The Plant Growth, Nutrition & Environment Interactions Conference was held in Vienna , Austria , on 18-21th of February 2012 and attracted over 180 academia and industry participants from 45 different countries. The number of young researchers present was over one third of the total participants. The conference was organized by the Vienna International Plant Conference Association and gathered together about 37 oral speakers and more than 140 posters presenters from all over the world.
The purpose of the conference was to review the state of the art and progress in the knowledge base underlying plant development, in particular its growth, responses to nutrition and environment and to set research priorities for the next era of studies. Accordingly, the program covered a broad spectrum of topics from plant growth and development to plant - environment interactions, through development of new tools and high throughput methods, all the way to molecular imaging and cell signaling. The conference was generously supported by the Deutsche Gesellschaft für Pflanzenernährung, Plant Biology, the Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft , LemnaTec, PhenoFab, KeyGene, Springer, Regent Instruments, Conviron, BioChambers, Wiley-Blackwell, Taylor & Francis, Maney Publishing, and Scientific Research. Additionally, the lectures of three young researchers  were selected and supported by the Deutsche Botanische Gesellschaft: G. Krouk (USA): A Systems View of Hormones and Nitrogen Signalling Interaction; S. M. Brouder (USA): Impact of Climate Change on Crop Nutrient and Water Use Efficiencies; and I. Kovalchuk (Canada): Genome Instability and Epigenetic Modification-Heritable Responses to Environmental Stress?
The keynote speaker, Mark Stitt (Max Planck Institute of Molecular Plant Physiology, Golm, Germany), highlighted different aspects of the plant growth/nutrition field, and in particular, protein synthesis which represents a significant component of the plant energy budget, and which is regulated to optimize energy costs.
The meeting was opened by a session dedicated to the role of hormones and signaling in plant growth and development. Nicolaus von Wirén (Leibniz-Institute for Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, Gatersleben, Germany ) was reporting on important new findings about signaling of local micronutrient availabilities in plants. He identified the auxin importer AUX1 as a major Fe-responsive signaling step required for the changes in lateral root morphology.
To understand combinatorial interactions between nitrogen and hormone provisions in the control of the transcriptome, genome wide investigations have also been done by Gabriel Krouk and his co-workers from INRA’s Joint Research Unit for Biochemistry and Plant Molecular Biology in Montpellier, France . Due to their efforts multi-dimensional networks are currently built and validations of predicted gene roles are under investigation.
Atle M. Bones (Trondheim , Norwegian University of Science and Technology) briefly overviewed molecular programs in stress adaptation focusing on how genes, proteins and metabolites change after individual and multiple environmental stresses.
An fascinating question: “How close are we to Nitrogen-Fixing Cereals?“, was pointed out by Charpentier Myriam (the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council, John Innes Centre, Norwich, UK). In particular: how do arbuscular mycorrhizal fungi and rhizobial bacteria specifically activate the common signalling pathway for appropriate induction of responses specific to each symbiosis? She proposed new strategies, strengthened by preliminary results, which might help to get closer to the nitrogen-fixing cereals nowadays.
Progress in plant growth/nutrition field, as in most other scientific disciplines, is strongly connected to technology development. Coming to the useful tools, Anna Amtmann (Institute of Molecular Cell and Systems Biology, University of Glasgow) presented an elegant software system ‘EZ-Rhizo’ combined with newly generated software ‘RootViz’ which allowed to systematically describe the responses of root system architecture to multiple nutritional factors. Moreover, S.Weise (Leibniz-Institute of Plant Genetics and Crop Plant Research, IPK, Gatersleben, Germany) presented the MetaCrop information system which is freely available and might be an important and extremely useful for the analysis of metabolic networks of crop plants, in the reconstruction of metabolic networks and the integration of -omics data into metabolic networks. Besides, the potential of microdialysis to monitor organic and inorganic nitrogen compounds in soil was revealed by Erich Inselsbacher (Department of Forest Ecology and Management, Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences). Microdialysis could provide valuable information about the dynamics of plant-available nitrogen compounds in soils, such as diffusion rates, adsorption to soil particles and turn-over rates in soil microsites.
Finally, several important discussions were held on plant-environment interaction. Walter W. Wenzel (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) and colleagues demonstrated that proper soil management such as manipulating pH by adding sulphur or microbial inoculates may substantially enhance the phytoextraction process and control the risk of metal leaching. Arnold Bloom (Department of Vegetable Crops, University of California, Davis) reported on differences in plant responses to ammonium and nitrate as nitrogen sources. He showed that carbon dioxide enrichment tends to stimulate the productivity of plants dependent on ammonium as a nitrogen source, whereas it tends to inhibit the productivity of plants dependent on nitrate. This phenomenon influences plant distributions and food quality and will assume an ever greater importance during the next few decades.
It should not be forgotten that much of the conference took place during the poster sessions. Arranged in a circle-wise fashion, plenty of space was available so that large discussion groups were formed around posters. There was lots of time and space for discussion, exchanging ideas and setting up new collaborations.
Feedback from the conference was very positive – participants greatly enjoyed the chance to meet like-minded people from so many countries, the opportunity to network and to learn from one another, and the chance to explore ideas. At the conference, the scheduled speakers managed to connect their respective perspectives and data into a truly convergent exchange. The beautiful city of Vienna turned out to be just the right place for the conference, bringing together diverse traditions and modernities.
Vienna, in April 2012, Prof. Dr. Alisher Touraev
The DBG has sponsored the invitation of
- G. Krouk (USA) who presented the talk: "A Systems View of Hormones and Nitrogen Signalling Interaction"
- S. M. Brouder (USA): Impact of Climate Change on Crop Nutrient and Water Use Efficiencies
- I. Kovalchuk (Canada): Genome Instability and Epigenetic Modification-Heritable Responses to Environmental Stress?
See also Programm (pdf)