On 11 September over 100 participants from more than 36 countries gathered for the opening of the 8th International Symposium on Mycosphaerella and Stagonospora Diseases of Cereals at the Hotel Sevilla in Mexico City. In attendance were representatives from universities and agricultural research centers worldwide, comprised of many of the most renowned members of the international scientific community focused on wheat pathogen research. Hans Braun, Director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program delivered the introductory remarks during which he stated, “In this room is the cream of the crop in Septoria research. If the answers cannot be found here, then they won’t be found”.
Also in attendance was Etienne Duveiller, Associate Director of CIMMYT’s Global Wheat Program who remarked that this year was the third time CIMMYT had hosted the symposium, highlighting the excellent and unique conditions for testing the diseases at the research station in Toluca and the research opportunities for breeding available at CIMMYT.
Thomas Lumpkin, CIMMYT Director General, emphasized the growing concerns concerning the shortfalls of global wheat production, climate change induced yield reductions, and terminal heat stress in wheat. Lumpkin presented the WHEAT megaprogram as an integral component to CIMMYT’s efforts to address improving wheat production and productivity. He highlighted the impact of crop losses due to disease on smallholder farmers and on the one billion wheat dependent poor living less than 1 USD per day. The increasing use of wheat for biofuels and the reliance and dependence of north-south wheat trade were also stressed as concerns for the international community involved in agricultural development.
The opening lecture was delivered by J. Mathieu, Deputy Director of the Arvalis Institut du Végétal of France, who focused on the need to reduce the environmental impact of pesticides through advances in agronomy and wheat breeding. He estimated that two-thirds of fungicide application in France was targeted towards Septoria control and management, emphasizing the cost of fungicides on farmers.
Mycosphaerella graminicola, which causes Septoria tritici blotch disease, is a wheat pathogen affecting farmers’ yields worldwide —necessitating international cooperation to develop effective methods of disease control, management, and breeding for resistance. In some wheat growing areas, Stagonospora nodorum, which causes Septoria nodorum blotch disease, is prevalent and produces up to 30% loss in crop yields for fields which have not been treated with fungicides if varieties are susceptible and climatic conditions are suitable. Both diseases cause major annual yield reductions worldwide, with significant losses in Ethiopia, the UK, France, and the US. An estimated 5-10% of crops sown are lost annually as a result of the spread of these two fungal wheat pathogens.
The symposium will take place over four days and visit CIMMYT’s Toluca experimental station. The event will feature sessions to address issues ranging from disease management, genetics, resistance breeding, and evolution of the diseases and will conclude on 14 September.