Inspiring new discoveries of the nature of plant life at the molecular level (AoB at IPMB Part One)

The 11th Congress of International Plant Molecular Biology took place at Iguazú Falls, located at the Argentine-Brazilian border. This was an outstanding event, co-organized by the two Latin American countries, and held at an inspiring location for celebration of plant science. During the conference, the challenges that must be overcome during the next years relating to problems such as global population increase and climate change were widely discussed. In this, the first post of two, I’m highlighting some of the discussed topics, focusing on emergent technologies, plant immunity and tips for young scientists.

Magnus Nordborg
Magnus Nordborg

Magnus Nordborg from the Gregor Mendel Institute of Molecular Plant Biology, Austria presented a Plenary Lecture on the first day of the event entitled ‘The genetic basis of adaptation’. He very kindly agreed to talk to me about genome wide association studies how we can use this approach to deal with the current challenges


Following increased interest in the Plant Immunity Special Issue during the IPMB conference, the deadline for abstracts is now 20 December 2015, with papers due by 20 March 2016. See the announcement for more details.

What’s your point of view regarding the challenges for genome wide association studies in the coming years?

Definitely, it depends on the underlying traits. There are some traits that you won’t be able to map because there are no major effect genes. However, I think in many plants there will be, so it is just a question of how quickly we can follow up and confirm them.

What do you think about the priorities for research in the coming decades to guarantee global food security, faced with the ever increasing challenges related to drought, fertilizer and pesticide-dependent production approaches?

Genome wide association can be useful for all of those aspects mentioned. It depends on what you think you are going to do. In Arabidopsis, for instance, you can clearly find genes. Actually, I think the biggest applications will be in eucalyptus or in trees where you can’t really perform crosses, but marker assisted breading works really well. In this matter, I think genome wide association will be incredibly important. People argue that they don’t find anything, but I think they are not careful enough, if you can select them properly, they are going to find something.

Have you ever been to Brazil before? How about the conference taking place here? Did you enjoy it?

Yes, it was a pretty good conference for sure! It is my first time in Brazil and in Latin America as well. It is very interesting to see what it is like and of course I haven’t seen very much, definitely I want to come back and see more. It is an exciting part of the world where there are so many people and opportunities.

Tomorrow I talk to Luis Herrera Estrella from Physiology and Metabolic Engineering of Plants, Mexico and Cyril Zipfel from the Sainsbury Laboratory, Norwich Research Park, UK.