The 53rd Congress of the Southern African Society of Plant Pathology, hosted by the University of the Free State, was a resounding success, bringing together plant pathology enthusiasts, researchers, and experts from various fields. Set against the picturesque backdrop of Golden Gate Highlands National Park, the conference aimed to merge cutting-edge research with the rustic allure of the eastern Free State, providing a memorable experience for all participants.

The congress featured eight insightful keynote talks by prominent figures in the field from the USA, Brazil, UK, Germany and Switzerland, touching on topics ranging from the epidemiology of different plant pathogens, climate change impacts on plant pathogens, and to the molecular genetics and cell biology of some of these fungi. FABIans hosted three of these speakers; Prof. Dan Bebber from the University of Exeter, Prof. André Fleißner from the Technical University of Braunschweig and Dr Theo Smits from Zurich University of Applied Sciences.

In the same space, many FABIans made significant contributions with 10 talks and 11 posters, showcasing the institution's commitment to advancing plant pathology research. Notable recognitions included Ms. Cheyenne Theron receiving the Best Student Talk award for her presentation entitled, “Pseudocercospora spp. identified as potential causal agents of fruit spot and rot on kiwifruit in South Africa” and Ms. Samkelisiwe Thango securing the Best Poster award for her poster entitled, “In vitro and in planta phenotyping of Exserohilum turcicum strains in South Africa”.

The conference not only provided a platform for intellectual exchange and scientific excellence but also allowed participants to appreciate the natural beauty of Golden Gate Highlands National Park. The event served as a celebration of the art and science of plant pathology, fostering collaboration, and leaving participants with enriched knowledge and lasting memories. Prof Bernard Slippers closed the meeting, highlighting the power of the emerging theme of precision plant pathology, but also the role of the society to focus on the fundamentals of Plant Pathology that is needed to interpret the big data that is currently being generated.