The COST SMARTER Dissemination Meeting “Ragweed management and the potential benefit and risk of Ophraella communa in Northern Italy – Researchers meet their Stakeholders” was held on 28th of October 2016, in Rho (Milan). About 100 people, including representatives from Local Authorities and Municipalities, Health Regional Authorities and the Italian National Television, attended the morning meeting. About 40 people participated on the guided visit to the experimental fields in Magnago during the afternoon.
The final synthesis meeting took place at the Leiden University Medical Center in Leiden on October 31-November1, 2016. The meeting was attended by thirteen SMARTER members, mainly form the core group. They shared the latest results and discussed how to link the datasets generated during the project for final publications. Furthermore the SMARTER project was evaluated by naming positive and negative aspects. Finally, input was given for the drafting the final report.
Citation: Sikoparija, B., Galán, C., Smith, M. and EAS_QC_Working_Group (2016). Pollen-monitoring: between analyst proficiency testing. doi:10.1007/s10453-016-9461-3.
Abstract: This study presents the results of a Europe-wide training and Quality Control (QC) exercise carried out within the framework of the European Aerobiology Society’s QC Working Group and European COST Action FA1203 entitled “sustainable management of Ambrosia artemisiifolia in Europe (SMARTER)” with the aim of ensuring that pollen counters in Europe are confident in the identification of Ambrosia pollen grains. A total of 69 analysts from 20 countries examined a test slide by light microscopy, which contained Ambrosia pollen and pollen from other Asteraceae that could be recorded in the atmosphere at the same time of year (i.e. Artemisia, Iva, and Xanthium). Daily average pollen concentrations produced by individual participants were compared with the assigned value and the bias was measured by z-score. Both the assigned value and standard deviation for proficiency testing were calculated following the consensus value principle (ISO13528:2005) from the results reported by all the participants in the test. It took a total of 531 days from when the exercise commenced until all 69 analysts reported their results. The most outliers were reported for Artemisia pollen concentrations followed by Xanthium and Iva. The poor results for Artemisia and Xanthium were probably caused by low concentrations on the test slide leading to larger bias due to the unequal distribution of pollen over the microscope slide. Participants performed the best in identifying and quantifying Ambrosia pollen. Performing inter-laboratory ring tests with the same sample is very time consuming and might not be appropriate for large-scale proficiency testing in aerobiology. Pollen with similar morphology should be included in the education process of aerobiologists.
Citation: Lommen, S. T. E., Ciappetta, S., Ghiani, A., Asero, R., Gentili, R., Müller-Schärer, H. and Citterio, S. (2016). Defoliation of common ragweed by Ophraella communa beetle does not affect pollen allergenicity in controlled conditions. Plant Biosystems http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/11263504.2016.1244122.
Abstract: Ragweed allergy is one of the primary causes of seasonal allergies in Europe and its prevalence is expected to rise. The leaf beetle Ophraella communa, recently and accidentally established in N-Italy and S-Switzerland, represents a promising approach to control ragweed, but negative side effects should be excluded before its use. Since biotic and abiotic stresses are known to influence the allergenicity of pollen, we set out to assess the effect of sub-lethal defoliation by O. communa on the quantity and quality of ragweed pollen. Seventeen sister pairs (including six clones) of ragweed plants were grown in controlled conditions. One of each pair was exposed to O. communa as soon as the plant started to produce reproductive structures. After 10 weeks of exposure, plant traits were measured as a proxy for pollen quantity. Pollen quality was assessed by measuring its viability and allergenicity. Generally, plants produced very few male flowers and little amount of pollen. Damage by the beetle was severe with most of the leaf tissue removed, but no treatment effect was found on any of the quantitative and qualitative traits assessed. In conclusion, O. communa did not increase the amount or allergenicity of ragweed pollen grains in our experimental conditions.
Specialists in Ambrosia taxonomy and genetics met at Cagliari, Sardinia (3-4.10.2016), to discuss closure for ongoing collaborative projects and to plan future collaborations.
On the first day the group tried to verify Sardinian populations of Ambrosia and found to their surprise the last 2 individuals of Ambrosia maritima, a taxon that is said to be the only native taxon of the genus in the Old World.
During the workshop on the second day, the specialists provided mostly new (and unpublished) information on the state of the art in their respective fields. Improved identification tools were brought to an almost finished state, and future collaborations beyong the SMARTER Action were arranged.