding root-shoot dynamics. The knowledge they shared is something I would like to implement in my own research, perhaps to investigate the effectiveness of these technologies in understanding water-nitrogen interactions in wheat growth.
Another hotly discussed subject was the lack of communication between soil scientists and plant scientists, with many researchers reiterating that collaborations are only made possible through communication. It is also well-known that plant scientists and soil scientists don’t always understand each others areas of expertise. I believe it is critical for each party to work together in order to understand the effect of physical, chemical and environmental processes on plant growth.
The conference certainly delivered in academic content, but it also ensured that we scientists had time to socialise. The opening reception was a great place to make new acquaintances and consolidate old ones. I arrived not knowing anyone, but I discovered I was not the only one from the University of Adelaide, so it gave me the opportunity to strengthen contacts within my own campus, some of whom work in similar areas. IPG did a fantastic job at providing meals and receptions, also catering for a student/postdoc/speaker dinner; I really enjoyed getting to know some of the other students, talking to them about their research and experiences as a postgraduate.
The opportunity to attend the IPG Root Biology Symposium came at the perfect time. Networking with scientists of all ages and background has reignited my passion for research and understanding the complex nature of our environment. It has helped me to realise that the joys and tribulations of science are shared by multiple people across the globe. We are not alone in facing the known and unknown. We are a community.