Could you please give the readers an up-to-date overview of the human pathogens on plants scene?We have made really significant strides in the past five years to understand the relationships between human pathogens and plants, and exciting work is happening right now – as we speak! On the other side, though, the past couple of years have brought us more and more outbreaks of foodborne illness, and some – such as the E. coli incident in Germany and the Listeria outbreak in cantaloupe in Colorado - have been unusual or surprising in various ways. As our food production and distribution systems expand and change, we will need to remain vigilant and prepared to react to such new or unexpected situations.
What are some of the biggest benefits that this workshop will offer?Active, energetic researchers will be able to showcase their work on human pathogens on plants and develop new networks and collaborations. Granting agency personnel will learn about the most interesting new research activities in the field and contribute to discussions of research needs and priority-setting. Established researchers will get to know the younger community of researchers and benefit from their fresh perspectives and ideas. The meeting of a broad range of people in a multi-disciplinary setting, research plant pathologists interacting with research food microbiologists, will offer the opportunity to help shape the food safety research landscape for the coming years.
How did you get the idea for this workshop?Foodborne illnesses caused by microbial contamination by agents such as E. coli O157:H7 and Salmonella are on the increase; outbreaks of human pathogens on spinach, lettuce, tomatoes and peppers, sprouts, cantaloupes and peanut butter have all made headlines in just the past year. This workshop is just the most recent in a series of events initiated/hosted by the APS Public Policy Board to bring the communities of plant pathology and food safety together for collaboration and synergism in research, teaching and outreach related to human pathogens on plants. Plant pathologists bring field experience, knowledge of a diverse range of crops, understanding of plant-microbial interactions, technologies (such as pathogen detection, strain discrimination, management of microbes, host plant resistance, prevention of contamination) and expert trainers (extension personnel, crop consultants, etc.) to bear on the growing problems of foodborne illnesses.
Do you have any specific goals or outcomes you are hoping to achieve?(1) To highlight and exchange the most creative and successful research concepts, practices and resources on human pathogens on plants from both the plant pathology and food safety communities(2) To create a lasting cross-disciplinary community in which members’ expertise can be leveraged and combined for stronger and more creative solutions to preventing and mitigating contamination of plant-based foods with human pathogens, all the way from the field to the family table(3) To identify and prioritize the current top issues and needs for research on foodborne pathogens on plants
What are you most excited for personally? Why?I love to help bring “disparate” communities together to solve problems more creatively and completely than would be otherwise possible. Synergism happens!