April 9-11, 2002Washington, DC
Organized by the Public Policy Board of the American Phytopathological Society
Despite their importance to our agricultural base and food security we know little about plant pathogenic and beneficial microorganisms, on a genomic level. Members of the American Phytopathological Society (APS) have developed a prioritized list of plant-associated microbes to be considered for genome analysis. With experiences from the development of this list as the foundation for discussions, the APS Public Policy Board (PPB) recently organized a Workshop on Genomic Analysis of Plant-Associated Microorganisms. The workshop, held in Washington DC April 9-11, 2002, was supported by the Department of Energy (DOE), National Science Foundation (NSF), USDA Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and USDA National Research Initiative (USDA-NRI). Participants in the Workshop were invited to be representative of an international group, and included academic, government, and industrial scientists with expertise in structural and functional analysis and bioinformatics of microbial genomes. Representatives from the various funding agencies also attended.
The Workshop goal was to develop a strategy for a coordinated and collaborative effort for genomic analysis of plant-associated microbes. Common themes that emerged during the discussions were:
(1) the emphasis that sequences of these organisms are grossly under represented in present genome databases,
(2) the realization that the level of understanding and therefore the questions to be addressed by genome analysis varies with the pathogen or organism group (this impacts the depth of genome sequence and number of strains of organisms that need to be sequenced),
(3) the critical need for database standardization (while maintaining flexibility) and interoperability.
The participants generated an outline for a white paper, which will serve as a plan to enhance and coordinate funding for continuing genomic analysis programs focused on microorganisms associated with plants, both pathogenically and beneficially. A Steering Committee was appointed to oversee the PPB’s development of the white paper and the planning of a Forum to be held at the APS meetings in Milwaukee in July 2002. The Workshop participants did not address the specific organisms on the APS list, but agreed that, consistent with the inconsistent nature of plant health problems, the APS community needs to continually update the existing list, and perhaps build lists for different purposes, through discussions with society members.
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