The ‘phyllosphere meeting’ is a quinquennial event that brings together experts from around the world with a scientific interest in leaves (and other above-ground parts of plants and trees, including flowers, fruit, buds, petioles, stems, twigs, branches, and trunks) as a habitat for microorganisms.
First held in 1970, the meeting serves as an international platform to share and learn about the latest discoveries in phyllosphere microbiology and as an incubator for new ideas and new collaborations in a field that recognizes how the many essential ecosystem services that plant foliage provides are influenced by the microscopic organisms that can be found on and in leaves (i.e. bacteria, fungi, yeasts, protists, viruses, insects).
As a discipline that became established in the 1950s, phyllosphere microbiology is now recognized as having contributed in significant ways to the study of host-microbe and microbe-microbe interactions using the leaf as an experimentally and conceptually useful model microbiome.
Phyllosphere meetings are truly multi- and inter-disciplinary. With backgrounds in such wide-ranging areas as plant pathology, food safety, microbial ecology, phytochemistry, and vegetation science, participants discuss phyllosphere microbiology in terms of problems such as foliar diseases and contamination of leafy greens with enteropathogenic bacteria, and in terms of solutions such as microbes, proteins and chemicals with plant-growth promoting activities or other commercially viable applications, and bioremediation of atmospheric pollutants.
The theme of this year’s meeting is ‘Understanding the rules of phyllospheric life’, with central questions such as these: What unique challenges and opportunities does the leaf surface present to leaf-dwelling organisms? What adaptive strategies are most successful in the phyllosphere? To what extent do these strategies benefit or disadvantage the plant host or the organisms (including humans) that depend on the health of those plants? How might answers to these questions help us grow healthier and more productive plants and trees in the face of a growing human population and uncertainties of climate change?