Meeting Report from Monogram 2019

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Published on: July 25, 2019

By Laura Taylor, University of Cambridge

In April this year I attended the Monogram meeting hosted by the University of Nottingham. This was my second time attending the meeting and I was looking forward to hearing about the new research conducted by the UK small grain community. 

Keith Edwards, from the University of Bristol, kicked off the meeting with a fantastic plenary talk focusing on genetic variation in hexaploid wheat. I had never previously considered the consequences of mixed cultivation of tetraploid and hexaploid wheat before and certainly would never have thought that mixed cultivation was still occurring in some areas of the world today. I felt that Keith Edwards put in perspective the opportunities that high levels of genetic diversity in wheat present for both academia and industry and set an upbeat tone for the rest of the meeting.

Keith Edwards kicks off the meeting. Photo @GuilleMendiondo

In the next session, entitled ‘Below and above ground processes’, Tom Bennett from the University of Leeds presented work completed by his group on hormone signalling in wheat roots (Biorxiv link to this research). He presented data which demonstrated that plants can sense root density and alter shoot growth accordingly via root-to-shoot hormonal signalling.

Looking back to my own work, I have in the past noticed that plants accumulate less biomass when grown in small pots or not potted up quickly enough. This talk highlighted to me the importance of considering factors such as root restriction when growing plants in pots in controlled environment conditions. Moving into the field, Tom Bennett also clearly framed his work in the context of agricultural practice and crop breeding through a discussion on nutrient use efficiency.

Tom Bennett explains how root sensing impact shoot biomass. Photo @AlisonRBentley

Simon Orford, based at the John Innes Centre Germplasm Resource Unit (GRU), spoke in the ‘Phenotyping’ session. He gave an insight into the work completed in the unit and described the methods used to maximise seed viability. Having used the GRU myself during my PhD work and communicated with Simon over e-mail many times before, it was nice to finally hear him speak in person.

At the meeting a variety of other resources and tools were presented; Knetminer, CerealsDB, International Plant phenotyping network (IPPN), The Wheat Expression Browser plus more were discussed. Laura-Jayne Gardiner from IBM Research UK gave a highly interesting talk on uses of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in life sciences and agriculture. As a circadian biologist, I enjoyed hearing about the work she had completed in using AI to predict genes which show rhythmic expression patterns.

Finally, I would like to thank GARNet for awarding me the travel bursary to attend the Monogram meeting this year. I had a fantastic time and I am already looking forward to next year (meeting to be held at the James Hutton Institute)!

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