Grind and find - or spray and pray


by Anna Kaja Hoeyer | Trinity College Dublin

11 May 2016 10:00 | 11 May 2016 15:38

ipsamconferencetrinity college dublin

This year the Irish Plant Scientists’ Association Meeting was held at Trinity College Dublin. It was organised as a two day conference from the 27-28th of April with plenary talks, parallel sessions and poster sessions. It felt like a big privilege to have so many experts arrive right at ‘my doorstep’ to talk about their field of expertise.

I really enjoyed the session on ‘Plant growth and development’ – especially a talk given by Lynn Pillitteri who was working on stomata development. The idea was to optimise water use efficiency by reducing the number of stomata on leaves. Therefore, Dr Lynn Pillitteri was studying the cues that turned precursors of stomata guard cells (the meristemoids and guard mother cells) into fully functioning guard cells. She had found a gene called MUTE which was necessary for turning meristemoid cells into guard mother cells and she was now studying the promotor regions in order to understand the expression of MUTE.

The first plenary talk was given by James Humphreys from Teagasc. He gave us an insight into the sustainability of Irish dairy farming systems. The second plenary talk was given by Prof. Deri Tomos from Bangor University. He explained that when he began working on cell biochemistry the only two approaches were “grind and find” or “spray and pray”. Since then the approaches have become more sophisticated and Deri Tomos developed methods to study single cells. One of the many projects he had been involved in was to develop a system that would be able to change the position of space satellites using only a minimum amount of energy. He studied how beans move their leaves when they track the sun and found that tugor pressure is essential for this movement.

Talking to researchers during the poster sessions I learned about cyanobacteria used as a biostimulant, plant growth promoting bacteria fighting disease in potato and a commercial bioactive product used to control disease. It became clear to me that the field of using biostimulants and biological control agents is a strong and upcoming area in the Irish plant science community.    

I’ll end this description of the Irish Plant Scientists’ Association Meeting 2016 with one of Prof. Deri Tomos many anecdotes. He explained that Cladophora ruestris, a green seaweed, is able to withstand a hydrostatic pressure of up to 4 MPa. In comparison modern nuclear steam turbines can do between 1.8-5.3 MPa.

Lots to learn from plants!

Picture collage from IPSAM 2016 – Trinity College, one of the auditoriums and a slide about MUTE a gene that is necessary for the formation of stomata.  Photos by Dongwei Zhao and AKH.

Anna Kaja is originally from Denmark and is now working at Trinity College Dublin as an Early Stage Researcher on a project entitled "Isolation and characterisation of novel fungal root endophytes from wild relatives of barley and wheat for resistance to Fusarium and Gaeumannomyces"