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Biotrophy in Plant Pathogens – from Recognition to Ecology - Spring 2018

ECTS credits:

Course parameters:
Language: English
Level of course : PhD course
Time of year: 29 April – 4 May 2018
No. of contact hours/hours in total incl. preparation, assignment(s) or the like: app. 120 hours

Objectives of the course and course Description :
This is the second course in the NOVA PhD course series "Plant Pathology with a Nordic Dimension", which is scheduled for 2017-2020. The series consist of four courses, each within different disciplines in plant pathology. 

The course to be given in 2018 has a focus on interactions between the host plant and biotrophic pathogens aiming at understanding pathogen effector biology, defence responses of the host plant, how the plant accommodate and feed the pathogen, and the ecology of biotrophs in natural and/or agricultural cropping systems. Effector biology has become an important theme for biotrophic and other pathogens due to large-scale identification of effector candidates through genome- and transcriptome sequencing. At the course, we will give an overview of how effectors play their roles, how they interact with targets in the plant, how they evolve and how they can be studied in different pathosystems. Biotrophic interactions will be studied from early recognition through defence signaling to execution of various defence reactions at both genetic, molecular and cellular levels. We will discuss the zigzag model and how it impacts on biotrophy, resistance based on single R-genes as well as non-host resistance. This is important in relation to pathogen populations and how new virulent pathogen strains may evolve. Phenotypic host responses at both microscopic and macroscopic levels will be considered, including how biotrophic fungi interact with resistant and susceptible host plants. The utilization of R-genes in practical plant breeding and in evaluation of disease resistance in official variety testing will be demonstrated. The ecology of biotrophic rust fungi in natural and agricultural cropping systems will be examined by studying the role and prevalence of the primary hosts year round, and by the particular role of alternate (sexual) hosts in cereal rust epidemiology.    

Learning outcomes and competences:

The student will:

  • obtain knowledge of definitions, theories and concepts within the pathology disciplines addressed in the course series
  • obtain basic skills of genomics/bioinformatics methods used in advanced plant pathology and        knowledge about strategies for integrated pest management (IPM)

Obtain specific competences in:

  • course 1: inoculation biocontrol and conservation biocontrol embracing suppressiveness due to                    interacting microbial communities and effects of crop management
  • course 2: biotrophic pathogen ecology and host interactions, including effector biology and plant                  defence
  • course 3: epidemiology, population genetics and race development
  • course 4: the role of metabolites in microbial- and pathogen host interactions.

Skills in presenting a scientific subjects is another learning outcome of the courses

Compulsory programme:

  • Students will present their own research and act as opponents in poster session.
  • Exercise  group work will be part of the course
  • Students will study appointed literature prior to the course and discuss them in groups (local        teachers will participate)
  • Excursion to Aarhus University, Flakkebjerg Research Center  – 15 km from the course site
  • Nice discussion atmosphere will be facilitated during all learning moments

 Main topics 2018

  • Population biology and ecology
  • Effector biology
  • Defence responses of the host plant

Course contents:
Each course includes definitions, terms, concepts and theories within the plant pathology disciplines reflected in the course title. Two main themes will be the core of each course schedule. Cases with special relevance for the Nordic zone will have highest priority. Understanding plant pathogen interactions and biocontrol at the molecular level will be prioritised embracing genomics, transcriptome and gene expression studies. Importance of cell wall degrading enzymes, effector molecules and secondary metabolites will be addressed. Discussions of biocontrol, epidemiology, population dynamics and plant resistance as part of integrated pest management will be part of each course.

A prerequisite is that the students have an MSc within natural sciences. MSc students can occasionally be accepted to attend. 

Name of lecturers:

  • International teachers, Pietro Spanu, Imperial College, London, and Hans Thordal-Christensen, University of Copenhagen
  • A number of Nordic teachers will each give lectures of the topic of their expertise.

Type of course/teaching methods:
Several forms of teaching are used including lectures, literature discussion sessions and computer exercises. The students acquire facts by reading relevant literature during the journal club and through lectures. These facts are then processed during computer exercises and during discussion sessions. Discussion sessions are opportunities for students with different backgrounds to learn from each other. All students will get the opportunity for an oral presentation of a poster with feedback or an oral presentation at the lecture sessions. 

To be announced. 

Literature assigned to students (15-18 reviews/key papers) studied prior to the course (journal clubs in home institutions recommended). A journal club will be running 6-10 times for 3 months discussing papers suggested by teachers. 

Course homepage:

Course assessment:
Literature assigned to students (15-18 reviews/key papers) studied prior to the course (journal clubs in home institutions recommended). A journal club will be running 6-10 times for 3 months discussing papers suggested by teachers. 

The course is offered by Department of Agroecology in collaboration with the NOVA network


29 April – 4 May 2018 

Skælskør, Zealand, Denmark 

For registration: Please send an email to sonja.graugaard@agro.au.dk with a copy to mogens.hovmoller@agro.au.dk between 6 January and 8 February 2018.

If you have any questions, please contact Sonja.Graugaard@agro.au.dk  or Mogens.Hovmoller@agro.au.dk.

13755 / i43