Report from Monogram 2019

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Published on: August 12, 2019

by Adeline Sourdille, James Hutton Institute, University of Dundee.

I first attended Monogram in Bristol in 2017 and did not have the opportunity to be there in 2018 in Norwich. After the success that Monogram 2017 had been, the expectations were high for the 2019 edition in Nottingham. Monogram is one of these meetings where its reputation precedes itself and I was particularly looking forward to sharing my work and exchanging with other cereals researchers from the UK and other parts in the world.

My work as a PhD student at the James Hutton Institute in Dundee, Scotland, is focusing on the effect of DNA-Methylation in barley, however I had the chance to work with the University of Cambridge on Arabidopsis material to assess how transferable the effect of the epigenome on meiotic recombination is from a model plant (Arabidopsis) to a rather complex cereal widely cultivated in Scotland (barley). Attending Monogram 2019 in Nottingham highlighted even more how crucial it is to maintain the bridge between model species and crops in order to better understand the mechanisms underlying the sustainable food production of tomorrow. This was particularly highlighted by the wide diversity of talks concerning many different species, from Wheat (obviously) to rice, as well as barley, brachypodium, maize, and so many more.

The JHI crew at #Monogram19 Photo @malcolmacaulay

Having transferred to academia to do my PhD after first working in the breeding world, which is much more applied, I also truly appreciated the perfect balance between fundamental research, such as gene and QTL mapping in wheat, by Jemima Brinton or the role of OsEPF1 in stomatal density, by Umar Mohammed, and applied projects with Alison Lovegrove’s talk about how to improve fibre content into white bread and Simon Orford’s description of how to use the Germplasm resources available at the John Innes Centre for breeders.

Simon Orford introdcues the GRU at the John Innes Centre. Photo @Notts-WRC

The talk which was the most surprising to me and one of the most interesting from the conference was given by Laura Gardiner from IBM research UK about how to use AI and genomics combined to improve crops. It is to me fascinating how much new computing technologies can bring into areas where you would not expect them, especially plant science.

The Poster Session was preceded by a Flash Presentation Session. This exercise is great to force scientist to condensate their research into a 60 seconds talk and a good opportunity to try and lure people to visit your poster. The Poster Session itself was nicely coupled with an outdoor barbecue and allowed for the most interesting discussions with other scientists and breeders, where the outcome mostly was some suggestions of what work could be done to complement the existing results I have generated. It was also a great opportunity to visit other people’s posters and discover the broad variety of science which people from the Monogram network do, from roots to flowers, from Arabidopsis to wheat, or from South to North!

Queuing to present a flash talk. Photo @Amma Simon

Finally, the organising team of Monogram 2019 in Nottingham did an amazing job with the choice of the conference and dinner venues. The Exchange building on the Jubilee Campus in Nottingham is in a charming environment surrounded by water and the conference dinner was held in the Albert Hall in the centre of Nottingham, which has splendid rooms and decors! Not to forget the close proximity to “Ye Old Trip To Jerusalem”, allegedly the oldest pub in the United Kingdom and definitely a place worth a stop if the occasion presents itself!

The University of Nottingham Jubilee Campus. Photo @mscott0106

All in all, I would like to deeply thank GARNet for allowing me to attend this conference and present my work there and will be looking forward to hosting all the Monogram community next year, in Dundee, Scotland!

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