UK-BRC Meeting: April 13th 2016

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Published on: April 18, 2016

The annual gathering of the UK Brassica Research Community is almost unique amongst meetings in that it’s refreshingly short and almost completely focuses on the research of postdocs and PhD students. As such it was a pleasure to attend the latest event that was held on April 13th at the John Innes Centre.

Organised by Dr Penny Hundleby on behalf of Lars Ostergaard, the ambitious schedule is a rapid dash through the ongoing research in the UK Brassica community. The majority of the work came either from the John Innes Centre or the University of York with a few less contributions from the University of Nottingham. Aside from that were also talks from TGAC, Aberystwyth, Warwick and ADAS.


The prevailing trend of the meeting was a description of a range of Associative Transcriptomic studies that aim to discover SNPs associated with growth in a variety of conditions. These mostly are funded through the Renewable Industrial Products from Rapeseed (RIPR) Project, which is led by Ian Bancroft at York. The majority of these studies are in the early stages with researchers having identified loci of interest that are currently without further definition. Over the coming years it will be exciting to learn more about these loci and whether they will be subsequently targeted for new breeding techniques.

The format of the meeting was designed just to highlight the key points of each presenters research and the five minute schedule did just that. Established faculty are notorious for taking liberties with timings so it was to the credit of the younger presenters that everyone kept to the 5minute schedule, although the presence of a intimidating bell might have helped with that!

There were many great talks throughout the day but a few highlights included Dana Macgregor (JIC) discussing the influence of cold signaling on seed germination and Annemarie Eckes (TGAC) who introduced the utility of the Brassica Information Portal (BIP) that is supported through the RIPR grant.  Helen Holmes (ADAS) provided a real world study about the mechanics of lodging of Brassica and the incredible £50million losses that occur due to this type of wind damage. In addition it was refreshing to see research being effectively conducted with a plank of wood! Marie Bruser from Lars Ostergaard’s lab discussed her study of the uninspiringly named Arabidopsis cell cycle gene called ‘Dimer Protein B’ that plays a role in flower development and pod-shatter. She described her mixing of research in Brassica, back to Arabidopsis and then returning again to Brassica. Later this summer, Marie will be benefitting from a Gatsby Foundation/GARNet sponsored travel sponsorship to attend the ICAR meeting in Korea.

Toward the end of the meeting Eric Holub (Warwick) gave an update on an exciting project with Indian collaborators that aims to develop strategies to combat white blister rust infection in oilseed.

WhiteBlisterAn example of white blister rust (from MPMI doi:10.1094 /MPMI-21-6-0745)

Colin Miles from the BBSRC gave arguably the most enlightening talk and certainly the one that will generate the most future interest. He outlined the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF) that has been recently funded out from the UK Governments Department for International Development. The GCRF contains a remarkable £1.5billion and will need to be spent before the end of this government session in 2019-20. Dr Miles indicates that a funding call will be announced in the coming months although the precise nature of the grants is currently unknown. However what is clear is that any project must have a significant interaction with an overseas collaborator from a (currently unpublished) list of developing countries. The GCRF will likely encourage cross-disciplinary collaborations so Dr Miles encouraged meeting attendees to get their thinking caps on as there will be a significant portion of money available (equivalent to 3x the entire annual BBSRC budget).

Interesting times!

Thanks to the JIC/TGAC for hosting this meeting and check out the UK-BRC website over the coming weeks for a full list of PDFs from each talk. Next year the meeting will take place in May in Nottingham, hosted by Neil Graham and Martin Broadley.

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