International Society for Plant Pathology
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International Society for Plant Pathology




Meeting in Darwin, NT, Australia


Wednesday 27 April 2011, 19:00


Convention Centre, Darwin





Those Present


Chrys Akem

Queensland DEEDI

Femi Akinsami

University of Queensland

Brian Deverall

University of Sydney

Flora Deverall

University of Sydney

Andre Drenth

University of Queensland

Tom Evans

University of Delaware

Wafa El Khoury

FAO, Rome

Richard Falloon

Plant and Food Research, Lincoln University, NZ

Juliane Henderson

University of Queensland

Mikael Hirsch

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, Australia

Peter Magarey

Magarey Plant Pathology, Australia

Wong Sek Man

National University of Singapore

Andrew Miles

Queensland DEEDI

Julie Nicol

CIMMYT, Ankara, Turkey

John Randles

University of Adelaide

Peter Scott


Gwen Scott


Jack Simpson

Department of Agriculture Fisheries and Forestry, Canberra, Australia

Lilian Strange


Richard Strange

Birkbeck College, University of London, UK



Peter Scott (Chairman) started proceedings by rehearsing how ISPP’s Task Force on Global Food Security came into being, starting with the late Norman Borlaug’s challenge at the 1998 ICPP for Plant Pathologists to become actively engaged in Food Security. The presentation showed, among other things, the inexorable increase in world population and the numbers living on less than a dollar a day. (Andre Drenth said that this figure was misleading and other measures would be more appropriate.)

To give structure to the meeting, Peter recalled the five headings (“Activities”) adopted as guidelines for the programme of the Task Force, and outlined the developments in each:

ACTIVITY 1: Changing Public Policy and Opinions on Global Food Security
ACTIVITY 2: Enhanced PhD training for plant pathology in developing countries
ACTIVITY 3: Economic impact of some major diseases
ACTIVITY 4: Develop a pilot project – now called “Congress Challenge”
ACTIVITY 5: Development of the ISPP Website


ACTIVITY 1: Changing Public Policy and Opinions on Global Food Security

Following the practice initiated at ICPP 1998 and continued at ICPP 2003, a Public Discussion Forum on Plant Pathology and Global Food Security was organized at ICPP 2008, in Torino. The Task Force was encouraged to assist  in the development of a session on Food Security in ICPP 2013 in Beijing.

Julie Nicol drew attention to the CGIAR’s Systemwide Program on Integrated Pest Management (SP-IPM: which is a cross-cutting initiative among ten of the CGIAR Centers plus two associated Centers and with over 90 member scientists. The website provides much useful reference information and particularly a database of  member scientists working on different aspects of Crop Health. SP-IPM has four themes within this including,:  Climate Change; Food, Feed and Environmental Safety; Agroecosystem Resilience: and Training and Capacity Building.  The SP-IPM has aligned itself with the IPPC meetings and has had special sessions in their meetings; another one is planned for the joint IPPC and APS in Hawaii , August 2003.  Julie pointed out it would seem most logical that ISPP’s Task Force join forces with the SP-IPM and encouraged ISPP’s  Executive Committee to make contact with the Chair of the SP-IPM, Prof Richard Sikora to establish what obvious linkages and collaborations could be formed. Julie also mentioned that CIMMYT has had years of experience in capacity building particularly with wheat improvement research, and the success and impacts of these have been well reported (contact Mr P Kosina – CIMMYT training coordinator for more information.). Training in wheat cultivation was mentioned as a success and Julie suggested that money should be obtained for work with wheat and maize.

Collaboration between ISPP’s Task Force and SP-IPM  could contribute to the ongoing need to make policy makers more aware  of the challenge of food security, including the impact of  plant disease.

Gabrielle Persley said that the genetic approach, which had been very successful in the past, was  course only one of the  approaches needed to solve problems caused by plant disease..

Chrys Akem said that it was time for the Task Force to have formal linkages with the CGIAR Centers. Richard Strange pointed out that each Centre received two hard copies of the journal “Food Security: the Science, Sociology and Economics of Food Production and Access to Food” (FS), the intention being that one was for the Director General and the other for the library of the Centre.

Tom Evans said that food security had far too low a profile and that efforts should be made to put it much higher on the public agenda. Various means of obtaining coverage in newspapers and magazines were suggested. Means of attracting the attention beyond the “Alerts for Policymakers” already published in the December 2010 issue of FS should be explored.

Richard Strange (Editor-in-Chief) gave a presentation about the Food Security Journal. He said that the objectives of the journal were to publish:

1.    Analyses of the constraints - physical, biological, socio-economic and political - that deprive around one billion of the world’s population from accessing safe and nutritious food, and

2.    Research into overcoming such constraints.

So far 104 articles have been published in 10 issues. These cover many topics relevant to food security, including soil degradation, water availability, the persistence of famine and the so-called “land grab” whereby land-poor but financially rich countries purchase land in land-rich but financially poor countries, the indigenous people of the latter often being chronically food insecure. A supplement giving an Arab perspective to food security was also published bringing the total number of pages so far printed or available on the web to 1340. Daily downloads of articles generally run at around 300. Last year there were 45 citations of papers in FS and already in 2011 there have been 54.

ACTIVITY 2: Enhanced PhD training for plant pathology in developing countries

Richard Strange briefly referred to his survey of students coming from overseas for PhD training in plant pathology in the UK.  The results showed  that funding was limiting, and that  there was a need to require that students returned  to their home country after  training.

ACTIVITY 3: Economic impact of some major diseases


The problem of quantifying losses in yield of crops caused by plant diseases was extensively debated. Wafa El Khoury said that the CGIAR Centres should support training in estimating losses. Richard Strange drew attention to the paper in FS by Stephen Waddington which identified the causes of crop losses in general and in which poor management featured prominently. Wafa El Khoury suggested that plant pathologists were not networking sufficiently and that they were being reactive rather than proactive.

Quantitative data are needed to convince policymakers that plant pathology requires finance in order to investigate and solve problems of crop production. However, Wong Sek Man said that he thought policymakers already knew that people were inadequately fed. Nevertheless, it was generally agreed that there needs to be a change in public appreciation of the problem of plant disease in order to obtain the funds necessary to demonstrate the losses they cause and to mitigate them. One suggestion was to involve a social economist in order to prioritize the problems that were most in need of solutions. There is thus a strong connection between Activities 1 and 3.

Finally, it was suggested that approaches should be made to development assistance agencies such as the Syngenta Foundation and the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, which might fund work in estimating losses caused by plant diseases and taking action to overcome them.

ACTIVITY 4: Develop a pilot project – now called “Congress Challenge”

After the success of  “Congress Challenge 2003” in which farmers from a  cassava-growing area of Ghana were shown how diseases reduced their production, and advised on how to mitigate this effect, the Task Force embarked o further “Challenge Project”, in South Africa.. This aims to establish a Food Security Information Hub at the University of Pretoria to build capacity in South Africa and Africa in Plant Pathology and to create public private sector awareness of the importance of plant diseases in food security. To link this hub with other information awareness projects in South Africa. To develop marketing material such as brochures, videos etc, for the public awareness programme. To purchase a second hand truck and convert it into a Plant Pathology Science Information and demonstration Laboratory vehicle that can travel between schools and science festivals in South Africa to create public awareness and inform the public of food security issues.

ACTIVITY 5: Development of the ISPP Website

Under management by Peter Williamson,  was developing rapidly and was to many people the face of ISPP.

The website has huge potential to present to the public information about the science of plant pathology and about the activities of ISPP – a small society with major ambitions to make an achievable contribution to the improvement of food security through understanding and managing plant diseases.



This meeting was arranged on an opportunistic basis, taking advantage of the presence in Darwin of participants attending the meeting on “New Frontiers in Plant Pathology for Asia and Oceania”, organized by the Asian Association of Societies for Plant Pathology (AASPP) and the Australasian Plant Pathology Society (APPS).  Like previous meetings of the Task Force it was announced as open to all. About 20 people attended the meeting and took part in some lively discussion.



Richard Strange, Julie Nicol, Peter Scott,

Darwin, 28th April 2011