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Plant-Associated Bacteria: Pathogens and Mutualists

NOVA PhD course of 4 ECTS, organised by Jari Valkonen, University of Helsinki - Faculty of Agriculture and Forestry (HU-AF).
Dates and location: 23-27 May 2016 in Mikkeli, Finland.

 Kurs i plantemorfologi og spiring på Vollebekk, UMB. På bildet: Spirer av solsikke.

Course Description
The only Nordic postgraduate course emphasizing prokaryotic plant pathogens was organised in 1987. This course will provide updated knowledge on the virulence mechanisms of the culturable bacterial pathogens (soft rot Enterobacteriaceae, e.g., Pectobacterium and Dickeya species, former Erwinia); the antibacterial defence mechanisms of plants; new bacterial pathogens of crop plants with emphasis to non-culturable (fastidious) bacteria such as Candidatus Liberibacter species and phytoplasmas; and bacterial communities in rhizosphere (root surface), phyllosphere (on plant surface) and inside plants (endophytes); epidemiology of bacterial pathogens including vectors and alternative hosts; and the means to control the bacterial diseases.


  • Three lectures by van Bruggen on ecosystem-related aspects and three lectures by Jackson on biocontrol and phytosanitary aspects. Both will run a workshop with students on those topics. Results will be presented orally (augmented by audiovisual means) by the students.
  • Other teachers will each give a lecture on the topic of their expertise (see below) and participate in other activities.
  • Students will present their own thesis research orally in poster session.
  • Students will study a substantial amount of appointed literature prior to the course and discuss them in groups (local teachers will participate).
  • Excursion to Mikkeli University Center (biological control of diseases; environmental studies; organic farming) – 15 km from the course site
  • Discussive atmosphere will be encouraged during all learning moments.


  • Prof. van Bruggen: Ecosystem health in relation to the invasion by bacterial plant pathogens, which disturbs the dynamically balanced and diverse community of organisms, stability and resilience. Her expertise is needed to put the bacterial disease problems and their control to context in an agricultural ecosystem.
  • Prof. Jackson: Mechanisms of biocontrol of bacterial plant diseases and control of plant-contaminating human and animal pathogenic bacteria. He will lecture about the bacterial phytosanitary aspects and run a workshop.
  • Dr Minna Haapalainen: Newly described Candidatus Liberibacter species and phytoplasmas.
  • Dr Minna Pirhonen: Virulence factors of soft rot bacteria.
  • Dr May-Bente Brurberg: New bacterial species causing soft rot in plants.
  • Dr Paula Persson: Diagnostics of plant pathogenic bacteria.
  • Dr Dan Funck Jensen: Interactions of plant-pathogenic or growth-promoting bacteria and fungi.
  • Dr David Collinge: Use of endophytic bacteria in plant protection.
  • Dr Mari-Anne Newman: Defence responses of plants to pathogenic bacteria.
  • Dr Jari Valkonen (course leader): Pathogenic and antagonistic Streptomyces species.

Programme Outline

  • 23 May: Arrival; orientation, lectures (2-7 pm)
  • 24 May: Lectures, working groups, poster session
  • 25 May: Working groups present results; mid-term (oral) evaluation of the course; excursion
  • 26 May: Lectures, working groups, poster session
  • 27 May: Working groups present results; course evaluation; final discussion; departure 2 pm

Pre-/Post-Campus Assignments
Literature assigned to students (12 reviews/key papers) studied prior to the course (journal clubs in home institutions recommended)

Learning Outcomes
Advanced knowledge gained on pathogenic and mutualistic bacteria associated with plants, their interactions with plants and microbes, diseases they cause in plants, their control, and the methods for studying them.

Students will learn to analyse and evaluate scientific reports critically at an advanced level. Own presentations will provide advanced skills in synthesizing data and expressing conclusion. Students will see their own studies from a broader perspective, which helps to extend and redefine existing knowledge and professional practices.

The students’ authority, innovation, autonomy, scholarly and professional integrity and sustained commitment to the development of new ideas or processes at the forefront of plant pathology will be elevated in the course.

Evaluation Elements

  • Completed assignments (prior and during the course)
  • Presentation of own research (poster)
  • Active participation in the workshops and discussions

Pedagogical Approach
Problem-based learning

Estimated Workload

  • 10 hours seminar (poster presentations, group work)
  • 20 hours lecture
  • 74 hours independent work (poster preparation; literature studies)
  • 16 hours other (journal clubs before the course; excursion during the course)

Prerequisite Knowledge
Advanced studies (MSc level) in plant pathology, or fitting studies in entomology or agroecology at MSc level. Motivation letter requested from all applicants.

Admission for NOVA courses is handled by the course organiser/ the NOVA member institution organising the course. Please see the links in the margin for more information.

Published 18. August 2015 - 10:50 - Updated 30. August 2016 - 14:19