Another honorary doctorate for Ülo

Text by Lauri Laanisto and Tiia Kurvits

Last November Ülo Niinemets became honorary doctor of University of Romania (link to post). And now it´s already time for another one!

On July 7th, University of Eastern Finland in Joensuu promovated Ülo as their honorary doctorate.

Ülo has been extensively collaborating with Finnish scientists for many years. Including a recent study, during which they described the genome of silver birch (Betula pendula) (link to paper). Another big chunk of research done jointly with Finnish scientists is about the plant volatiles in forest ecosystems, including a paper on VOCs in polluted atmosphere (link to paper), and VOCs in reaction to biotic stress via insect herbivory (link to paper).

University of Eastern Finland was found just 10 years ago, but it is already a very strong research center regarding forestry and agriculture.

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Chase kilometers!

Text by Evi Vaino and Lauri Laanisto

Steffen

This is the title of our university´s walking and cycling competition. This spring was the second time it took place. The aims of the competion are as follows:

The aim of the competition is to draw attention to suitable and convenient non-car methods of moving on the campus and in the city of Tartu. In addition, we will identify who is the most dedicated mover / moving department in our university. For this we will monitor daily distances walked and cycled and will keep monthly standings of individual and departmental rankings in Endomondo.

With the campaign we also wish to draw attention to our awesome cyclists, to the fact that there are so many of us and that cycling is an excellent way to move around the town.  (text from EMU Chase kilometers! page)

Ülo

The size of the teams is 2 to 4 people. Our workgroup team “Poole kiirem” (Twice as fast) included Ülo Niinemets, Tiina Tosens, Steffen Manfred Noe and Evi Vaino . There were altogether 26 teams competing, out of which 20 were walkers.

Evi (1875)

The final results showed that “Poole kiirem” covered the most kilometers during one month – 1839!

Here are the results:

1. Poole kiirem: 1839,07

2. Hullud pesukarud: 1501,82

3. Int Ladies: 1208,8

4. Geomak: 1017,23

5. Peaches: 989,03

6. Päikesekiired: 906,9

7. TAMP: 862,02

8. MIMP: 753,39

9. Tiiu: 721,82

10. Metsanotsud: 688,06

11. Jalakäijad: 672,26

12. TE liikujad: 645,04

13. MAA: 478,44

14. Krolik: 424,33

15. Jalutajad: 352,47

16. Kollased kilomeetrid: 341,71

17. Kommupower: 187,2

18. Kimajad: 77,38

19. LiSa: 51,64

Tiina
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New publication − Diversity of populations of Phytophthora infestans in relation to patterns of potato crop management in Latvia and Lithuania

Text and pics by Eve Runno-Paurson

In two Baltic countries Latvia and Lithuania, the potato is one of the most important locally grown food crops. Most potato fields are smaller than 1 ha, and many households grow their own potatoes. The average potato consumption is 117 kg per capita per year in Latvia and 111 kg in Lithuania, which is considerably higher than in most European countries. Late blight (Phytophthora infestans) is a serious threat to potato production almost every growing season and symptoms are usually first recorded in small potato fields and plots. Sexual reproduction increases pathogen fitness via higher genetic diversity and production of oospores as a source of primary inoculum in the soil, which can increase the rate of adaptation of a population. In northern regions, it is especially beneficial for P. infestans to survive cold winters as oospores which are very resilient to adverse climatic factors and remain viable for many years.

Thus, the main aim of this research work to reveal the late blight pathogen genotypes and population structure in Latvia and Lithuania with a widely used and approved set of SSR markers. We also aimed to determine the role of sexual reproduction in P. infestans populations in these two countries with similar potato growing conditions and traditions. We tested the hypothesis that the populations of P. infestans in both countries are genetically diverse due to sexual reproduction. We also examined the expectation that locally emerged clones adapted to the conditions in the region would predominate rather than invasive clonal lineages from other European potato growing regions.


Ilze Skarbule (left), Nadezhda Zoteyeva and Eve Runno-Paurson (right) ready to go for late blight sampling at Priekuli breeding fields in Latvia

This first investigation of P. infestans genotypes in these two Baltic countries reveals high genetic diversity. Analyses support frequent sexual recombination events in both populations with oospores generating ephemeral local populations of genotypes that do not spread widely within that growing season or re-appear the following year. Limited spread and survival of clones that was more prevalent in Lithuanian than Latvian crops was observed. Samples from 2010−2012 showed no evidence of invasive clonal lineages from other parts of Europe spreading or dominating in this region. It would appear that local populations established from soil-borne oospores early in the season are well adapted to the conditions in the region. For effective disease management, current strategies should be adjusted according to the pathogen population status. Potato growers should be advised to implement late blight preventive measures such as longer field rotation to prevent oospore infections, especially in Latvia, and to use more disease resistant cultivars and high quality seed potatoes.

Citation: Kiiker, R.; Skrabule, I.; Ronis, A.; Cooke, D. E. L.; Hansen, J. G.; Williams, I. H.; Mänd, M.; Runno‐Paurson, E. (2019). Diversity of populations of Phytophthora infestans in relation to patterns of potato crop management in Latvia and Lithuania. Plant Pathology, 68 (5):1−8.10.1111/ppa.13030 (link to full text)

For isolation, a blighted leaf with a single lesion was selected

Abstract

Potato crop losses can be substantial when conditions for late blight (Phytophthora infestans) development and spread are favourable. We investigated what drives the differences in P. infestans population structure in Latvia and Lithuania, two neighbouring countries with similar potato growing traditions. P. infestans genotypes and population genetic diversity were analysed using a 12-plex SSR marker assay. High genetic diversity was demonstrated in both populations with population diversity being higher in Latvia. It would appear that local populations established from soil-borne oospores early in the season are well adapted to the conditions in the region. But still, greater spread and survival of local clones was detected in Lithuania suggesting the potato cropping is also more vulnerable to clonal invasion compared to Latvia. For effective disease management, current strategies should be adjusted according to the specific pathogen populations in the region considering the reproduction and survival of the pathogen. Potato growers should implement late blight preventive measures such as longer field rotation to prevent oospore infections, especially in Latvia, and to use more disease resistant cultivars and high quality seed potatoes.

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Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Dmitrii Krasnov about gas exchange between ground and atmosphere

Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences .

Dmitrii Krasnov is a PhD-student in the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Title of the talk: Exchange processes between the ground surface and the atmosphere: profile method

Time: Monday, 27. May 2019 at 14.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D143 (Metsamaja)

Malevich
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Ülo named guest professor in Zhejiang A&F University in China

Text by Lauri Laanisto

In the last days of April Ülo Niinemets was named guest professor in Zhejiang A&F University in China. This university, established in 1958 as Zhejiang Forestry University is one of the top universities in the Zhejiang province, in east coast of mainland China. The university hosts more than 30 thousand students.

Becoming a guest professor is a step towards tighter scientific cooperation between China and Estonia, and this will enable to exchange students and researchers between our universities. Focus of this cooperation is in studying the effects of climate change on stress behaviour of various plant species cultivated in agricultural or forest systems.

The principal collaborator from Zhejiang A&F University is Zhihong Sun, who is the first Chinese researcher to get her PhD in Estonia. She defended her thesis in 2013, and was supervised by Ülo. During the last decade, there has been seven Chinese PhD-students, postdocs, and visiting researchers in our plant physiology workgroup. Some of them have graduated (including 2 PhDs) and left, some still working (another 2 PhDs are soon to graduate).

Collaboration between Estonian and Chinese plant physiologists is made possible by the funds from Centre of Excellence EcolChange.

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Workgroup and EcolChange seminar – Chika and Liisa about papayas and stomata

Seminar of Chair of Crop Science and Plant Biology and Centre of Excellence EcolChange, Estonian Univ of Life Sciences .

This time we´ll have two presentations by our PhD-students:

Chikodinaka Okereke is a junior researcher and PhD-student in the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Title of the talk: Volatile Organic Compounds (VOCs) induced by abiotic stress in tropical plant (Carica papaya L.).

Liisa Kübarsepp is also a junior researcher and PhD-student in the Estonian University of Life Sciences.

Title of the talk:
Deeper into the stomatal functioning – relations between stomata and the epidermal cells

Time: Monday, 13. May 2019 at 14.00

Place: Tartu, Kreutzwaldi 5 – D143 (Metsamaja)

Papaya (pic from here)
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New publication − Evaluation of late blight foliar resistance of potato cultivars in northern Baltic conditions

Text and pic by Eve Runno-Paurson

Practical relevance

This research work was initiated by Estonian seed potato producers that have identified the vulnerability to late blight as one of the essential problems in seed production. The majority of conventional potato growers prefer to grow cultivars bred by the several breeding companies from The Netherlands and Germany. However, local seed potato producers’ experiences have shown so far that, in northern Baltic conditions, information about the late blight resistance of cultivars poorly reflects their description from breeding companies.

Why potato late blight cultivar resistance is important?

Potato late blight, caused by the oomycete pathogen Phytophthora infestans is a re-emerging potato disease, being for more than 160 years one of the most destructive potato diseases worldwide. Late blight management has become more challenging in Northern and North-Eastern parts of Europe, where the late blight pathogen P. infestans populations are reproducing sexually, resulting in higher population diversity. Among other measures, use of cultivar resistance as part of the potato late blight control strategy has not lost its importance.

runnopaurson mai 2019
Potato late blight evaluation trial on 20 July 2012− foliage of some cultivars are already heavily destructed by late blight

Estonian cultivars did not exceed entirely imported Dutch cultivars:

Estonian potato cultivars ‘Maret’, ‘Teele’ and ‘Anti’ were included in this research to compare their resistance to late blight and yield compared to imported Dutch breeding company “Agrico” cultivars. These local cultivars have been bred specifically for cultivation in northern Baltic region conditions, and are moderately resistant or resistant to potato late blight. However, in overall local Estonian cultivars did not exceed entirely imported Dutch cultivars and remained quite at the same level concerning tuber yield and late blight foliar resistance of different maturity groups, with some exceptions. Under high late blight pressure the late cultivar ‘Anti’ scored as highly late blight resistant based on estimated scale value of foliar resistance and had the highest yield of all tested cultivars. Cultivar ‘Anti’ has been available since 1997, has not lost its high blight resistance and shows the same stability of high field resistance to foliar late blight as it did ten years ago.

Highly late blight resistant Dutch potato cultivar suffered under heavy heat stress:

This research showed clearly although, the cultivar Toluca from the Dutch Breeding Company Agrico has desirable traits with early-medium maturation and high late blight foliar resistance, this valuable cultivar did not perform well under drought conditions for wider cultivation. Thus, the cultivar Toluca could not offer an advantage of late blight resistance and the yield remained low and unstable in Northern Baltic field conditions such that this cultivar was not preferred by producers (observations of A. Einola for years 2010−2014). Thus, it is highly challenging to find late blight resistant cultivars with persistent field resistance, adapted to local field conditions and with the traits desired by potato growers.

This work also points out the need for modification of existing potato agro technologies with irrigation systems to be used when there is a lack of precipitation in certain growing seasons. To date, use of irrigation systems is not common practice in the Northern Baltics and this is the main reason why higher yields remain at 40–50 t ha-1. Dry weather occurred in 2013, but was also observed in several recent seasons. Furthermore, the frequency of hot summers has increased in Northern Europe, implying that the irrigation need is expected to increase in the future.

Citation: Runno-Paurson, E.; Hansen, M.; Kotkas, K.; Nassar, H.; Williams, I. H.; Niinemets, Ü.; Einola, A (2019). Evaluation of foliar late blight resistance of potato cultivars in northern Baltic conditions. Zemdirbyste-Agriculture, 106 (1), 45−52. https://doi.org/10.13080/z-a.2019.106.006. (link to full text)

runnopaurson 2 mai 2019
Visual cultivar testing by potato growers in field seminar at Einola Farm

Abstract

The main aim of this study was to evaluate foliar late blight resistance and yield of selected foreign and Estonian potato cultivars to determine the most promising cultivars for the northern Baltic region. We hypothesized that local cultivars have higher late blight (Phytophthora infestans) resistance and yield due to higher blight resistance. Potato late blight observation field trials were carried out in 2012 and 2013 in Einola Farm, Tartu County, Estonia. In both growing seasons, 12 potato cultivars were compared, 9 from the Dutch breeding company “Agrico” and 3 from the Estonian Crop Research Institute (ECRI). They comprised four early cultivars ‘Ranomi’, ‘Esmee’, ‘Romie’ and ‘Maret’, four early-medium cultivars ‘Toluca’, ‘Mariska’, ‘Madeleine’ and ‘Teele’, and four medium-late / late cultivars ‘Excellency’, ‘Bellefleur’, ‘Manitou’ and ‘Anti’. Of these, only two, ‘Anti’ and ‘Toluca’, qualified as highly foliar late blight resistant. This research clearly indicates that, despite unfavourable conditions for the pathogen, late blight is able to destroy potato foliage in most of these cultivars before the end of the growing season in northern Baltic conditions. This reflects local genetic heterogeneity of populations of P. infestans, probably associated with the presence of strains adapted to a wide range of humidity conditions. In 2012 that had late blight favourable weather, the cultivar ‘Toluca’ showed high foliar blight resistance, as it reached the maximum yield compared to most other cultivars which were susceptible or very susceptible to late blight and had drastically reduced yield. However, although the late blight infection was not recorded in the growing season 2013, the cultivar ‘Toluca’ did not tolerate the dry weather well and its tuber yield remained significantly lower than that in all other cultivars. Additionally, in 2013, a potato early blight (Alternaria solani) outbreak was recorded with the two most susceptible cultivars being the local cultivar ‘Teele’ and the Dutch cultivar ‘Excellency’.

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