Begomoviruses are a group of plant viruses that have plagued the agricultural sector on a large scale and are the major cause of the cotton leaf curl disease in the country’s largest cash crop (cotton). Pakistan being a predominantly agricultural country is thus facing a plethora of challenges which manifest in the form of these diseases leading to a significant impact on national economy. Selected research groups around the country are working towards finding possible solutions to this problem. The department of Plant Biotechnology at Atta-ur Rahman School of Applied Biosciences, under the guidance of Principal Peter John and leadership of Dr. M Tahir is one of the most prominent groups working in this area. The project is funded by US Department of Agriculture (USDA) and ICARDA and worth $ 292,000.
In a recent and related effort to highlight the potential impact of this virus, a three day workshop (March 25-27, 2015) was conducted by ASAB in collaboration with USDA and ICARDA. The workshop entitled “Omics of Begomoviruses and its impact on National Economy” was mainly intended to promote awareness regarding the virus’s role in causing economic losses. Another purpose of this workshop was to provide hands-on training to students and researchers in this field by highly skilled faculty at ASAB in order to develop effective control mechanisms. It was ensured that researchers from far flung areas of the country like Balouchistan and KPK are given preference in order to give them the necessary exposure, essential for intellectual growth. The participating universities included University of Swat, University of Azad Jammu Kashmir, University of Baluchistan, and other universities from KPK and Southern Punjab. This three-day event comprised of lectures by eminent local and foreign scientists working in the area, as well as training sessions conducted by the ASAB faculty members. Experts from all across Pakistan came in to share their achievements and findings about begomoviruses and thus provided young and aspiring researchers the opportunity to interact with them and share scientific knowledge. The speakers included Dr. Rob Briddon, Dr Shahid Mansoor and Dr. Imran Amin from the National Institute of Biotechnology and Genetic Engineering (NIBGE), Faisalabad, Dr. Saleem Haider from IAGS, University of the Punjab and Dr Tayyab Hassnain from Centre of Excellence in Molecular Biology (CEMB), Lahore.
The Inaugural and Closing Sessions were attended by Pro-Rector Acad Dr. Asif Raza, Pro-Rector Finance Mr. Irfan Akhtar, Mr. David Williams, Agricultural Counsellor- US Embassy in Pakistan and Mr. Shafiq ur Rahman, Country Rep of USDA. They all urged the young researchers to avail maximum benefit from the expertise of the invited speakers and participate enthusiastically.
The workshop ended with a delightful visit to the prominent places and beautiful landscape of Islamabad which provided the participants a breather from the heavy sessions of the first 2 days. The workshop was greatly appreciated by all the researchers and was recommended to be included as a regular feature of the departmental activities.