The second day of the Symposium coincided with the International Day of Plant Health – a resolution at the recent UN (United Nations) general assembly. On this day, the inaugural PBBRI  Ritman scholarship was awarded to four talented Australian Postgraduate students working in the field of plant biosecurity, one on phytoplasma diagnostics for the vegetable industry. This travel scholarship enabled the students to attend the Symposium to present their research and meet the Australian plant biosecurity community.

Congratulations to Tavish Eenjes (ANU), Bianca Rodrigues-Jardim (LTU), Rebecca Degnan (UQ) and Salome Wilson (ANU) for demonstrating excellence in plant biosecurity research.

Tavish Eenjes’ research includes using linked machine learning classifiers to accurately classify species and strains using real-world and simulated fungal ribosomal DNA datasets, including plant pathogens.

Bianca Rodrigues-Jardim’s PhD project coupled metagenomic  sequencing with nation-wide surveillance of phytoplasmas in vegetable crops. Her research will contribute to defining the molecular basis of a species or strain in the phytoplasma 16SrII group and improve the detection and diagnosis of phytoplasma diseases of plants.

Rebecca Degnan is studying the impact and mechanisms of exogenous RNAi on rusts through in vitro and in planta assays using myrtle rust and frangipani rust. She showed that  RNAi of essential genes significantly reduced germination and inhibited development of infection structures, specifically appressoria and penetration pegs.

Salome Wilson is developing molecular biology tools to validate pathogen (a)virulence factors in wheat rust fungi.  Salome works across host and pathogen species and help to bridge the gap between bioinformatics/computational genetics and molecular biology approaches.