4th Asian Conference for Plant Pathology (ACPP)

Event:4th Asian Conference for Plant Pathology (ACPP)
Delegates:395 delegates from 34 countries
Destination:Darwin, Australia
Duration:26-29 April 2011

The 4th Asian Conference for Plant Pathology (ACPP) was held concurrently with the 18th Biennial Australasian Plant Pathology Society Conference. The conference brought together the Asian Association of Societies for Plant Pathology (AASPP) and the Australasian Plant Pathology Society (APPS).


A group of APPS members submitted a bid to hold the 4th Asian Conference at the Yogyakarta conference in August 2007. Pakistan also put in a bid. The Australian bid was successful. Australia was deemed more attractive. Darwin was chosen due to its proximity to South East Asia, its multicultural diversity, its history and its general relaxed lifestyle. Similar plant diseases to those found in Asian countries meant delegates from Asia would be more likely to attend the conference.


“I think Darwin seemed a bit exotic too,” said Adjunct Associate Professor Elaine Davison,

President of the Australasian Plant Pathology Society. “Many people hadn’t looked at tropical agriculture before and the Darwin Convention Centre worked really well for this number of people.”


Previous conferences had been held in Beijing, Singapore, and Yogyakarta in Indonesia.  Some 240 delegates from 29 countries attended the Singapore conference and 176 delegates from 19 countries attended the Yogyakarta conference. The attendance figure for the Darwin conference was significantly greater. This was most likely due to the number of Australians attending. Australia is a leading player in plant pathology.


“We were delighted by the number of people who attended,” Dr Davison said. “The Australasian Plant Pathology Society conference has never been held in Darwin before and the focus of the conference was very different to previous ones.”


Delegates came from all over the world, including a large contingent from China and New Zealand. Other delegates came from across South East Asia, including Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos, and others came from as far away as the USA, Germany, the UK, and Sweden.


“One of the main objectives was to talk about what is happening in the region, and also the problems facing the region,” Dr Davison said. “There are a number of reasons why this benefits Australia. By meeting up we get to know if and how our neighbours are dealing with a particular problem, and we also get to know what kind of diseases there are in those countries and what might come to Australia.


“People aren’t aware of what funding is available either. It’s also important for people from developing countries to enhance their diagnostic skills, for example taking something back to the lab and finding what kind of disease it has. The conference gives them the opportunity to use Australian laboratory facilities.”


Networking was also a principle objective, Dr Davison said.


“There was a huge amount of networking. It was going on all the time. The feedback in terms of networking was fantastic.


“We included a complimentary membership to the Australasian Plant Pathology Society with the registration fee, so we picked up around 70 new members this year.


“Professional development was also an important aspect, not only through one-on-one contact but also through the workshops.”


Dr Davison was very impressed with the Convention Centre.


“Darwin Convention Centre was really good,” she said. “I spoke to a lot of people who commented on its seamless operation. It was really smooth. The food was good, the catering couldn’t be faulted, and the audio-visual was great too. When we needed a few microphones at the last moment we got them without a fuss. It was very flexible.” 


There were a number of workshops, including workshops on banana diseases, nematodes, and potato diseases. Some of these were hands on laboratory workshops, such as a two-day plant pathogen workshop using both cultures and herbarium material. The workshops were held at Charles Darwin University.


Delegates also visited a diverse range of farms to experience the array of tropical horticulture enterprises in Darwin; including mangoes, rambutans, Asian vegetables and cut flowers. The mango industry was highlighted so that delegates gained an insight into the nature of the industry, crop management techniques and major diseases and options for their control.


Another field trip visited vegetable farms in the Darwin area to view Root Knot Nematode problems.


“People saw problems in different settings or learnt about new diseases or symptoms,” Dr Davison said. “You might not be aware of some things, even though they occur in your area of research, that’s always very valuable.”


Networking highlights included the Conference Dinner, attended by the majority of delegates and some partners. A highlight of the Conference Dinner was the Welcome to Country, which reflected the Northern Territory’s strong indigenous aspect.


Another networking highlight was a social dinner at Crocosaurus Cove, which has some of the largest saltwater crocodiles in captivity. You can ‘Swim with the Crocs’ in the separate pool alongside the crocodile enclosure here, or enter the ‘Cage of Death’.


The Northern Territory Government supported the event through staff time and sponsoring the welcome reception. Tourism Northern Territory, via the Darwin Convention Centre, provided the promotional information for the bid. Other sponsorships occurred during preparation time.


The list of sponsorship was extensive, and included sponsorship from the Northern Territory Government’s Department of Resources; the Australian Centre for International Agricultural Research (ACIAR); the Crawford Fund; AusAid; the Grains Research & Development Corporation; CRC for National Plant Biosecurity; Horticulture Australia; Nufarm; Charles Darwin University; and the Department of Agricultural, Fisheries and Forestry.


ACIAR, AusAid and the Crawford Fund were instrumental in supporting delegates (both researchers and students) from developing countries in Asia so that they could attend the conference.