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2017 APS Annual Meeting Plenary Sessions


Jack BoboOpening Session Speaker – Can Agriculture Save the Planet Before It Destroys It?

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10:30 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Jack A. Bobo, Senior Vice President, Chief Communications Officer, Intrexon

In a hot, flat hyper-connected world, public perception of risk may determine if agriculture saves the planet by 2050 or destroys it.  Science and technology may hold the key to addressing the world's biggest problems related to hunger, sustainability and climate change, but, if media experience with pink slime and GMOs are any indication, we may be in for a bumpy ride. This presentation examines global trends in food and agriculture, the interplay between science and public perception of risk and how organizations, farmers and scientists build trust to navigate these trends.

Jack Bobo serves as the Senior Vice President and Chief Communications Officer for Intrexon, a synthetic biology company developing revolutionary solutions to the world's most pressing problems--in food, energy and health.  In 2015, he was named by Scientific American one of the 100 most influential people in biotechnology today.  He joined Intrexon from the U.S. Department of State where he worked for thirteen years as a senior advisor on global food policy, biotechnology and agricultural trade.  He is an accomplished communicator, having delivered more than 300 speeches on the future of food, the role of science and technology in feeding the world and how to build consumer trust. Prior to his distinguished career at the U.S. Department of State, he was an attorney at Crowell & Moring LLP.  He received a J.D., an M.S. in Environmental Science, a B.A. in psychology and chemistry and a B.S. in biology from Indiana University.


Changing Landscapes of Plant Pathology

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10:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Organizer and Moderator: Tim Murray, APS President

“Changing Landscapes of Plant Pathology” highlights two factors that are and will continue to have a profound impact on the science and practice of plant pathology: new technologies and the next generation of plant pathologists who will employ them. This session will feature three young career scientists talking about three technologies that will impact our science going forward. Learn how RNA interference technology can revolutionize plant disease management, especially those that have been difficult to control; how population genomics can be used to better understand changes in the global distribution of plant pathogens; and, how precision agriculture technologies can be used in site-specific detection and management of plant diseases.

Greg HeckRNA-based Applications for Agricultural Productivity

Presenter: Greg Heck, Science Strategy Operations Manager, Monsanto

RNA-based technologies (e.g. initiation of RNAi via the engineered production of double-stranded RNA, dsRNA, or its in situ presentation) can be applied to wide range of agricultural improvement objectives. These applications range from the modification of harvestable plant components to crop protection scenarios. Extant examples are present in current agricultural production for virus control while additional applications, such as plant-produced dsRNA targeting insect predators, are advancing pending regulatory approvals for commercial release. Numerous considerations need to be taken into account as applications mature. Components of successful utilization include efficacy, robustness, specificity, and safety of dsRNA as an active agent. A historical perspective, advanced examples, and prospects will be presented.

Greg Heck is currently the Science Strategy Operations Manager at Monsanto Company, working to drive a variety of science-based initiatives, including the Monsanto Fellows program. For approximately ten of his twenty years at Monsanto, he has lead teams developing RNA-based solutions to improve agricultural productivity. This has included work on crop pest control (corn rootworm control via plant-produced double stranded RNA), development of RNA-based gene regulation tools (e.g. microRNA decoys in plants) and systems to monitor RNA expression in crops. Additionally, Heck has worked in a variety of basic research capacities, such as understanding germination biology, development of gene regulatory systems, and investigating weed resistance development. He has also served as a technical lead in biotechnology product development (e.g. launch of Roundup Ready Corn 2®, one of the largest commercial biotechnology products). Heck holds a BS in Biochemistry from the University of Illinois (Urbana-Champaign) and a PhD in Biology from Washington University in St. Louis.

Erica GossGlobal Movement, Local Consequences: Using Population Genomics to Understand the Changing Landscape of Plant Pathogens

Presenter: Erica Goss, Assistant Professor, Plant Pathology and Emerging Pathogens Institute, University of Florida

Plants and their associated microbes are crossing oceans and international borders at unprecedented rates. Consequently, plant pathologists are dealing with a barrage of introduced plant pathogens. Long-distance movement changes the global distribution of plant pathogens and increases pathogen genetic diversity. Changes in the genetic make-up of existing pathogen populations can disrupt disease control strategies and research programs as much as the emergence of new pathogens. This presentation will include how population genetics and genomics can help identify pathways of movement, genetic shifts in local pathogen populations, and ultimately changes in disease observed by pathologists in the field.

Erica Goss is an assistant professor in the Department of Plant Pathology and in the Emerging Pathogens Institute. She started working on plant pathogens at the University of Chicago, where she received her PhD in Ecology and Evolution in 2005. Her work on emerging plant pathogens began as a postdoctoral researcher working on Phytophthora ramorum with Nik Grünwald at the USDA Agricultural Research Service in Corvallis, Oregon. The Goss lab uses genetic and genomic data to understand the ecology and evolution of populations of plant pathogens and plant-associated microbes. The long-term goal of her research is to better understand the factors that contribute to the emergence of destructive pathogens and their continued success as they evolve in new environments and on new hosts.

Lav KhotState-of-the-Art on Sensing Technologies for Plant Disease Detection

Presenter: Lav Khot, Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Systems Engineering, IAREC, Washington State University

Site-specific disease detection is one of the key aspects of effective crop (loss) management. Recent advances in detectors (optical, chemical) have improved feasibility of development and use of rapid non-contact/non-destructive sensing techniques in plant diseases detection. Advances in versatile ground-, aerial-platforms, and internet of things (IOT) enabled data acquisition, in-field on-board processing, and near-real time delivery techniques have also helped in easing logical concerns, about time and labor, of field level crop scouting. This presentation will thus focus on state-of-the art in the field of chemical and optical sensors, platforms (e.g. small and mid-sized unmanned aerial systems), and IOT based technologies that could be aid in rapid disease detection. Through case studies in specialty crops, talk will discuss feasibility of the technology in field level disease detection as well as challenges that need further research before its commercial use.

Lav Khot is an assistant professor in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering, IAREC, Washington State University. He is one of the core faculty members of Center for Precision and Automated Agricultural System (CPAAS) and works in the Agricultural Automation Engineering research emphasis area of the department since 2013. His research and extension program focuses on “Sensing and automation technologies for site specific and precision management of production agriculture” with special emphasis towards integration of ‘Proximal and Remote (Unmanned and Manned Aerial Systems) Sensing’ for data enabled ‘Decision Support Systems & Information Delivery Technologies’. His program also focuses on development of next generation ‘Precision Application Technologies’ of various production inputs.


Jeff HurtClosing Session Speaker—Making the Science of Plant Pathology Work for You: What Now? What’s Next?

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10:45 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Jeff Hurt, Executive Vice President, Education & Engagement,
Velvet Chainsaw Consulting

You’ve listened to the observations of the changing landscape’s researchers. You’ve heard the diverse theories from the APS community of pathologists. You’ve reviewed and discussed the findings of selected plant pathologists who are employing their results in their pursuit of solutions to plant health problems. Your brain is so full of scientific information that it hurts. What did you really learn from the 2017 APS annual conference? How will you remember critical research? Even more importantly, how will you remember the critical information so you can apply and share it? Your success following this conference depends on the science of learning. Let’s marry the scientific findings of 2017 plant pathology research with the biological process of learning. Understanding and applying these revolutionary new insights from neuroscience, neuro-education, cognitive psychology and biology will have tremendous impact on your attitude, behavior and skill changes.

After attending this session, participants will be able to:

  • Practice summarizing the critical 2017 plant pathology finding and elaborating on how to apply them.
  • Explore the latest neuroscience and cognitive psychology findings on the biology of how the adult brain learns.
  • Identify actionable key take-aways from this week that you can apply.