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group of conference attendees in front of Austin Hall

International conference showcases Oregon science and agriculture

By Katharine de Baun

Department of Microbiology co-hosted 38th Annual Crown Gall Conference 2017

Seventy participants from around the world gathered at Oregon State University for the 38th Annual Crown Gall Conference in October 2017. The two-day event was co-hosted by the departments of Microbiology and Botany and Plant Pathology.

The conference was a natural fit for Oregon. Crown gall and hairy root disease is caused by the ubiquitous soil bacteria Agrobacterium tumefaciens, affecting industries that contribute more than $745 million to Oregon’s economy. The conference attracted experts from across a wide variety of disciplines in academia, government and industry with a strong interest in learning about the latest research and sharing ideas on the diagnosis, control and economic impact of this widespread disease.

Microbiologist Walt Ream recruited the two keynote speakers for the event, Dr. Eugene Nester of the University of Washington, who delivered an eloquent history of crown gall to date, and Rob Horsch from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, who explored Agrobacterium’s surprising role in producing genetically engineered plants and helping to transform modern agriculture. Other speakers traveled from as far away as The Netherlands, Japan and Taiwan, reflecting the bacteria’s wide influence on thousands of plant species all across the world.

The conference was organized by Jeff Chang from the Department of Botany and Plant Pathology along with Melodie Putnam from the OSU Plant Disease Clinic and Joyce Loper from the College of Agriculture.

A secondary goal of the conference was to showcase Oregon’s impressive agriculture. A winery tour, organized and facilitated by Mark Chien, Director of the Oregon Wine Research Institute at OSU, offered ample time to socialize and enjoy some of Oregon’s world-class wines as well as a catered banquet featuring locally grown foods.

For OSU students and other young scientists, the conference offered an ideal venue to discuss their research, foster potential collaborations, build professional networks, and learn how their work fits into the diverse field of Agrobacterium biology. Two presenting researchers met individually with OSU scientists and held seminars outside of the conference on campus, a boon to participants.

After the conference, Ream reflected:

“The 38th Annual Crown Gall Conference was an amazing success. We received many laudatory compliments from attendees. The scientific program was stimulating and brought diverse people together. The depth and quality of the research of our scientists was strong; almost 30% of the presentations were from OSU scientists. Overall, attendees had a very positive experience in Oregon and at Oregon State University.”