Adelaide University hosts conference on myccorhizas - a plant's best friend

Friday, 6 July 2001

Around 90% of land plants have a useful fungal association called mycorrhiza or 'fungus root' which is critical to their nutrient uptake in low nutrient environments. Research in this field is vital to understanding plant ecology and in the development of ecologically sustainable environmental management systems. Now Adelaide University is set to host one of the largest ever conferences focusing on these essential 'best friends' to plants.

Adelaide University will host the third International Conference on Mycorrhizas (ICOM3) from July 8 to 13th. The conference, which has attracted over 450 delegates from 48 countries, will focus on the diversity and integration of mycorrhizal fungi and root in natural plant communities, crops and forests. Professor Sally Smith, Director of the Centre for Plant Root Symbioses and Deputy Head of Adelaide University's Department of Soil and Water, said the event marks international recognition of Australian research in the field.

"The first ICOM conferences arose from a merger between European and North American conferences. The convening of this conference in Adelaide in part recognises the importance of Australia's research contribution to the field and the Department of Soil and Water's role as the headquarters of the designated Centre for Plant Root Symbioses with research projects involving Adelaide University, the University of Western Australia and Flinders University," Professor Smith said. One expected outcome of the conference is a new international society focusing on mycorrhizal research.

"Until recently," Professor Smith said, "soil scientists have focused more on soil conditions than on the symbioses occurring with the plant crops we grow. Mycorrhizas have become an increasingly important area of research because of their great ability to improve plant nutrition and growth, especially in agriculture, horticulture and forestry where the use of artificial fertilizers is expensive, difficult or likely to cause off-site pollution. There is also increasing recognition of the significance of mycorrhizas in plant ecology and diversity and with the new molecular techniques we can expect very rapid progress in the next few years."

Several delegates heading to Adelaide to attend the conference will stay on to undertake research projects at Adelaide University's Waite Campus for periods of 2-3 months. These researchers will come from countries as diverse as Finland, Spain, Denmark, Indonesia and China and are sponsored by the Finnish Academy, OECD, ARC-IREX and the Crawford Fund. ICOM3 is sponsored by Adelaide University, the Australian Society of Plant Physiologists, the Noble Foundation, Forest and Wood Products R&D Corporation, Grains R&D Corporation, the Canadian Journal of Botany, New Phytologist, Kluwer Academic Publishers, the Australian Academy of Science and the Cooperative Research Centre for Molecular Plant Breeding.


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